The stale smell of dust and stagnant air hit me as soon as I walked in the door.

I tried flipping the light switch closest to me, but nothing happened. Glancing up, I saw there was no light bulb in the socket.

Typical Dad. He could afford a vacation house in Marble Beach, right on the lake, but took the light bulbs home at the end of every summer to avoid having to buy spares until he absolutely needed to.

My heart squeezed a bit tighter in my chest as I thought of Dad, and I tried to bury the thought.

Late summer light filtered through the dirty windows. The cabin was dim, but I could see well enough as my eyes adjusted. Muscle memory kicked in, and I stepped further into the cabin.

A quick hop over the squeaky floorboard in the entranceway, particularly important to avoid when sneaking out. The patio door, which had to be pushed in before sliding it open. The furnace needed to be kicked twice on the left and once on the right if it gave out on a particularly cold night. It had been about ten years since I’d been in the cabin, but I still remembered every strange quirk about the place.

I smiled in spite of myself as I looked around. The place was old, dusty, and needed a lot of work to compete with the other vacation homes for sale on the lake. But I’d worked summers as a carpenter while in university, and renovating it was well within my skill set. Dad had left me the cabin in his will. It was the only thing he hadn’t left specifically to Mom, and that was because she had no desire to deal with it. I had decided I’d spend the winter sprucing the place up, then try to sell it in the spring.

First things first, though.

I opened as many windows as I could, letting in light and fresh air as I cleaned the upstairs bedroom. The kitchen still had all of the old pots and pans we used to use, and I added food to the refrigerator and pantry. Before it got dark, I jumped in my car and drove into town to grab light bulbs from the grocery store. Once I was back, I took a chilled beer from the fridge and headed to the deck to watch the sun go down over the lake.

Every summer of my childhood, Dad would drive down the week before school finished and get the place ready. On the last day of school, he and Mom would pick me up and we’d drive straight out to the lake. For two months, we’d live in the cabin. Dad turned one of the spare rooms into a makeshift office and spent some mornings working. Once a week or so, he’d drive back to the city and take care of things at the office. It was one of the rare times he’d flaunt his success, his ability to determine when he’d work and how hard. He had a team of people to take care of all the other pedestrian things he usually had to do so he could live his summers in a small slice of paradise.

I’d spend the days swimming, riding bikes down the dirt roads, and playing with the kids who lived in the other cabins or in the town. Dad would take me fishing at least once a week, and we’d have a big fish fry on our patio.

As I got older, I stopped spending as much time hanging out with kids from the other cabins, and more time hanging out with the kids who lived in the town. I knew my family was well off, but Dad didn’t like to flaunt his wealth. The “summer kids” were the ones who lived in the lake houses and had jet skis and dirt bikes. I didn’t feel like I belonged with them. Dad owned a fishing boat, and that was it. So I spent more and more time with the kids from town, because they didn’t have jet skis and dirt bikes either.

I’d complained about having to spend all summer at the cabin every year. I wanted to hang out with my friends at home, but Dad insisted. The last summer I’d spent there was just before I went to university. At the end of the summer, I told my friends from town that I wouldn’t be back the next year. As a parting gift, one of the girls I’d known since we were kids gave me her virginity, and took mine.

It had been unexpected. I didn’t even know she liked me like that, but suddenly one night we were sitting on the beach in town together. Everyone else had gone home, and it was just her and me.

“When are you leaving?” she asked.

“Couple days,” I replied.

She bit her lip. “Have you ever had sex?”

My eyes nearly burst out of my skull.

“No,” I finally answered. “Have you?”

She shook her head. “Do you want to? With me?”

I did, and I told her that. She had a condom with her and we hurried down the beach to a gazebo that afforded the slightest bit of privacy. She kissed me and let me touch her everywhere. I doubt that I actually made her orgasm, but she said I did, and as naive as I was, I believed her. I wasn’t inside her for very long, and tried to laugh it off, embarrassed. She smiled and said it was okay, and she had heard it was normal for the first time to be like that.

