Tracy Del Campo
Margot stood on the bank of Plumpton Pond as patchy fog rolled off the water. There was something divine about New England in the fall. The foliage. Oh, the foliage. An exquisite tapestry of scarlet, gold, and amber draped over the land as far as the eye could see. She drew in a breath and pulled her cardigan tight.
The last few years had been difficult. The loss of her father, then her mother, followed by a broken engagement that left her reeling and wary of love. No explanation. Just over. So much for happily ever after.
Margot dabbed a tear pooling in her eye and straightened her shoulders. “You’ve grieved, cried, and wallowed long enough. It’s time to pick yourself up and move forward with your life.”
She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and turned to admire a small cottage on a knoll. Circa 1930, the place was in need of some attention, but its charm was undeniable. Nestled under a canopy of maples and oaks, it featured blue shutters, scalloped shingles, a bed of white, floppy-head hydrangeas, and a pier to moor a canoe. Margot was smitten and as of today, 12 Plumpton Lane was hers.
After securing her loose waves in a messy bun, Margot headed for the house. There were, after all, boxes to unpack, cupboards to fill, and furniture to arrange. A basket of baked goods and jams sat on the table, a gift from her real estate agent. She placed a few items in the vintage Kelvinator refrigerator and opened a window to air out the stale room.
Margot wiped her hands and studied an array of kitchen utensils on the counter. “Three can openers. Really?”
A series of raspy rattles and clicks startled her. Margot turned to find a crow perched on the windowsill, wired earbuds dangling from its beak. Dark, button-like eyes scanned the room. The creature hopped and shuffled along the windowsill before dropping the earbuds and taking flight, soaring over the water.
“Well, that’s a first.” Margot slumped against the sink.
Other objects appeared throughout the day. A mechanical pencil. A guitar pick. A coffee pod. The bird tarried in the trees as the hours passed, watching. Margot felt its eyes trailing her as she carried items from her car and pulled weeds in the flower bed. It peered through windows, head swiveling back and forth, as she moved about the cottage, staring.
Evening was settling over the valley when the mantle clock chimed. After placing the last of her book collection on a shelf, she tugged down her sleeves and took a step back, admiring her mother’s watercolor artwork on the walls.
She ran her fingers over the worn armrest of her father’s leather club chair near the hearth and repositioned a pillow. “It’s starting to feel like home.”
With a mug of chamomile tea in hand, Margot plodded to the pier, where she found the crow preening and fluffing its iridescent feathers in the waning light. “We meet again.”
She collapsed into an Adirondack chair and drew her legs to her chest. A handful of cabins dotted the landscape, most dark and empty, shuttered for the season. Her gaze wandered to a small A-frame. The soft yellow glow of lamplight was visible through blinds. Smoke billowed from its chimney, filling the air with a pleasant, earthy aroma.
A tall figure ambled across the lawn to the water’s edge. He waved. Margot returned the gesture, only to stiffen when he pushed off in a canoe, heading in her direction. Great.
She attempted to smooth her hair and wipe the dust from her sweats. No luck. She blew out a breath and pinned on a smile as he approached. Green eyes and dimples greeted her. Oh, my.
“Sorry to interrupt your sunset.” The handsome stranger pulled alongside the pier. “But I think these belong to you.” He held up a key ring and a garden glove. “I’m afraid Edgar has a penchant for taking things that don’t belong to him.”
“Edgar Allan Crow.” He pointed to the bird. “There’s the culprit.”
Margot laughed. It had been a while.
He raked his fingers through sandy hair. “I’m Liam.
“Welcome to Plumpton Pond.”
“Thank you.” Margot narrowed her eyes. “Let me guess. You’re an artist, you play the guitar, and you’re fond of coffee.”
“Two out of three. I’m an architect.” He raised a quizzical brow. “How’d you know?”
“Edgar brought me a few things of yours as well.”
He grinned. Those dimples.
“How did you and Edgar meet?”
“I rescued him from a cat a few years back. He’s been hanging around ever since. Crows are very bright and quite social.” Liam crossed his arms. “So, what brings you to Plumpton Pond?”
“The proverbial fresh start.” Margot glanced over her shoulder. “When I spotted this place online, I fell in love.”
“It is certainly special.”
A pause hung in the air. Their eyes met. The gaze lingered.
“Would you like a tour? Dusk is my favorite time to be on the water.”
Margot lifted her cheeks. “I’d love one.”
She took Liam’s hand as he steadied the canoe and helped her aboard. He removed his jacket and draped it over her shoulders. She relished its warmth and the faint smell of sandalwood cologne.
“Coming, Edgar?” Liam tipped his head.
The bird perched on the deck of the canoe as they meandered across the water, exploring various coves along the wooded, twisting shoreline. Herons huddled together, browsing in the shallows under the Harvest Moon suspended overhead.
Liam pointed to a secluded inlet. “Best fishing spot on the pond, but don’t tell anyone.” He winked.
A falling star crossed the night sky, followed by a shower of glowing particles that slowly drifted to earth. Margot took a deep breath, savoring the moment.
“I think you’re going to like it here.”
She pressed her lips into a smile as she trailed her fingers through the water. “I already do.”
Fond of history, Tracy also has an affinity for old houses, TCM, museums, flea markets, rainy days, and road trips. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now resides in Southern California with her husband, and is the mother of two.
You can find her online at Twitter and Instagram.