Ella is Gracie’s sister and a renowned psychic medium on Marco Island. Below is an excerpt from the book, an example of one of her off-the-cuff readings. Just to fill you in, right before Ella hears or feels spirit, she stares off into the cosmos – it’s known as the ‘Ella Stare’. This particular reading takes place in Mango’s Restaurant. It’s a busy day – Ella and her niece, Amy, are taking up a table for six when Lily suggests they share with Chef Anton’s brother and his son. They have just moved to the island from NYC and it would be nice for them to get to know some locals.
From Chapter 36
I lose the next minute or so until Amy shouts my name, bringing me back to earth.
“You’re doing that weird staring thing again.”
“Sorry, occupational habit.” The boys are making their way to the table and I wonder if they’re aware Amy and I aren’t the only ones sitting here.
Lily introduces the men and Andrew moves to sit in Gracie’s seat.
“No!!!” He jumps at my startled yelp, stumbles and falls into the empty chair next to my sister’s. “Gosh, I’m so sorry, but that’s Gracie’s chair.”
“There’s three of you? Must be our lucky day, hey Toby?” Andrew raises an eyebrow at his son who turns all shades of crimson. “So where’s this Grace?”
“Well, she’s sort of…dead,” I say.
“Oh my God, give me strength.” Amy death stares me. “Please excuse my Aunt. She’s a little…ah, different. Lily sets a place for Mom every Saturday at noon to honor her memory.”
“Oh, I see. She must have been a special woman,” Andrew says and sips his water.
“So what brings the two of you to Marco?” I look from Andrew to Toby and back at Andrew. He really is dishy.
Over the next forty five minutes, the two of us monopolize most of the conversation while Toby and Amy surreptitiously check each another out.
Andrew tells us he’s a retired investment banker from New York who’s now writing a book about finance and corruption. He recently closed on the Markham Estate in Collier Bay, a stunning Mediterranean home with soaring walls and arched doorways. I know the place well as my Mr. Third Time Lucky, Charles, almost bought it for me when we first married.
Best of all, Andrew’s a widower…according to his wife who’s been sitting in Gracie’s chair since the boys arrived.
“And what do you do with your time, Ella?” Andrew peers at me over his rimless glasses.
“I’m the island’s psychic medium.”
“Rrriiight.” He puffs his cheeks out in surprise.
“Yes, and you’re right to be skeptical. There are lots of charlatans around.” I amp up the wattage on my smile hoping to reel him back in.
“Aunt Ella really is very good at what she does and she’s well known on the island.” I silently thank Amy for coming to my defense.
“Yes, I’m sure. So what exactly is it you do? How does it all work?”
“The nutshell answer is I speak to dead people. Oh, and my guides, of course.”
Andrew’s wife, Fiona, chuckles at her husband’s slackened mouth. I can’t actually see her but I sure as heck feel her presence. I also find it amusing when I notice she’s enjoying Gracie’s tea which is now only two thirds full.
“Dead people?” Andrew rolls his eyes.
“And she’s very good at it too,” Lily informs him as she serves our lunch and tops up the water glasses. “Even Chef, your cynical brother, is a believer. Not that he’ll admit it. After all these years he still makes a wide birth around Ella. She gives him the heebie jeebies.” She waggles her fingers, makes a ghostly woo sound and heads back to the kitchen.
By now, Toby is leaning halfway across the table. “So, you’re like that Long Island Medium person. What’s her name?”
“Theresa,” Amy blurts out.
“We both use too much hairspray but my nails are real. I’m not into fake tan or fluoro toenail polish and I prefer saris, kaftans and flat shoes.”
I smile at the look of disbelief on poor Andrew’s face and decide it’s time to make a believer out of him.
“This Theresa’s very convincing. I’ve seen her show on TLC a few times,” Toby tells his Dad. He leans further forward and squints at me. “So, umm, can you tell me anything?”
“Your mom sat down in my sister’s chair as soon as you came over.”
“How come she gets to sit there?” Andrew scoffs.
“Come on, Dad.” Toby slices his father a pleading look. “Take no notice of him.”
“Look, I’ll just cut to the chase. Fiona says to tell you both she’s happy you’re finally out of New York.”
“How did you know her name?!” Toby asks and widens his eyes.
“She told me a good ten minutes ago. She’s also telling me twelve, nine and eleven.”
“Oh my God, Dad?”
“Anton could have told her.” Andrew knits his eyebrows together, picks up an onion ring and crunches it with feigned indifference.
“Pah! Anton wouldn’t tell me anything, he avoids me like the plague.”
“So what do the numbers mean?” Amy asks Toby.
“We lost her twelve years ago on nine eleven. The Towers.” He lowers his eyes and bites down on his bottom lip.
“She keeps saying clean start, clean start, clean start, over and over.” Fiona’s energy is quite insistent but I can’t quite grasp her meaning. “Hmm, that can’t be right.”
“What?” Toby asks.
“I think she’s trying to tell me you’ve only ever had one girlfriend? Surely someone as handsome as you has had many relationships?”
Toby laughs and shakes his head. “No, I’ve always been married to my job. Up until three years ago I was in a relationship with the same girl I dated in high school. She got sick of playing second fiddle to my career.” He takes a sip of his beer, wipes a line of white foam from his top lip and slices into his rib eye.
“Why would she show me an oyster the size of a dinner plate?” Toby almost chokes on his steak and Andrew’s face pales. “Well?”
“I’ve spent the last ten years working as a biologist for the New York Department of Environmental Protection. My main job was to re-establish oyster beds as part of a fifteen million dollar plan to clean up the water in Jamaica Bay.” He throws his dad an excited look. “I also wrote a paper on giant oysters found in shell middens around Manhattan. Mounds that are thousands of years old with oysters easily the size of dinner plates.”
“Sh…shell middens?” I play with my napkin and swig down a large gulp of water.
“Yes. That’s why I’m here, to study the local shell mounds for the next few years.” He shakes his head and looks at is dad again. “How could she possibly know all this?”
“We have a shell mou…”
“Because your Mom told me, silly.” I cut Amy off mid sentence and glare at her.
“Well, the court’s still out for me.” Andrew says. “Regardless, I’ve found the last hour extremely interesting. You and Amy should come for dinner one night. I have a couple of dead aunts I wouldn’t mind chatting to,” he says cheekily.
Later, as we head back to our cars, I notice Amy and Toby exchanging phone numbers…just like Fiona said they would.