?“Fantastic,” Joe says to his new bride. “What a great idea. You gals choosing Niagara Falls.”
“Again,” my sister, Evvie, says cheerfully. She reaches out to touch Joe’s arm, ignoring the clinging wetness of his souvenir poncho. “What about the fact that you and I came here for our first honeymoon?”
Standing next to Evvie and Joe, my brand-new husband, Jack, and I are huddled together on the deck of the Maid of the Mist, the blue tour boat that takes visitors alongside the massive, amazing waterfalls located on the border between New York and Canada—as close as it’s possible to get. The dark blue ponchos that came with the admission price barely keep us from getting drenched by the spray. But that’s supposed to be part of the fun.
My sister and I had an unforgettable double wedding and now we are sharing a honeymoon. And what a wedding it was. Not only did we walk down the aisle but so did a gorgeous French lady who still had a crush on Jack, albeit only because she was being chased by a killer who was determined to murder her. I’m sure our neighbors are still talking about it back home in our condo community, Lanai Gardens.
What a long way we’ve come. Joe and Evvie’s rocky marriage ended in divorce—then half a century later Joe shows up again, needing, wanting to be with Evvie in the last days of his life.
And what about me? Widowed young and never imagining another man could take my first husband’s place—and yet, here I am. Seventy-five and starting out again, my wonderful Jack at my side. I feel so lucky.
Joe leans to kiss Evvie’s wet face. “I’m having a better time this trip.”
Evvie can’t resist a little dig. “And whose fault was that? Did it have to take you fifty years to grow up?”
Joe laughs. “All right, I’m a slow learner.”
Jack says, “I have a confession. Fay and I had our honeymoon here, too.”
I glance at my darling, surprised. “Why didn’t you say so? We could have gone somewhere else.”
Jack shakes his head. “I didn’t want to spoil it. You were excited about coming here. And I’m sure my late wife would approve.”
“My first honeymoon was at a small hotel in the Catskills,” I say. “But I’ve always wanted to see this remarkable place. Thank you for allowing me this pleasure.”
“The pleasure is all mine,” Jack says, smiling lovingly at me.
I look around at the couples kissing and hugging. I snuggle closer to my man.
Evvie and I exchange meaningful glances. Since we’ve been able to read each other’s minds all our lives, I’m aware of what she’s thinking. He’s in remission, but we don’t know how long Joe has before the cancer kicks back in. She wants to make every precious moment count.
Evvie remarks, “Isn’t Niagara Falls considered kind of corny these days? I’m surprised newlyweds still come here.”
I remind her how hard it was to get reservations. “The New York side of the falls is just as busy as the Canadian side. It’s still a perfect place for romance.”
Joe reads from the brochure. “Where we are it’s 170 feet deep. The water travels down to the Niagara River to Lake Ontario, then to the St. Lawrence Seaway, and lets out into the Atlantic.”
Evvie shivers. “Very interesting, but anyone up for going inside the cabin for a while? I’m soaked.”
“I think that’s the idea,” Joe says, leering at her. “You get wet, go back to the hotel or motel, take a hot shower, have some champagne, and end up happily in the sack.”
“Nothing wrong with that plan,” Jack says.
We hurry inside the boat’s cabin. We’re lucky to find seats together. Evvie digs into her tote and brings out our thermoses of hot chocolate and packages of chocolate chip cookies. As we munch, she says, “Let’s play.”
Our guys look puzzled, so Evvie explains it to Joe and Jack. “It’s our travel game. We look at people and try to guess who and what they are.”
Practical Jack asks, “But how will we know whether we’re right or wrong?”
“We won’t,” I answer him. “It doesn’t matter.”
We hunker down, moving closer to one another, keeping our voices low.
Joe comments, “We won’t know much from their clothes, since everyone’s hair and bodies are covered by the ponchos.”
Evvie indicates the couples all around us. “Well, we know one thing for sure. Most everyone in here has to be a newlywed.”
“Including the couple with the crying baby?” Joe asks.
The wife has the baby strapped to her chest over her rain gear, and the baby is draped in a second poncho. The wife and hubby are holding hands. They are quite young. Evvie makes a guess. “Teen?agers. Shotgun wedding. Baby gets to go along.”
Jack adds, “Family wouldn’t baby-sit. Won’t forgive their being careless about sex.”
Evvie continues the thread, grinning. “Baby has colic. They won’t get much sleep tonight. For the wrong reason.”
I lean against Jack. I’m already so wet, his poncho can’t make it any worse. “Now you guys are getting the idea.”
Joe elbows Evvie. “Glance over across from us. Count four couples down to the left. Looks like they could be in their thirties.”
She asks, “What about them?”
He answers, “They’re sound asleep. What does that tell us?”
She smiles knowingly. “Easy. No sleep for them, either. For all the right reasons.”
“As opposed to the guy and gal over there on the other side.” I indicate as unobtrusively as I can a couple directly across from us. They are not sitting close and their backs are toward each other. “Too much space between them.”
Joe suggests, “Maybe they’re too wet.”
Jack shakes his head. “No, look at their faces. He’s scowling and she’s staring down at her hands, tightly clenched.”
I jump in. “And her lips, she’s biting down on them. Her eyes are hooded.”
Evvie, part optimist, part realist, says, “They’ll make up later. After they decide who gets to be the boss in the family.”
We get a chuckle out of that.