After going home, I thought about her often, about the frantic, groping tryst we’d had in a gazebo by the lake. Neither of us really knew what we were doing, but she was gorgeous and warm and willing. That year in university, I told friends the story of my first time on drunken nights when we were all bragging, laughing at how terrible it must have been for her. And as time went by, I laughed more and more about how my dad insisted we “rough it” at Marble Beach. I joked about how my dad had all that money, and just built a shitty little cabin when he could have had a huge party house. I met more girls, had more sex, got better at it. Broke my share of hearts, and had mine broken in return.

That first girl, though. Sitting on the back deck that night, I wondered what had happened to her. I imagined she’d left town, as most of the kids planned to.

After I finished university, I’d gone to work for a few years. Dad had asked if I’d come back out to the cabin with him one year, but I’d been too busy. I wished I’d gone. I wished I’d spent more time with him before he died.

I lifted the bottle in a toast as the last rays disappeared beyond the horizon. Mom had moved back to her hometown in England earlier in the summer, giving me a decent amount of money to renovate the cabin after I explained my plan. Dad had been gone for nearly six months.

I wished he could have been there with me to have one last beer.



“Come a little closer, gorgeous, and tell me about those specials again.”

I stared at the tourist, my expression somewhere between blank and disgusted.

“Just the one special. The Beach Burger’s on for half price until five.”

He chuckled, his arm resting openly on the back of his chair as he turned towards me.

“What, no smile for me? Come on, sweetheart. What’s your name?”

Gritting my teeth, I looked across the room. My mother was behind the bar, chatting with one of the regulars. She’d just finished lecturing me on giving better customer service, or at least not openly despising the tourists.

“Maggie,” I finally said.

“Maggie,” the man repeated. “Miss Maggie. You been working here long?”

Almost my entire life, I thought.

“Yeah, a while.”

“Ever get tired of the work, Maggie?”

“Are you going to order something?” As an afterthought, I tried to smile. “Sir?”

“Ah, in a minute. We’ve got time. How long have you worked here, Miss Maggie?”

“If you’re not going to order something—”

“You from around here?”

I nodded. “My mom and I have lived here my whole life.”

“Just you and your mom, hey?”

I nodded again.

He lowered his voice, looking up at me with whiskey-glazed eyes. “Miss Maggie, I have to ask. Do you have a daddy?”

My face flushed. The man, mistaking it for embarrassment, laughed.

“I heard girls with daddy issues are a special type. I can be your daddy, baby. You wouldn’t have to be a waitress anymore.”

My mom had told me approximately a million times that when a man propositioned me—not if, but when, because she knew exactly what these men were like— I should walk away and tell her, and she’d get Big Red or Tiny Steve to kick them out. Other customers didn’t like how I dealt with men like him, she said, and it wasn’t good for business.

I didn’t want Big Red or Tiny Steve to help me. Instead, I leaned toward the man, bending until my elbows rested on the table. I let my fingers trail against the icy glass of beer I’d just put down in front of him.

He looked like he’d won the lottery, and the men he was sitting with looked like they would each want a turn with me before the end of the night. There were four of them total, all middle-aged, all well-dressed, all able to afford a nice vacation property on the lake. They probably all had wives waiting for them back at their luxury cabins, kids at private schools, and enough money to buy my silence should anything unsavoury happen.

“You’re a fucking pig, sir,” I said sweetly.

Picking up the beer, I dumped it over his balding head. Splashes of cold lager spilled every which way and drenched his lap, spraying the men on either side of him.

“What the fuck!?” He shot out of his chair, drops of beer flying off his shirt and landing on the tables in the splash zone.

“Goddamnit, Maggie!” My mom was over in a flash. “Not again.”

“Again?” The man was livid. “This little bitch has dumped beer on customers more than once and still has a job here?”

“This little bitch is my daughter,” Mom growled, her voice low enough that only he and I could hear her. “And she only does that when someone gropes her, asks her for sex, or tells her they want to fuck me. So which was it, sir?”

They never wanted to admit which one it was. I plastered a sweet smile on my face and blinked innocently at the man as he grabbed his jacket and left the bar with his friends.

“Friggin’ tourists,” mumbled Fred, who was at the next table with his wife.

