Michael Malone has everything a man could want: money, success, looks, even an apartment in New York City. He had never planned on going back to Gray Harbor, but his mother needed him. And there was no way he would ever stay in Maine. At least that’s how he felt before Beth Adams. The talented chef is nothing like what he thought he needed, but now she’s all he can think about.
Then trouble at work pulls him back to the city and back into the life he worked so hard to build. And while it no longer seems to be everything Michael wants anymore, he can’t simply leave everything he knows behind. Or can he?
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I made a move myself from NYC to Boston and in my move I met several other newcomers to this city. In hearing their different stories I started to develop the character Michael Malone and his journey back home to Gray Harbor.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I come up with a main character first based on my general plot interest and then as I flesh out the outline I further develop each character. Once I have an idea for the direction of the story I create individual character sketches for each main character and even short sketches for some of the supporting characters. I come up with basic ideas about characters from my surroundings and past experience but they aren’t really based on anyone I know.
“What do you mean, you’re moving to New York?”
Though James Malone said the words in a quiet tone, eighteen-year-old Michael Malone knew better.
He was in big trouble.
What else was new? He always disappointed them because he could never live up to the memory of his football star brother. Michael had dreams, dreams that didn’t involve gutting fish his whole life or living in Maine under the shadow of his brother’s tragedy.
Michael relaxed his shoulders and took a deep breath, then began to state his case.
“They’ve offered me a full scholarship. It’s one of the best schools in the country.”
What he left out was that he intended to study Corporate Finance. He also didn’t mention that in addition to NYU, he had applied to half a dozen other schools even farther away from Gray Harbor, Maine. He just had to get away from his hometown. And more importantly, he had to get away from Malone’s Market, his father’s prized business. His father was always a tough one. He always got his way. Everyone followed his lead. And if you didn’t, you had to be prepared to hear it: a long winded lecture that started quietly and ended like a shipwrecked boat. It wasn’t going to be that way this time. Michael was always the quiet one, but not anymore — things were going to change.
Before his brother Jessie died, Michael’s father had talked about how once Jesse and Michael both finished college the store would become Malone and Sons’ Fish Market. They would study business like he did, and together, they would make Malone’s more than a fish market, but a destination in Maine. James felt that someday everything on Penobscot Bay, especially Gray Harbor, would become a tourist destination.
He always said, “anything by the water, especially in Maine, is gonna be a money-maker someday. After all, this is ‘Vacationland,’ so of course someday people will come to Gray Harbor, and when they do we’ll cash in.”
Michael’s thoughts were interrupted by his father’s voice, which had risen slightly. “You already have a scholarship.”
“The University of Maine is a damn good school. Your grandfather went there, I went there, your brother Jesse was going to go there … and YOU are going to go there!”
The quiet voice had turned to rage. His dad started to shuffle things around on the dining room table as if the conversation were over, case closed. The great James Malone had spoken.
Michael just couldn’t take it; he pushed his slightly too-long brown hair out of his eyes, adjusted his thick horn-rimmed glasses, and said, “Well, Dad, maybe it’s just not good enough for me.” He tried to say it with confidence, though he looked anywhere but into his father’s eyes. “I’m moving to New York. School starts in August.”
“Oh, Michael, think about this,” said his mother, Marty, sounding disappointed as she walked into the room. Michael let out a sigh. That’s just what he did, he disappointed everyone, he thought to himself.
“He doesn’t need to think about this, he’s not going. He has a responsibility to this family.”
“It’s too late, Dad…” Michael said, and lifted up his head defiantly.
James straightened and dropped the mail he had been sifting through onto the dining room table, which he frequently used as his office, and leaned forward.
“You accepted and decided to move four hundred miles away without even talking to us first?” James was almost yelling now. He had always had a temper. Whenever he got angry, what appeared to be a large vein throbbed on the forehead of his handsome face and he turned red.
In his most mature sounding voice, Michael said, “I’m eighteen, and I don’t need permission.” He swallowed but the lump in his throat just wouldn’t go away.
“Annie got married when she was only twenty and no one batted an eye…”
“You are my son, not Annie, and that is different,” said James in an exasperated tone.
Annie had married her soldier boyfriend, Tom Mendelson, before he shipped off for a tour overseas. Everyone in the family loved Tom. The Mendelsons were a good family and came from a long line of soldiers and lobstermen. Annie was finishing up school at a local commuter college and planned to work for Malone’s Market full-time when she was done. Even though she had gone and married young against her parents’ wishes, she was still falling in line in her own way by staying local and working for the family business.
“That’s the problem, isn’t it, Dad? I’m not Annie and I am certainly not Jesse, right?”
