Home > The View from Coral Cove

The View from Coral Cove
Author: Amy Clipston




Maya giggled as she raced down the beach to the ocean waves, breathing in the salty air and enjoying the feel of hot sand between her toes. Oh how she loved spending summers with her great-aunt in Coral Cove. This was her favorite time of year.

“Maya! Slow down!” Mom called from behind her.

But Maya simply threw her hands up into the air and ran faster. “Last one in is a rotten egg!”

When she reached the water, she jumped in with both feet and yelped with delight. Then, facing her mother and Aunt CeCe, she plopped onto her stomach and stared up at them. They were both standing where the sea barely touched their toes. What were they waiting for?

“Look! I’m a mermaid!” Maya announced as she splashed around. “My tail magically appears in salty water.”

Aunt CeCe chuckled as she turned toward Mom. “Don’t you love the imagination of an eight-year-old?”

“I wish I could bottle her energy,” Mom said, shaking her head.

Glad she had energy, Maya screeched as a wave rumbled toward her, then carried her toward the beach. She was floating! When she sank to the bottom again, she laughed, then popped to her feet, spun in the water, and pretended to be a pinwheel. Once she stopped spinning, she dizzily stumbled backward and dropped onto the sand, flat on her back.

Looking up at her two favorite people in the whole world, Maya grinned. Oh, she didn’t have a father, and sometimes that made her feel bad, but Mom told her what really counted. You have a wonderful family, Maya. That’s because Aunt CeCe and I both love you so very much. We’ll always want the best for you, and we’ll always be here for you. No matter what.

“Come into the water with me!” She bounced up, then took her aunt’s hand in hers and gave it a gentle tug. “Let’s go!”

“Okay, but I can’t run and jump like you do.” She touched Maya’s nose. “I’m not so old for a great-aunt, but my knees are beginning to complain about their age.”

“I promise I’ll just walk, then.”

Maya grasped her mother’s hand next. “You come too, Mom.”

Her mother smiled down at her. “Of course I will.”

Maya guided them into the North Carolina–coast water, and another wave of happiness washed over her as though it were the summer-warmed ocean itself. When she looked up to see seagulls fluttering above them in the bright blue sky, the sun’s rays kissed her cheeks. That’s how Mom always said it—“Kissed.”

Maya gave her mother’s and Aunt CeCe’s hands a squeeze. “Isn’t this the best time?”

“Yes, it is, sweet girl.” Her aunt smiled. “I love playing with you, honey.”

“Can we visit the dolls in your store after we swim for a while?”

“Of course.” Aunt CeCe looked at Mom. “What do you think about pizza tonight, Vickie? I’ll order it from our favorite place.”

Mom’s face lit up. She was so pretty! “Oh yes! That sounds delicious.”

“Yay!” Maya sang as she released their hands. “I love pizza! But for now, let’s swim like mermaids!”

This is my special place, she thought as she dove under the water. I hope we come here forever—even when I’m a grown-up. I never ever want to stop spending summers in Coral Cove.



Chapter 1



Twenty-one years later


The June sunlight streaming in through the windshield seemed to mock Maya’s somber mood as she steered her bright metallic blue Toyota 4Runner onto Fourth Avenue, then passed some of the quaint little stores lining the streets of her favorite place in the world. She’d never tire of Coral Cove. It was her favorite place in all of North Carolina.

She tried to concentrate on the pop music serenading her through the vehicle’s speakers, but her mind kept spinning with the reality of what just happened—she’d buried her beloved great-aunt CeCe, her last living relative.

As Maya’s eyes filled with tears again, she tried to dismiss them. She was strong. She would pick herself up and move on. Besides, what choice did she have?

When her phone rang through the speakers, she saw her best friend’s number on the screen. She hit the answer button on the steering wheel as she slowed to a stop at a red light.

“Hi, Kiana.” Maya peered out the window. Saturday shoppers moved in and out of the flea market, clothing store, and gift shop in this section of the block.

“How’d it go, My?”

“The service at Aunt CeCe’s church was beautiful, and the words the pastor spoke at the gravesite were especially meaningful. Then a group of her church friends hosted a really nice potluck lunch. There was so much food, Key. You wouldn’t have believed it. Anyway, I got through it better than I expected.”

The light turned green, and Maya accelerated through the intersection, passing Coral Cove’s single movie theater and her favorite ice cream parlor. She loved this little town that had been her great-aunt’s home and Maya’s special place to visit every summer.

“I’m glad, My.” Kiana sighed. “But I’m also sorry. I wanted to drive down and be there for you. If only I could have switched with one of the other nurses today, but none of them were available. I would have rather been there to hold your hand than working here in Charlotte. You know that, right?”

“It’s okay. I already told you I didn’t expect you to come all the way down here for the funeral.”

“But I could’ve helped you finish unpacking and making sure the store is ready to reopen on Monday.”

Maya merged onto Laskin Road and then turned left onto Third Avenue. As she motored past the Best Friends Pet Shop, she spotted a big white tent near the store’s side parking lot. Quite the crowd had congregated there.

She focused her eyes out the windshield again as CeCe’s Toy Chest came into view across the street. A fresh wave of emotion pummeled her chest. Gayle, her great-aunt’s best friend, had called her just over a week ago to tell her CeCe had suffered a massive heart attack and passed away. Gayle found her when she arrived at the store for work that morning.

Not even waiting until after the funeral, Maya had immediately packed up everything she owned, found movers who fortunately had a slot in their schedule, and given the keys to her apartment to the landlord. Then she headed down to Coral Cove to run Aunt CeCe’s store and start a new life. As she knew she would, she’d inherited not only the business but the whole building, which included her aunt’s apartment on the second floor. Its rooms weren’t especially large, but it did have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, more than enough space for one person.

“I promise you I’m fine, Key. And you’re always there for me. In fact, you’re the only person I can count on, especially after . . . well, you know.” Maya couldn’t bring herself to say her former fiancé’s name. Today had been painful enough.

“Don’t even mention He-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless. He’s not worth your breath. I’m glad he’s in Europe and out of your life. You deserve so much better.”

Maya frowned. If only she could get Kyle out of her mind!

She steered her SUV into the driveway that led to the small parking lot behind the two-story brick building that had housed the toy store since before Maya was born, nearly thirty years ago.

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