Trapped on Acker Island - Chapter 2
Updated: Jan 14
From the top of the cliff drop, she could see the entire town. The old houses and buildings were painted in many colors, bright yellows, blues, reds, even pink. It was an explosion of color as they gently cascaded from the top of the mountain down towards the ocean below, where they were met with marinas, docks, shops and a beautiful beach.
She took the first left as instructed and slowly descended down towards the water. She passed old colonial and Victorian homes, each more beautiful than the last. Every home was meticulously cared for with fresh paint in vibrant or pastel colors, intricate trim and buttoned up landscaping. Even their lighting was well thought out with lanterns and posts adorning every well-decorated porch and doorway. How could each and every home look so masterful?
In awe, she continued down the road until she saw what looked like a town center about half-way down the hill. There was a flat area before the hill descended again. On the flat area was a very large park, lush and green, with a gazebo in the middle. Harper saw a sign that read “J. Acker Hall” with an arrow. She took the right and saw the building on her right, facing the park and the ocean below. It was nothing like she had expected.
When Harper heard the word “hall,” she pictured something like an American Legion hall – a plain, half-kept building with one big room, an outdated floor and a small kitchen. But this? This isn’t a hall. This is a mansion. A castle. A mansion-castle.
It was made of brick and had many sections of building with their own pointed roofs, all nestled together in one long row. The windows were framed in old curved wood with carvings in it. It had many chimneys and lush, manicured bushes along the front.
She pulled up to the front circular drive and a man came out to greet her. “I’m with the caterer; you need a hand?”
“Oh yes, thank you.” Harper got out and opened the back of the van. “This place is beautiful.”
“Yeah, it is. How ‘bout I take this end? I’ll lead you through to the ballroom.”
They walked through wide hallways adorned with paintings of people and landscapes and some looked very old. Workers were scurrying around getting everything just right. Someone holding a large flower arrangement whisked by and someone pushing a cart full of delicate china pulled over to let them go ahead.
The ballroom doors were propped open for people to get things set up with ease. They carried the cake over to a small table with a long, white tablecloth in the corner of the room.
“That will keep it out of the way for now. We’ll wheel it into position later.” The caterer said.
“Okay, well, thanks for your help. Are you the one who signs my slip or is there a manager?” Harper asked.
“Oh no, that’s for Mrs. Acker. I’ll go see if I can find her.”
As he rushed off to find her, Harper had a feeling Mrs. Acker must be someone of great importance, if nothing than by the name itself.
A few moments later, the caterer came back in and pointed towards Harper. Behind him emerged a small, old lady. She had to be in her nineties. She was wearing a long, yellow dress with embroidery on it. Her gray hair was up in a bun. She approached Harper, smiled and put out her hand.
“Hello my dear; I’m Rose Acker.”
Harper recognized her from the shop. “Oh yes, Rose! You came in and ordered the cake.” She had used the bride's name, not her own.
“Yes, I've become known as a bit of an expert on our little island here. For some reason I'm able to choose the perfect wedding cake for every wedding. The brides have started a tradition of trusting me with the job. I really do love it, even if it may be because they pity the old lady who's feeling less significant by the day."
"Oh no," Harper tried to console.
Rose waived her hand and changed the subject. "The boy said I need to sign your slip taking receipt of the cake.”
“Please, if you don’t mind. You can’t imagine the stunts some people will pull if I don’t have this signed.”
The old woman smiled and patted Harper's arm. She looked over at the cake. “Stunning. Much like yourself, my dear.”
Harper felt unease. She was the furthest thing from stunning that day. While she’s a beautiful woman on most days, in her thirties with long chestnut hair and blue eyes, on this day she was in jeans, a dirty bakery shirt and sneakers. Her hair was in a high ponytail and her makeup was barely there.
“Oh please, I look terrible.”
“Not to worry,” Rose started, “We have people to help you with that.”
“Huh?” Harper was confused. She expected to drop off the cake and leave straight away. Usually, the caterer will take care of the cutting and serving. There was never a need to stay.
“Come, I’ll take you to the salon and Ellen will find you a dress.” Harper realized Rose expected her to stay for the wedding.
