Dana wishes she’d have just followed one rule...
The Mystery of Windesta Creek
CHAPTER
4
Island
I strode out, feeling frail, into the cloudy tempest that was the outside. I nearly careened out onto the roaring ocean. I was still feeling the strong effect of the plane, but it was waning. I actually was beginning to feel a pang of hunger in my gut. My stomach was embarrassing with a low rumble.
I held up my phone, hoping for service. And there was four whole bars of it! I broke into my awkward happy dance, and thought of calling Michelle. Then my grin faded, and I put my phone away.
Windesta Creek was a fishing town, and as a looked around, I saw it was smaller then I could have possibly imagined. There was a dock, an ice cream parlor, a barber shop, and yes! A diner, with an old, crooked, red neon sign reading Kate’s Sip N’ Chew. It was fitting for the town, miniscule, about as wide as two cars on their skinny sides. I saw only two tables inside as I got closer, hoping it was open. The rain was coming down in torrents now.
Just then, a slight woman poked her red bandana clad head out of the grimy window. She was wearing too much lipstick, and I suddenly felt grateful that my parents never let me wear makeup except to school dances, and even that was just eyeshadow.
“ Oy, Jim!” She crowed, “ Fire up the grill! We’ve got a customer!” I heard whoops of glee emanating from inside the ramshackle diner. Whoever Jim was, he probably didn’t get a whole lot of customers in this town. Windesta Creek only had five house total, plus one shack hanging precariously onto the roaring waters. I wondered which abode Aunt Greta lived in, and hoped it wasn’t the shack.
Inside the Diner, it was kitschy but had a lot of unique touches, like pictures of the slim woman and a smiling man, and three dogs under a Christmas tree. All of them were in black and white. It was like taking a step back in time.
I hastily ordered a cheeseburger and some soda called Gringits, since there was no Cola. Kate, the slim woman, was my waitress and the owner. Outside, the steady patter of rain on the ground had become a loud rushing sound. I thought I saw a crack of lightening outside the window.
“ Only one who I could find to work here was Jim, and he’s just working ‘til he’s through that high school of his. After that, I ‘spect he’ll be going to a fancy culinary institution, and boy, does he deserve it. Trust me, try that burger you ordered, and you’ll see why that boy ain’t cut out for a diner who’s only customer this week is you. He’s destined for big things.” I was dubious, until my food came.
The burger was cooked to perfection, from the meat, to the bubbling, gooey cheese, and an artfully toasted bun. I was halfway through gobbling it up before I tried the soda. It wasn’t half bad, I discovered. It was very fizzy, and tasted like a weird combination of ginger and orange, and I much preferred Cola, but it was refreshing.
“ Wow. Thank you so much!” I told Kate. She shrugged modestly.
“ Nah, thank Jim. I told ya, he’s going places. Believe me now, kid?”
“ Um, yeah?” That seemed pretty obvious, as the burger was noticably missing from my plate.
“ Then you’ll like his brownie sundae. I’ll let you try it, on the house. We got no customers anyhow.” She didn’t wait for my answer, and I was grateful. The brownie sundae was as spectacular as the burger.
As I paid and left a generous tip, because I doubted that Jim even made minimum wage with this lack of people on the island, a small light bulb appeared over my head. Since this Island probably was home to less then ten people, Kate had to know every one of them. Maybe she could point me in Aunt Greta’s direction!
“ Hey, Kate, do you know anyone named Greta who lives here? She’s my aunt, and I’m visiting here for the summer.”
“ Greta? Nope, ain’t nobody here in Beige Town who goes by that name, kid. Sorry.”
“ Wait,” I said slowly, “ did you call this town Beige Town?”
“ Yup, you heard me right! Beige Town, established 1916!” She said cheerfully.
“But I’m supposed to be on an Island... Windesta Creek!” I began to panic a little. Had I gotten the plane number wrong? No, that wasn’t possible. I had checked before I boarded! Where exactly was I!
“ Ah, don’t worry, Windesta Creek is just a twenty minute ferry ride from here. Ya just landed here on your plane ‘cause it’s too dangerous to land on the Island. There’s no landing strip. And trust me, the ferry man will be more then happy to give you a ride. He’s probably bored out of his mind waiting for someone anyone to get a ride from him. As you can tell, this ain’t exactly a top vacation spot, if you know what I’m saying.” Kate assured me.
