Sneak Preview of Innis Harbor… Available September 1, 2019!

Sneak Preview of Innis Harbor… Available September 1, 2019!

Innis Harbor
Copyright © 2019 by Patricia Evans Cox. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Loch Battersby spotted the journalist in a corner booth as she opened the glass door to the diner. He was already looking at his watch. The waitress behind the counter reached for a coffee cup as Loch rushed past and slid into the booth across from him, raking a hand through her hair. She took her sunglasses off, folded them with one hand, and glanced back at the waitress with a silent thank you as she saw her rounding the counter with her coffee.

“Sorry I’m late,” she said, shrugging the black leather jacket off her shoulders and laying it beside her in the booth. “I was at a shoot for Madewell in Chelsea, and the photographer got there two hours after we were supposed to start.”

The journalist, Colin Harper, was from Avant Garde, a well-known fashion magazine based in Manhattan, and today’s appointment had already been pushed back twice due to her schedule. When he looked at his watch yet again before he spoke, Loch knew the interview wasn’t going to go well.

“It’s fine.” He reached for the phone in his jacket pocket. “Let’s just get started.”

He set his phone to record and set it on the table between them, and Loch studied his face while he dug into his bag for a pen. He looked too young to have an attitude or the beard that took up half his face. It was unkempt in a hipster way, which meant it probably contained designer beard oil that cost more than her phone. She watched as he finally found his pen and checked the phone to be sure it was recording.

“So, I’m Colin Harper with Avant Garde magazine, and we’re talking to Loch Battersby.” He angled the phone slightly toward Loch. He shuffled his notes, then dug into his bag again until he found the first page of questions. “Okay. Most of our readers know you’ve spent the majority of your career working as a male model.”

Loch nodded and waited for him to go on.

“What most people don’t realize is that you started in the industry modeling as a girl.”

Loch’s favorite waitress, Roma, arrived just in time to catch what he was saying as the coffee cup and saucer clattered softly to rest on the worn Formica tabletop. Loch smiled as Roma turned to leave without a word, rolling her eyes as she went. Manhattan reporters usually wanted to meet in a bar for interviews, but Loch had always insisted on the diner on Thirty- seventh, one block over from her apartment. She’d been in the business long enough to know that martinis and recording devices didn’t mix, and the waitresses had seen enough of the interviews over the years to be almost as tired of the stupid questions as she was.

“I did start as a girl booking traditional jobs, but after about a year, they started putting me into men’s campaigns, and it just grew from there,” Loch said. “Although in the last year, I’ve been booking more feminine jobs, just to mix it up a bit.”

Colin nodded and took a delicate sip of the over- foamed cappuccino in front of him. “So, you’ve been modeling for…?”
“Eleven years,” Loch said. “An agent scouted me when I was fifteen at a music festival.”
“And you’d say your look was more ‘mainstream’ when you started?”
“It was,” Loch said, “but I still didn’t book much the first year. I don’t think they knew what to do with me.”

Loch’s modeling agency was one of the top three in the industry, but her look was hard to confine to a single category and even harder to book, as it turned out. She was tall, like most of the other models, but she also had broad shoulders and narrow hips, with a brooding, masculine edge to her features that stood out more on camera than real life. The agent who’d scouted her, Harvey Goldberg, had always believed in her “unique” look, but unique didn’t book shows or spreads in major magazines.

Almost a year after she’d started, one of the better-known photographers saw a test shot from a past job and asked her to shoot as a male model for Guess denim. From that point, her career blazed to life like a desert fire, and she started booking major men’s campaigns, from Balenciaga to Burberry. She’d walked her first runway for Prada menswear in Paris the day she turned seventeen.

Loch was one of the first women in the industry to model almost exclusively as male, so she became instantly recognizable, but after a few years, she’d started to feel boxed into her look. She grew her hair out a bit and softened her look enough to shoot as both sexes, even within the same ad campaign, which had kept her current enough to stay on top. As the years passed, she became successful enough to choose the campaigns she modeled in and photographers she worked with and eventually became known for only choosing projects that promoted gender equality.

Colin cleared his throat and tapped his pen against the tabletop. “So, is that why you dye your hair?” He tilted his head to the side, studying her. “To look more masculine?”
Loch was known for her vivid, deep blue eyes and natural silver hair that had started to grow in the summer she turned ten. The trait ran in her family. Her great-grandmother had silver hair as a teenager, and it had become one of the characteristics that set her apart in the modeling industry.

