The End

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Shadows may fall upon the land and sea,

Sunshine from all the world may hidden be;

But I shall see no cloud across the sun;

Your smile shall light my life, till life is done ...


- The End -


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* * * * *


Alice opened her eyes, and for a moment wondered if she was still on the train as she stared into the darkness. Surely only something mechanical made the God-awful noise that had ripped right through her sleep.

But, no, she wasn't on the train. She was in a soft bed, and the smell of that evening's ham and cabbage supper still lingered in the air. She was at Uncle Brian's farmhouse in Port Croft, sleeping in the same bed she'd slept in every summer since she was very small.

And somewhere in the house, someone was snoring very loudly.

Sitting up in bed, Alice listened for another moment.

It wasn't Uncle Willard. She'd heard Uncle Willard's snore and it was like scratching a fingernail down the arm of the sofa, very light and somewhat soothing. It wasn't Aunt Rhonda, either, or any of the cousins. Fiona had a bit of a squeak if she slept on her right side, but nothing comparable to this frightful noise.

She laid back down and listened for another moment. She would have sworn on her life that the bed was vibrating. With every hynnnnnnnnnnnk, her nerves frayed a little more.

Turning into her side, she crammed the pillow over her head, but that did nothing at all. She tried the other side with the same results. Even lying flat on her back with the edges of the pillow squashed against her ears, she could still hear the snoring.

Was it the dog? In his old age, had Blackbeard started to snore? Good lord, was the dog dying?

She next tried mind over matter. If she told herself she couldn't hear it, to ignore it, she could tune it out.

She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and invited sleep in.

Hynk-hynk-hynnnnnnnnnnnk!

Alice sat straight up. She'd get no sleep with that sound grinding up her nerves all night.

She got out of bed and tucked her feet into her bedroom slippers. She was still buttoning up her housecoat when she stepped into the hall. It was as though the snoring had eaten all other sounds in the house. The house tended to talk to itself at night, creaking and groaning, and with the wind coming off the cove trying to answer by whistling in the windows. Tonight, there was nothing but that God-awful sound.

She followed it down the stairs and paused at the bottom where the sound was so powerful her brain seemed to vibrate in her head. It took a moment for her to figure out where it was coming from. She wandered into the living room and turned on the light, expecting to see a figure on the chesterfield, but the room was empty. Hands on hips, she stood in the middle of the room and tried to work out whether it really was a person or if perhaps the furnace was about to give out.

Then it stopped. She heard a squeak and a sigh, and then hynnnnnnnnnnnk!

Alice charged into the kitchen, her jubilance over having located the source thrilling the irritation right out of her. She hit the light as she passed on through and nearly fell over herself as she stepped into the porch.

The light from the kitchen shone down on the lump on the old chesterfield that had been hauled onto the porch when after Aunt Rhonda redid her entire front room. A big, bony foot stuck out at one end, and at the other end a mop of dark curls could be seen barely breaching the top of the red fleece blanket.

Hynnnnnnnnnnnk!

With the sound, the shape quivered, and Alice's fury returned.

She leaned over the figure and gave it a poke, which did nothing to stop that wet, nasal grinding. Another poke yielded the same result, and so she flattened both hands against the lump and shook.

The sound cut off and the figure under the blanket jerked. She kept on shaking. Next came a groan, and the lump changed shape.

When the blanket revealed a face, Alice wondered if she was seeing things. Her eyes told her it was the boy from the rail ferry, but how could that be?

Dark, thick brows pinched together as he stared up at her, though it took another moment for that dazed look to fade.

"Who are you?"

"Alice," she said, and for the first time in her life was grateful her parents had given her the sort of name one could add a hiss.

"What's wrong? Why did you wake me?"

"Because you're going to bring down the whole house with your snoring!"

His frown loosened and he raised his brows. "Wait, I know you. I carried your bags tonight."

Alice crossed her arms over her chest. She wanted to point out that he tried to do more than carry her bags, but instead she glared down at him.

"Is there nothing you can do about that awful sound?"

His expression baffled, he groaned and sat up straight. The blanket slid down one shoulder and she looked away as he was left bare-chested for a moment.

"What do you expect me to do?" he asked.

"I—don't know," she faltered. She hadn't thought this far ahead. She'd just wanted him to stop so she could stay asleep after  along day of travel. She peered down at him and the twitch of his mouth got on her nerves. "Why are you here, anyway?"

"I could ask you the same question."

It was a true enough response. She dropped her fists from her hips. "Rhonda's the family I said I was visiting."

"Ah," he said, and rubbed his eyes. Then, to her astonishment, held out his hand. "I'm Charlie Gaston."


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