“Jo, dear, could we get some more napkins?” she asked, glaring at me.

“Of course, Wanda.” Mom grabbed a stack from the cutlery station, then started towards the bar. “Maggie, you come here.”

Sighing, I followed her to the back. She pulled me into the small office just behind the kitchen.

“Goddamnit, Maggie,” she said again.

“He was being a pig, Mom.”

I settled onto the old green couch in the corner. Beside me, an old TV showed feeds from the two security cameras that actually worked.

“Yes, but you need to remember that we are running a business here.” She sat down at the desk and put her head in her hands. “Why can’t you just ask Big Red or Steve to handle it?”

“I can handle them myself. Nobody wants the tourists in here anyways. This is the local bar.”

“We need the business, and never mind that you’re pissing off the locals,” she shot back. “That’s the third time Wanda’s gotten splashed after you’ve dumped something on a customer.”

“Well, you said I couldn’t pour coffee into their laps anymore. Beer on the head is really the only option.”

“Being a Taurus doesn’t give you the right to be full of bullshit.” She glared up at me. “The only option is to ask Big Red or Steve to handle it. They will always have your back.”

“I don’t need Tiny Steve to look out for me.”

“Please stop calling him Tiny Steve.”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s meant to be ironic.”

“It’s meant to be emasculating, you mean.” Mom looked at me, her eyes tired. “I know you’re not a huge fan of me dating Steve, but hon, I’m allowed to pursue a man.”

“It’s not that you’re dating someone. It’s that you chose to date a guy named Tiny Steve.”

“You’re the one who started calling him that.”

I tried not to laugh, especially since Mom didn’t seem to be lightening up. “He likes it when I call him that. It’s our thing. It’s funny because he’s not tiny.”

“Mags, things are getting more serious with me and Steve.”

I raised my eyebrows, stunned at her sudden admission. “Okay.”

“He’s a good man. He treats me well.”

“I know, Mom.”

“He makes me happy.” She drummed her fingers on the counter. “I’m thinking of asking him to move in.”

That didn’t surprise me all that much. Tiny Steve had been a bartender at The Sea Glass since Mom first bought it. He only worked the bar a few evenings a week because the rest of the time, he worked on motorbikes in his local shop. Between their two schedules, Mom and Steve didn’t see each other as often as I knew either of them wanted to.

Steve was a good guy. I didn’t know why it took him so long to finally admit he was in love with my mom. I was happy for them, really, but my mom was all I had and I was allowed to be a little protective of her.

“Do what makes you happy, Mom.”

She smiled. “Thanks, Mags.”

Suddenly, it was back to business.

“Now look, you have to stop dumping things on customers. I know they’re pigs. I know they’re saying horrible things to you. I know it isn’t right. Not only are you wasting product, but I’m also losing the money on their bill and the bills of everyone around them.” Mom’s expression was slightly forlorn. “I’m sorry, sweetie. If I could make them stop harassing you, I would, but this is the last time I’m warning you.”

She sent me home for a while after that, with instructions to come back with my guitar around 8:30. Luckily, home wasn’t far. I trudged up the stairs to the apartment above the bar and let myself in.

Mom and I had lived in a small house a few blocks away from the bar while I was growing up. We’d always had the apartment above the bar, but she only ever used it for storage. As a teen, I’d stolen the key and used it as my own hiding space. I had cleaned it up, made a little nest among the boxes, and spent hours upon hours hiding away. My friends and I had gotten drunk there. I’d lost my virginity there, at least twice if the boys believed me. Funnily enough, neither of them was my actual first, but nobody seemed to care about the lie.

When I finished high school, I begged my mom to let me move out. We had that perfectly good storage room above the bar, I argued. I needed independence.

Looking back, I’m sure she knew I was using it as a teenage hangout. My mom was young when she had me and had worked at this same bar before getting knocked up by a rich kid whose parents owned a nearby vacation house. They’d given her a ridiculous amount of money to keep his name off the birth certificate, and she’d used that money to buy a house in town and the bar she worked at.

So, I think she knew I was sneaking around to have sex. We never really talked about it, aside from her drilling in my head to always be careful.