I say abruptly, “Oh, boy . . . more trouble ahead. Look to your right. At the very far end seat near the exit door. Tell me what you see.”
Evvie asks, “You mean the young woman holding a folded yellow umbrella?”
“Yes, that’s the one.”
Joe is puzzled. “What about her? She looks like everyone else. Soggy.”
I suggest, “Yes, but what makes her different?”
Jack leans forward to get a better view. “She’s alone.”
Joe quickly says, “So?”
Evvie is getting it. “Yes, she’s not sitting with anyone.”
Jack continues, “Everyone around us is obviously a couple, except for the few families with children. Glance at her body language. She’s leaning over, her head is down.”
I comment, “My guess is she arrived here with her new husband, but he’s not with her. Something’s gone very wrong.”
Joe sits at the edge of his seat to get a better look.
With sadness, I add, “I doubt anybody would take this trip alone.”
Jack says, “She’s been deserted.”
Joe is confused. “Then why is she on the boat? Why isn’t she at her motel on shore? Why hasn’t she gone home?”
Jack says thoughtfully, “Maybe he didn’t show up at the dock at the last minute and either for spite or in her unhappy confusion, she just got on.”
Evvie points in her direction discreetly. “Now she’s rocking her body back and forth. As if she’s keening.”
I say, “She’s crying into her collar so it won’t be noticed. Poor woman.”
Evvie sighs. “I feel so sorry for her, surrounded by happy lovers.”
I add, “This trip must seem endless for her. How much longer until we dock?”
Jack looks at his watch. “Maybe ten minutes more.”
We continue to stare at her, feeling her pain.
Evvie says, “I wish we could say something comforting to her. Like it isn’t the end of the world.”
Joe smiles at her lovingly. “I don’t think she’ll hear any of the platitudes. Too soon. I hope she’ll be heading back to her family.”
Excitedly, I cry out, “Something’s changed.”
Indeed the expression on her face is different.
Jack gets it. “She’s stopped crying.”
I add, “She seems almost resigned. Maybe that’s a good sign. She’s snapping out of it.”
“No.” Jack sounds alarmed. “Pay attention to the lift of her chin. She’s getting angry.”
“Who could blame her?” Evvie says.
“She’s getting up,” I say nervously. “She’s looking toward the door to the deck.”
Joe comments, “Maybe she needs some air.”
Jack jumps up, and I can tell it’s the instincts from his years as a cop kicking in. “She’s moving too fast. She’s doesn’t want air.”
They watch as the woman pushes open the heavy door and rushes out.
I leap up, too. “She’s left her purse on the seat. Not a good sign!”
Jack and I race for the door as it slams shut. I grab her purse on my way out. Jack is ahead of me.
He yells, “She’s going to jump!”
He fights the wind to get the door open and I’m right behind him.
The deck is still crowded. Wall-to-wall people.
I look around. “Where is she?” I shout to Jack over the roar of the falls. “How can she disappear that fast?”
“She couldn’t have gone far.” I see him plow through the nearest group.
Oh, God. I hope she hasn’t made it to the railing. The railing is low, I remember with a shudder.
“Over here!” Jack yells. He raises his hand above the crowd so I can locate him. I can also tell by the muttering and movement of people being pushed out of his way.
By the time I reach Jack, he’s found her.
It’s as if everything seems to move in slow motion. The bereft woman has reached the railing.
The group nearest to her has no idea of what’s happening. Jack moves slowly but carefully toward the young woman. I go to her other side. I can see her face. She seems as if she’s in a trance.
Jack speaks very quietly to her. “Miss, you forgot your purse.”
I hold it out to her. She reacts in confusion. We’ve redirected her movements. She reaches for her purse. I quietly hand it to her.
We both lean into her and gently take each of her arms.
“You don’t want to do this,” Jack whispers. She looks into Jack’s kind eyes. Sobbing, she buries her head in his chest. I hug her from the back.
Through her cries, almost hiccupping, she spills out her pain. “He said our marriage was a mistake. He’s going home to annul it.”
The people nearest us finally realize what’s happening. They reach out to hug her also. Many of the women are near tears. The group parts, giving us a path, as we lead the distraught lady away from disaster.
Hours later, we make our way down into the hotel dining room. Much to our surprise, word has already gone around, and tourists and townspeople come by to congratulate us for saving the woman. Jack and I are embarrassed at the attention. Joe and Evvie beam.
Evvie and Joe toast us. “Here’s to the hero and the heroine.”
Joe says, “Well done. You two make a good team.”
Evvie agrees. “Jack!” As she nods her head, I see her face light up, wide and shining. “You must join our detective agency! I nominate you right now.”
I could kiss Evvie. What a great idea.
But Jack demurs. “I thought you gals were strictly a female business. Besides I don’t know of any husband-and-wife PIs.”
“You obviously don’t read much crime fiction,” Evvie says. “What about Nick and Nora Charles? Mr. and Mrs. North? Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane? Tommy and Tuppence? I could go on and on.”
I agree. “Honey, your years as a cop would be a great asset.”
Joe says, “Yeah, sure, but what’ll Ida, Bella, and Sophie feel about a man poking his nose in?”
Evvie and I exchange knowing glances. I can just see their faces. The surprise will turn to dismay. They’re going to hate it. They’ll absolutely de- spise it!
Excerpted from Getting Old Can Kill You by Rita Lakin. Copyright © 2011 by Rita Lakin. Excerpted by permission of Dell, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.