Bookings stayed sluggish right through December that year, though we clung to the hope that things would pick up any day.
And eventually they did.
Jane called in early January to say that the big house just up the hill from ours had been rented for the following week by a group of classical musicians from the Boston area. As it turned out, the party was bigger than expected and they needed two more bedrooms. Was our house available?
You bet it was.
We learned later that several of the musicians brought along their instruments and gave impromptu concerts by our neighbor’s pool every evening during the cocktail hour.
We tried to imagine the sound of classical music wafting through the palm trees at sunset just above our house. I must admit the thought made our dark winter days seem a little brighter.
Even better, the merry band of musicians returned to the island the following year and two of them (Carol and Scott) got married on New Year’s Eve. Our house had become part of a love story yet again.
This just had to generate giant waves of positive karma.
And it did.
Another guest that season had an amazing story to tell, though we didn’t know it until several months after her stay.
All we knew at the time was that she was from North Carolina and that she was bringing her boyfriend and a couple of friends along. A Google search (yes, I admit that I sometimes “Googled” prospective guests) revealed that she was a veterinarian in Raleigh-Durham. Nothing more.
But she left behind some clues about herself in our “Comments and Suggestions” book.
Her entry read, “Our week here has left us feeling extraordinarily connected to nature, and at the same time pleasantly isolated from mankind, which was just what we needed. On a personal note, our week in Vieques has been one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life—right up there with meeting my beloved fiancé, beating leukemia, and getting rescued by helicopter after being stranded in a lifeboat for six days in the Atlantic.”
I read it twice. Michael read it three times. Then we called Jane.
“Did Erin mention anything about being stranded in a lifeboat in the Atlantic?”
“The veterinarian from North Carolina, remember?”
“Sure, I remember. Great gal, but she didn’t mention any lifeboat…
…”I think that would have stuck in my poor brain, addled as it is.”
“Apparently she was stranded in the Atlantic for six days.”
“How do you know?”
“She mentioned it in our guestbook.”
“I should take a peek at that thing sometime.”
“You might enjoy it. It’s full of comments about how wonderful you are.”
“Wow, sounds like a classic.”
We did further online research about Erin. In a nutshell, here’s her story, which (I kid you not) was made into a TV movie in 1993:
In the late ‘80s she was diagnosed with leukemia. She went through the usual hell of chemo and radiation and three years later was declared a survivor. Then one day she took her longtime partner aside and told him she was pregnant. He could hardly believe it. To add to his general confusion, she told him there was one last thing she absolutely had to do before taking on the responsibility of parenthood—sail up the Atlantic seaboard.
Very reluctantly he agreed, though at the last minute he wasn’t able to join her. She set out with two male friends in idyllic September weather, only to be clobbered by Hurricane Bob on their third day out.
The boat capsized and they were set adrift in a lifeboat.
After three or four days they were pretty much convinced they were going to die. One of the men became delusional and threatened the other guy. Erin, in the throes of morning sickness, mediated, keeping everyone calm and reasonably sane until they were rescued at the end of their sixth day out.
You really couldn’t make something like that up.
Although I was somewhat wary of letting Erin know I’d been researching her past, I couldn’t resist sending her an email to confirm the story. After all, she had sold her tale to ABC, so it couldn’t be all that much of a secret.
“It’s true,” she responded matter-of-factly. “I’ve had a blessed life. I’m healthy, happily married and I have a wonderful sixteen year-old son. P.S. my son loves the ocean.”