“Do what you need to do. I’m not a moron,” she would say. “But always use a condom. And don’t fuck tourists.”

I’d only disregarded her advice twice. Not about the condom, I wasn’t that stupid. But as for tourists, well. The first time barely counted as a tourist, since we’d been friends since we were kids. The second time was shortly after I moved into the apartment above the bar.

The man had been reasonably good looking, probably nearing fifty, and was reasonably respectful to me. He’d made promises.

“Let me take care of you, let me buy you jewellery, let me treat you like a princess.”

So I’d let him come upstairs with me one night, and then another night, and then so often that I wasn’t sure how he kept it a secret from the wife I knew was waiting for him at his fancy luxury vacation house.

The sex was okay. I’d expected it to be better, but that part of our arrangement wasn’t about me. He bought me little presents, jewellery and lingerie mostly. New wine glasses after I served him a cheap red out of a coffee cup I’d stolen from a car dealership. Stupid little things.

And really, the relationship—if one could call it that—wasn’t bad. He treated me well. He complimented me all the time. I would never have invited him upstairs if he talked to me the way most of the men did. And at the time, it was hot. The taboo of it, the sneaking around. I felt bad for his wife at first, though I told myself that it wasn’t my problem, that he knew what he was doing.

Near the end of the summer, his wife had stormed into The Sea Glass while I was working, trailed by the very pale, very terrified man I’d been sleeping with. She slammed her hands on the bar in front of my mom and told her that some whore of a waitress who worked here was fucking her husband and demanded to know who it was.

Mom had scoffed. “None of my girls are fucking your husband.”

She motioned to me, another waitress named Michelle, and Annie, my surrogate grandma who did the dishes and prep work in the back.

His wife’s eyes fell on each of us, resting on me the longest. “It’s this one,” she declared. “You’ve been fucking my husband, haven’t you?”

“Bold of you to come in here and accuse my daughter of sleeping with your husband,” Mom said. “Look at her. She’s young enough to be your daughter and then some. How dare you?”

The man had gone even more pale, if that was possible. His wife didn’t notice, but I think my mom did. The woman left in tears, no longer accusing anyone in the bar of fucking her husband but despondent at the idea that she wouldn’t be able to find out who it was.

After closing that night, I had brought the cash drawer for my mom to count in the office. Sitting behind the desk, she looked up at me.

“Maggie, you know I’ll defend you to the death. But I have to know. Were you sleeping with that woman’s husband?”

I don’t usually lie to my mom, especially not when confronted directly, but I couldn’t meet her eyes and answer that question honestly.

“No, Mom,” I said.

I don’t think she believed me, but she let me have my dignity. “Okay, sweetie. Just remember. Always use a condom—”

“—and don’t fuck tourists,” I finished, nodding. “I know. I promise.”

And I’d kept that promise. After the man, I hadn’t fucked anyone. No tourists, none of the locals who were left, no one.

I should have probably kept some of my tip money to invest in the sex toy industry, given how many I was buying. My reputation as a waitress was that I was quick and accurate, but cynical and surly. If people knew how long it had been since I’d gotten laid, they’d probably understand why I was cranky.

That, and because this was the rest of my life. Mom had bought The Sea Glass as an investment when she was pregnant with me. We’d always had enough to get by comfortably, but never enough for me to leave. One day she’d retire, and she’d pass The Sea Glass down to me, and I’d replace her as the eccentric lady behind the bar.

I had come to terms with it. Without The Sea Glass, I didn’t know what I would do. I had never worked anywhere else. Even if I had the means to move away from Marble Beach, I’d just end up waitressing at some other dive. At least here, I had my mom, and I didn’t have to pay rent.

The upside of being the owner’s daughter was that I got to do what I wanted a lot of the time. One of those things was performing. Mom let me play music at the bar a couple of times a week, especially in the summer when she had seasonal help and didn’t need me to waitress all the time. As a kid, I’d begged her to buy me a guitar for Christmas one year, and she had. I had worked my ass off to learn to play it and was reasonably good. Sometimes people came in just to see me play, which certainly felt nice.