The next year was a rocky one.
I celebrated a so-called milestone birthday in April. Sure, I was philosophical about it—lucky to be alive, lots of years to go, still got my health—and yet.
My boss quit her job, and suddenly I was thrust into the spotlight at work. My stress level shot into the upper stratosphere.
It was a rainy, miserable winter.
The following year brought gladder tidings. By late January I was happily ensconced in a new job and this time it felt right.
February was unexpectedly mild.
And in early March we went back to Vieques.
Our little puddle jumper from San Juan to the island shook like the devil but for reasons unknown I remained eerily calm—okay, maybe prescription drugs played a minor role but let’s not quibble. I even found myself pitying the man next to me, who was clearly terrified but trying valiantly to be brave. Poor bastard.
Felicity, our wizened property manager from the previous year met us at the airport. If anything, she looked even more stressed out than before, her fingers more nicotine stained, her hair frizzier. But she gave us a warm welcome and bundled us into her car with good cheer. Soon we were careening along the narrow roads toward our rental.
“There was a little problem with the house you wanted,” she yelled above the din. “The owners arrived unexpectedly yesterday, so I’m afraid it’s not available.”
I closed my eyes, bracing myself for whatever was coming next. This felt like a not-so-instant replay of the year before. Only this time the term floating through my addled brain was “bait and switch” rather than “failure to advertise property as a cell block.”
“But we’ve upgraded you to a much nicer house.”
I fidgeted, tempted to protest. Michael, meanwhile, stared straight ahead and didn’t say a word. Again.
In all honesty, I couldn’t remember much about the house we’d actually chosen, except that it was a couple of notches above the place we’d rented the year before (in other words, habitable). It had a pool, I seemed to recall, and faced the Caribbean side.
The road leading up to our replacement house was sensationally bumpy, rutted, and generally washed out. A novice might have considered this a bad sign, but I saw it as vaguely hopeful, having learned through the years (after living in a variety of out-of-the-way places around the world) that sometimes the most inaccessible roads lead to the best houses.
And I was right.
It was a stunner. Situated in a high, flat field with spectacular views down to the water, the brand-new two story house was surrounded by enormous boulders that looked as if the gods had been shooting marbles across the lawn.
We walked up onto the screened-in veranda. The sparkling lap pool lay below us. Inside, the raftered great room—furnished with rattan chairs, canvas covered sofas, and framed prints—stretched from the front of the house to the back. At each end lay a bedroom suite complete with outdoor shower.
An hour later, standing in the embrace of the shower’s four warm jets, gazing across the sloping meadow toward the sea, I had only one thought in my head:
I want this house.