“That’s enough, Michael!” his mother exclaimed, her voice shaking. “We don’t compare you to anyone, you are just you. We would never even try to compare you to your brother or sisters.”
Michael raised an eyebrow at that one. Maybe she didn’t compare him, but he knew his Dad did. He just didn’t measure up. Whenever he missed a few points on an exam, his Dad would say, “Where are the other two points? Why can’t you focus more? Jesse never had any issues in English class.” Or whatever class or sport. You take your pick. But no one cared that Jesse screwed up that night. They just ignored it and made him out to be some kind of hero.
“This discussion is over, Michael. You will call New York University and tell them no. And you WILL go to University of Maine this fall. End of story.”
“I am going to NYU and forget about August. I am leaving tomorrow. And you are right about one thing, sir. This conversation is over.”
Michael’s tone was self-satisfied and snide … and maybe just a little scared. Marty looked at her husband and then at Michael.
“How do you plan on getting to New York? Where will you live? You’re supposed to be working at the market the rest of the summer and you can’t move into the dorms until the end of the summer anyway.”
What Michael’s mother was saying was all true. He knew she was trying to be reasonable but he just couldn’t — not this time. He was always playing it safe. But he didn’t want that anymore. He wanted a change.
“I’ll figure it out,” said Michael, trying to sound self-assured.
“Now listen, son,” James said, trying to appear calm. He leaned both hands on the worn mahogany table and leaned forward. “You’ll do what I say—”
“Or what, Dad?” Michael asked in an exasperated tone.
Whatever his father said wasn’t going to change his mind. Nothing was going to change his mind. This was his chance. His chance to be his own man, to only have to measure up against his own self, not his brother, not his sister, not anyone but himself.
Michael leaned his own hands on the table and stared his father in the eyes, ”What are you going to do?”
“That’s enough! Michael, you apologize right now,” exclaimed Marty.
“Marty, I’ll take care of this,” James said, as he nudged his wife back.
“So you really want to leave all of this that badly. Can’t wait a few months; you can’t wait to talk this through like a man. You’re going to leave us and your responsibilities at the market with no notice. You just went ahead and did whatever you wanted without caring about the rest of us, huh?”
For a moment, Michael debated what to say next. Instead he just said, “Yes. I want to leave here that badly.”
Before he could stop himself the words were out. They hung in midair and everything seemed to stand still for a moment. He debated whether to take the words back, or whether he even could. He couldn’t though, because it wouldn’t be true. But those thoughts quickly changed once his father spoke.
“You want to go off, son? Fine then, go right ahead. Be my guest. Just go. But I want you to remember this. If you walk out that door, you’ll get nothing from us. No money, no tuition help, nothing … not even a goddamn Christmas card,” said James, a self-satisfied and assured look on his face.
“Now just wait you two — let’s take a little time to discuss this rationally. Calmly. This is all just getting a little out of ha—”
“No, Marty. No,” James said with force.
“It’s time Michael learned just how easy he has had it here. Boy, you go off, take off tomorrow for all I care. You’ve had a good thing here, but you aren’t going to learn that till you are out of here. Hell, maybe you’ll grow up a little. Maybe then you can call yourself a man.”
Michael’s palms were sweaty. It was really happening. He was really going to be leaving. He’d have to leave without his family’s support, no coming home for holidays, no writing to ask for money if things got tough. It wouldn’t be easy but he was going to do it. He’d be on his own. His own man.
“I don’t need you, or your money. I can do this alone.”
“Hah!” James cackled. “We’ll see what you say in a few months, heck, maybe in a few days. You’ll realize what you are throwing away, son. You might not see it now, but you will.”
“No, I won’t, Dad. I don’t need you and I never will. I am never coming back here, not ever.”
“Michael, don’t say that this isn’t your home, it always will be and I’ll always be here for you,” Marty pleaded, and shot her husband a look. A look that said ‘not another word.’
His father said nothing more. He just wore a self-satisfied smile and was silent. He stood there in his “Malone’s Market” shirt looking like he was above everything and everyone, especially his son. In that moment, Michael knew he was making the right decision. He couldn’t stay in this house; he couldn’t stay in Maine any longer. He was tired of being compared to his sister, his dead brother, the past and his father’s dreams. He would never live up to them. But he would show them, he would succeed and he would never come back. His mother started to cry softly as Michael walked out. He couldn’t look at her or he might change his mind.
As Michael walked away, Marty looked at James. He moved towards her and brought her into his arms and said, “He’ll be back. This is where he belongs, he just doesn’t know it yet.”
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