“ But, the waves are so high, it must be really dangerous to ride in a boat right now. There’s lightening! Kate, I really want to go to my Aunt’s house, but are you positive this is smart... or legal?” I said anxiously.
“ Well, it’s only getting worse. If you don’t want to sleep here in Beige town, I suggest you go now. Go!” I sighed as I listened to her. I did not want to sleep outside in the rain, so I was going to do something I knew I would regret... get on the ferry.
I went to the dock, and bought a ticket for a dollar fifty. The ferry was freshly painted and nice compared to the other dilapidated boats in port. The ferry man looked at the sky in terror, but said he would take me. And that’s how I found out I didn’t just get motion sickness on planes.
The boat rocked back and forth so much, nearly toppling me into the briny waters. I was getting soaked to the bone, and I had to close my eyes. This was karma, wasn’t it? The consequence for breaking a rule. Kasey, even though she technically was off the hook, might encounter karma too. And Michelle was probably getting both. Yet I was hard pressed to find any sympathy for them when they had gotten me to this moment.
I vowed to myself that Windesta Creek, the real one, would be an opportunity to go back to being a complete goody-goody. Though sometimes I felt the binds of rules confining me, a clean record was more important. Even the least important rules would be followed; no matter what. I could turn over a new leaf, and come home healed from Kasey’s painful betrayal. Though at the moment, I felt like it could never happen.
“ Dana, rocks ahead! Brace yourself! But really, are you sure you don’t want to turn back? It’s really not too late.” He sounded worried.
“ We’re almost there.” I said more confidently then I felt. But I began to waver when I saw the jagged boulders, and how the ferry man had to steer to avoid them. I felt a sickening crack underneath my feet. The water was too shallow for the ferry, and the rocks were scraping it.
Twenty feet left, and I felt water lapping at my toes. How could we survive this! I thought desperately.The dock was five feet away, and I crossed my fingers.
But, I heard the ferry man miraculously shout that we had hit land, and I literally ran off that ferry, wanting to kiss the ground. I decided I would stay there for awhile. No more planes or boats for a whole summer.
“ Never make me do that again.” Said the ferryman.
“ Sorry,” I said, “ it wasn’t the first lapse of judgement I’ve had this week.”
But now, I had a whole other problem. Windesta Creek was covered in haze and larger then Beige Town. The rain was coming down, and I had to find Aunt Greta. But how could I just knock on every door?
So, hair in tangles now, I walked around, taking in every sight of the rocky island. I saw that no one was outside. I wished I wasn’t.
So, I went to a large, house. I was sure that if I could see more then three feet in any direction, I would be in awe at it’s grandeur. I knocked on the oak door that matched the house, and a tall woman in slacks and a nice blouse answered. She wore gold earrings, that matched her hair color, and light makeup. A table setting for three was out, so she had to be waiting for someone.
I was too fed up with rain to keep looking and not ask for help, even if it meant asking some random stranger. So I did what I had to do.
“ Do you know a Greta here? I’m here for the summer.” I said wearily. She nodded, but I saw her glance at her clock. She was in a hurry, and I could tell she didn’t want to talk to a bedraggled teenager that was still barely five feet, two inches.
“Dear, she lives three houses away. Everyone here knows Greta. I suspect we’ll be neighbors, so you can call me Miss. Hollis. Oh, I think dinner is ready. I really must go, so you really must leave.”
And she slammed the door. She really didn’t enjoy our conversation, if you could call it that. I hoped I wouldn’t encounter her anymore. She seemed really nasty.
“ Miss. Hollis? What’s she like!” I called, but I knew she wouldn’t answer.
On the way to Aunt Greta’s house, I dragged my feet, thinking about Miss. Hollis’s words. Everyone here knows Greta. So vague! It could mean she baked cookies for all the people in Windesta Creek, or she could be an insane hermit.
The house she lived in loomed in front of me, and I didn’t want to go in. But I gulped down my anxiety as I rang the doorbell.
Kling-Aling! It yelled, louder then any doorbell that should have existed. I waited for a minute, an hour, a year, and I was about to turn away...
The door swung open.
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