“No.” Loch ran her hand through her hair and tucked a stray lock behind one ear. “My hair is natural.”

“Is it really?” He leaned across the table, bringing the faded scent of cigar smoke with him, and lowered his voice. “You can tell me. I won’t put it in the article.” Loch looked again at Roma, who just shook her head and went back to filling the sugar containers. He waited for a moment, one eyebrow raised, but finally gave up when Loch didn’t change her answer.
“Okay, whatever.” Colin rolled up one sleeve of his button-up and turned to a new page in his notebook.

“So really, you’ve come full circle, right?”
Loch raised an eyebrow and waited for him to go on. Hopefully, he wasn’t headed where she suspected with this subject.

“You started in the business as a girl doing male modeling, and now after your sex change, you’ve gone back to booking more feminine shoots.” He tapped his pen on the table with a blank look. “Why is that?”

The concept that she’d never had a sex change, that she might just be a woman with a more masculine look in photographs hadn’t even occurred to him. Loch didn’t answer, just pulled a five out of her pocket as she got up and left it on the counter for Roma. She felt the world turn under her foot as she stepped out of the building into the sheer gold sunlight. She’d just crossed West Thirty-seventh Street toward her apartment when she heard her phone ring.

It was her mom, calling to tell her that her aunt Samia had died in a car accident that morning. Loch stopped where she was on the sidewalk, clicked off her phone, and held it to her heart, the world streaming past her on both sides as if nothing had happened.

~~~

Two weeks later, Loch slung her bag over her shoulder as she headed toward the exit in the Bar Harbor, Maine, airport. She hadn’t flown into Bar Harbor for almost ten years, but the dark path of stains on the carpet still pointed like arrows toward the exit, and the same nicked plastic chairs with chrome legs lined the walls. She ran a hand through her hair and winced at the drift of stale cigarette smoke that still clung to it from the shoot she’d left that morning in Manhattan.

It seemed like every photographer in the world smoked, and they all did it about five inches from her face, holding the cigarette and camera together as if they put either one down they’d cease to exist. The shoot that morning for Yves St. Laurent had started at five a.m. and finally finished seven hours later, three hours past schedule. She’d barely had time to jump in a cab to the airport and had almost missed her flight. One of the TSA agents recognized her at the last minute and rushed her through security in time to catch the last call at the gate.

Loch climbed into the only waiting taxi outside the airport, and after she’d woken up the driver, he managed to get her to the docks just in time to catch the rusted yellow ferry over to Innis Harbor. Her dad’s sister Samia, Loch’s favorite aunt, had lived there all her life, and it was also where Loch had spent most of her summers until she’d started modeling. If there was a place in the world that felt like home to her other than Manhattan, the tiny coastal town of Innis Harbor was it.

She stopped at the café bar in the ferry lobby for a large black coffee, then walked outside to the ferry deck as it left the docks and leaned against the rail, feeling the wind whip underneath her jacket. She zipped it up and dug her beanie out of her pocket, pulling it low on her head and squinting into the sun. Even in May, the wind coming off the water and wrapping itself around her had a sharp edge.

She hadn’t had a minute since her aunt died to miss her, but now the ache was settling into her chest. She’d spent so many summers in Maine, watching Samia sketch for hours in her art studio and wandering down every empty dock she found, regardless of who it belonged to. Samia and her partner, Colleen, had pretty much let her do her own thing, which worked out until she was old enough to catch the ferry to Bar Harbor and get drunk with her friends. But even then, they were willing to watch her make her own mistakes; Samia had always listened a lot more than she talked, and that made all the difference.

After about twenty-five minutes, the ferry pulled into the community docks in Innis Harbor at the Marine Center. Loch shaded her eyes and looked toward town, a five-minute walk from the ferry. She stepped onto the dock, still swaying from the wake of the boat. Loch closed her eyes, letting the sun melt warmth onto her face. The water lapped at the side of the gray creaking dock, and seagulls swooped overhead before they came to rest on the wooden pillars supporting the docks, the breeze ruffling their feathers as they settled into noisy groups. The air was infused with salt, a texture she felt with every breath, and the lobster traps lined up in the water shifted and jostled like children. Loch stood there for a moment before she opened her eyes to find that for the first time in forever, no one was looking at her.

