A Stormy Reunion

Written By: Dorothy  Mackey

They sat silently, each pondering the startling events of the day. Jeannie clung to Greg,

Don held Penny’s shivering hand. The sweetness of their day turned into sorrow by a tragic twist of fate.

Greg’s thoughts wandered back to earlier that day. His old pal Mike’s wedding promised more fun than a High School reunion. He knew Don and his wife, Penny, would be attending. They managed to keep in touch by phone. It was just five years ago that Greg held the honor of best man at their wedding. Penny once a school cheer leader, enjoyed decorating her new home, and caring for their bubbly two year old. Don owned a busy, construction company. Quiet nights replaced those frivolous high school and college days.

After parking Greg entered the side door of the Sacred Heart Church in Southampton .The ceremony had begun – and so had the rain. The happy couple exchanged vows and rushed back to the limo. Greg misplaced his directions and followed the entourage to the reception in Sag Harbor They drove though the muddy, back roads. Arriving guests entered beneath a canopy, and French Doors lead to the reception hall where surrounding windows revealed the foggy Peconic Bay. “Hey, Greg, We’ve been looking for you.”  Don led him into the ballroom. Greg could see Penny waving.

He noticed the familiar figure next to Penny. Five years of separation had not altered his feelings. “How…nice to see you,” He stuttered.   After greeting other friends at the table, Greg sat in the only empty chair – next to Jeannie. (A planned move on Penny’s part, he was sure.)  Penny hadn’t lost her knack of stirring up fun.  She egged everyone into spurting out wacky stories and kept the conversation light.  This helped ease the tension between Greg and Jeannie.

Later in the night, however, dancing together brought back tender memories. Greg concluded that their break up was understandable – too much studying and not enough attention to her.  He dismissed their broken engagement as a thing of the past, and felt lucky to have her in his arms again.  Jeannie fought back tears of happiness.

When the band played “The LAST DANCE “Penny exclaimed, “It’s early, let’s find a nice little place to have coffee and gab.”  Jeannie said she would love to but had to catch the bus to the train.  Greg said “No problem, I can take you.  I promised to give Penny and Don a lift home too.” Jeannie hesitated a second and then consented to join them.

An instant before reaching the exit gate, a clash of thunder and lightning predicted a bumpy ride ahead.  Determined not to let weather interfere with their excitement of being together, they ignored the threatening storm. After bellowing out their old Alma Mater, Greg realized they should have reached the highway. Don agreed.  “Maybe we should have turned at that fork about a mile back.” They found the alternate route and assumed it to be the right way.  Another loud burst and cascades of heavy blinding rain obstructed Greg’s vision.  He drove warily realizing the hazards.  “All this stress is awakening my appetite.” Penny said.  “Guess, you’ll never change, Penny.  Here we are in the middle of a flood and all you can think about is your stomach,” Don remarked.   Before another word was spoken, Greg’s new 1990 BMW started sliding into a ditch at the end of a curved road. “Oh, darn, I left the shovel and chains home. The rain could continue for hours. The guys decided to go for help.  “Oh, you’re not leaving us alone in this dark deserted place,” they protested. The girls discovered a plastic tarp in the back of the car. Throwing it over their heads they trekked along the side of the road.  A car passed by, apparently, unable to see them. Finally, they spotted a house.

When they reached the doorway, Jeannie sighed “I sure hope someone is home.” Chilled with sopping feet, Penny rang the doorbell several times. No one answered.  Greg rapped heavily on the door – still no response.  They peeked through the window and saw a light.  Penny raised her eyebrows, shrugged her shoulders and turned the doorknob.  It opened.  “Hello, hello?” she called, “Is anybody home?”  Inside, a crackling fireplace looked inviting. “It sure smells delicious in here.”   They removed their shoes and sox and headed for the fireplace. Above, a stone mantle, a gold braided sign read: “WELCOME TO THE COMING, GOD SPEED TO THE GOING.”  The girls, quietly, visited all the rooms to be sure no one was there.

The guys discovered a display on the hallway wall.   Don pointed out photos, articles and a family tree. “See this.” It describes the previous owners and their photos. Mrs. Packer is related to the well-known actor and author Howard Payne who wrote HOME SWEET HOME.  Mr. Packard is a descendent-of Henry Packer-Dering, a member of a prominent Suffolk family. In the year 1791 he was appointed inspector of revenue by President George Washington.Several years later he received the additional title of Post Master. Sag Harbor was one of the foremost whaling ports in in the nineteenth century.  “That’s a coincidence, Don said. My mother’s maiden name was Packer. We may be distant relatives, he laughed.” They were examining the whale bones displayed, when Penny called, “Come see this Kitchen.”

They gasped, when entering the kitchen. What a great restoration job! A large black crane that held two huge pots and a black kettle swung out from a stone covered wall and built-in fireplace. Fruit wood cabinets with cut glass inserts, bordered a six foot bay window .Adjacent to the window, a table and cushioned bench on each side for diners to enjoy a view of the surrounding area.  They all thought it looked like something out of ‘Town & Country Magazine .”     Too bad the phone is out and the lights are flickering too.  Let’s see if we can find a shovel – maybe in that little shed outside. “ Greg  and  Don grabbed their jackets and flashlights  and rushed out.

“I’d sure love to meet the owners!” Penny said.  Jeannie answered, “Noright now .” She pulled a note from the refrigerator door. It read:

Dear Mary,
We went to drive Jack to the train station.  Will be back soon, help yourself to muffins.

Penny urged Jeannie to try a muffin, and they couldn’t stop laughing until they heard the squeaky back door opening.  An elderly, wet, teary-eyed woman entered. “ My name is Mary I’m  Sally and Ben’s neighbor.”  At that moment the guys returned. Penny showed the note to   them and said, “This is Mary.”  Greg said, “We just stopped by – for a few minutes. We’re getting ready to leave.”

“It’s strange I never heard Ben or Sally mention you were coming.”   Oh dear, I don’t know how to tell you this. Her eyes filled with tears.  About twenty minutes ago, on their way to the station – they must have lost control of the car and crashed into a telephone pole.  The police believe they were trying to avoid  hitting an empty car that was parked just around the curve (she breathed in deeply) they were killed instantly. In shock the girls covered their mouths. Greg hugged Mary and urged her to sit down. “I’m sorry I had to bring you such awful news.’’ Her tears flowed again. “I wonder why Sally didn’t say she expected visitors.” Jeannie replied, “ We were just – we were just.” Don Broke in. There’s a possibility we’re distant relatives and we thought it would be interesting to have a surprise reunion.