The last time she was here, the population had been under a thousand people, and it looked to be the same now, as Loch headed from the docks to the steps leading up into town. Innis Harbor did get some tourists in the summer, mostly to watch the lobster boats dock and line up their traps. But it was a working fishing village, and lobstering was the primary source of income, so the tourists had to be content to watch from a safe distance. Occasionally, one of them asked if there was a boat that provided scenic cruises or something similar, and the locals in chest-high yellow rubber waders just pointed their gutting knives toward the commercial ferry back to Bar Harbor.

She stopped into Gerrish Market as she walked up Main Street, where a striped blue and white awning flapped in the breeze across the front of the building, and long risers by the front door held crates of fresh blueberries. The start of blueberry season came every year in late May, and the blueberry farms dotted the landscape in every direction like a handful of scattered rocks. The salt in the local soil gave a deep softness to the flavor; Loch had always been able to tell which blueberries came from the Innis Harbor farms and which were farmed farther inland from the scent alone. She ran her fingertips across the surface of the silvery blueberries as she went into the shop, and the handmade cardboard open sign fluttered against the glass door as it shut behind her.

It had been two weeks since Samia died. Loch hadn’t gone to the funeral. She’d had back-to-back shoots scheduled in London, and it had been too late to cancel. Before she left, her agent asked when she was coming back to New York, but she didn’t answer. For the first time in her life, she didn’t know what she was going to do next. Fashion had always collided with celebrity, and celebrity required constant exposure, but for the past few months, Loch had started to wish no one knew her name.

Loch bought some wine and a baguette at the market and slowly climbed the long slope up from the town center to Samia’s house, the late afternoon sun warm and heavy on her shoulders. It finally came into view as she crested the hill—a two-story classic Cape Cod-style clad in cedar shingles and held together with white trim. The door was cherry red, and bright white Adirondack chairs dotted the length of the front porch. As she got closer, she noticed that it looked much older than she remembered. The paint on the trim had peeled, revealing the graying boards underneath, and one of the navy blue shutters on the second level hung from one hinge. Weeds choked the base of the front steps, and the lawn looked like it hadn’t been mowed since the previous year.

The porch steps creaked under her boots, and she slung her bag onto one of the chairs with a thunk. Loch stood in front of the door, seagulls screeching behind her as they glided past on the way to the docks. She wanted to just go inside but couldn’t make herself touch the doorknob; her eyes shut tight against the memories that swept across her mind in a dark storm.

A vivid picture flashed through her mind as if projected onto the door by an old film reel, and she watched, her eyes still shut. It was her, running through the same front door as a child. It slammed shut behind her as she raced into the kitchen to grab the salami sandwich Samia held out to her with one hand while she filled the bright yellow farmhouse sink with the other. The lemon-scented steam rose past the chipped enamel as ten-year-old Loch pulled herself up on the counter to watch. Bubbles slowly covered the pile of paintbrushes at the bottom, each smeared with a different color and piled up like pieces of a broken rainbow. Samia handed her the brushes when they were clean, one by one, and mustard dripped slowly from the sandwich onto her frayed denim shorts as Loch laid them out in a neat row to dry.

The scene refused to fade until Loch shook her head to clear it. Her feet were still frozen on the peeling white planks of the porch, unwilling to take her closer to the door. She finally gave up and sank down where she was, watching twilight darken and fade into the surface of the sea at the bottom of the hill, pierced by the amber lights of the boats gliding into the harbor for the night.

She sat there until black night fell and the only light came from the moon, but when she finally stood to unlock the door, she realized she didn’t have a key. Loch rubbed her forehead with the heel of her hand and fought the tears burning behind her eyelids. She reached into the backpack she’d tossed into one of the chairs and unscrewed the cap from the bottle of cabernet. She sank down the porch railing to the steps, the wood rails scraping her spine, relishing the burn of the alcohol and counting the seconds until it blurred the edges of her memory.

...LOVED IT? WANT MORE? INNIS HARBOR IS AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.COM, BARNES & NOBLE AND SAPPHIREBOOKS.COM FROM SEPTEMBER 1, 2019!

2 Replies to “Sneak Preview of Innis Harbor… Available September 1, 2019!”

    1. Thank you so much, Donna! This one was super fun to write, although I didn’t have a clue where the characters were going and they didn’t tell me till the last minute. I loved Amir’s character,(I’m always a bit in love with my butch characters) but Loch’s was challenging and took quite a bit of research.
      You’re one of my fav readers and I always look for your comments…. thanks for reading!

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