“Oh no, no, no, no, no. I have to get back. I really appreciate the gesture, but I need to go.” Harper knew this could end up a battle of a million polite gestures to extradite herself, but she was determined to go. She already thought it was odd that Rose wanted her to stay.
“Now don’t be silly. Everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it? You’ll stay.” Rose looked deep into Harper’s eyes and she felt a sudden shift in her perspective. She couldn’t explain it, but suddenly she wanted to stay.
“Okay!” Harper said with a bright smile.
“Good, good.” Rose patted her arm. “Right this way.”
Two hours later, Harper emerged from the salon in Acker Hall as a vision. She was wearing a spaghetti strap, long, pale gold sequin dress. Her hair was half up and half down. Her makeup was fresh and dewy. Rose found her just outside the salon and told her the car was waiting to take them to the ceremony. She could ride with her. Harper didn’t question a thing. She followed Rose out to the front circular drive where she remembered she’d left her van. In its place was a long line of limos and fancy cars.
“Where’s my van?!” Harper exclaimed.
“Don't worry; they pulled it around back, my dear.” Rose said.
The cars brought them down to the beach and dropped them at a dockside gazebo that looked like it was designed especially for weddings. It was dusk and there were candles and lanterns everywhere. A large white, square gazebo was adorned with pink and white peonies. Greens dropped like waterfalls from the top rafters. It was at the end of a wide dock. Harper emerged from the car and walked down the dock to take a seat among the sixty or so guests.
The ceremony was whimsical, funny and Harper was happy to have experienced it. For all of her wanting to drop and run, she sure was enjoying the loveliness of this little town. Nobody seemed weird at all. All those stories about people being wacky here must have been old wives’ tales.
Back at the reception, Harper found her name at a table and, for a moment, wondered how they knew she would be staying. She figured Rose had something to do with that. There were five others seated with her and they made their introductions. One gentleman was especially handsome, and Harper noticed rather quickly he was without a date or a ring.
“I’m Scott.” He said with a dashing smile. “So, you’re the cake lady. Rose told me you would be here.”
“Pastry Chef, yeah.” Rose nervously corrected. She noticed his full, light brown hair was both neatly brushed and playfully messy. “Oh, I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to diminish…”
“That’s okay.” She said as she smiled and moved her hair back. She was nervous and afraid he could tell. He seemed so confident. And his smile was gleaming.
“Well, if it’s any consolation, I’m the Innkeeper.”
“Ha!” A woman at the table burst out laughing. “He runs Acker Hall! It’s no small undertaking!”
“Well,” started Scott waving his rocks glass, “there’s only ten guest rooms,” he said in an amused and humble way.
The woman’s husband chimed in, “The rooms have nothing to do with it! This place holds every special event for the town, plus all the clubs and parties. This guy never rests. He’s probably the most respected man in town!”
Scott let out a bellowing laugh and took a final swig of his whiskey and the ice crashed back into the glass in a loud clang. Then he got up, straightened his beige suit and said, “But today, I am just a guest. A guest who would like to take this lady for a spin on the dance floor.” He put out his hand towards Harper. Elated, she took his hand and they headed for the dance floor.
As they swayed side to side, Harper wanted to know more about both Scott and the town. “Why do outsiders call this wacker island?” she asked.
“Ha!” Scott bellowed. “Do they?”
“Oh, you didn’t know?”
“Actually, yeah, I do know. Look, I don’t know why they say that. Jealousy? We’re a great place.”
“I know. From what I’ve seen so far, I’d love to live here. I mean, it’s so picturesque and the people have been absolutely lovely.” It’s just like Harper to be presented with a little mystery and want to get closer to it.
“That would be great if you moved here!” Scott encouraged. “But, you probably can’t.”
“No real estate.”
“Like, you mean the market is bad? I mean, I could fix something up.”
“No, I mean there isn’t a place for sale. Not one.”
“Oh. How about rentals?”
“That is strange.” Harper said and believed it, too.
After a moment, Scott offered, “But you could move to North Rock.”
“It’s the town you drove through to get to our bridge. It has a nice little village. I’ll bet you could set up a great bakery there. And then you’ll be close enough that maybe we can get together sometime.”
Harper felt warm inside and liked the idea of dating Scott and living near Acker Island. Then maybe she would have the pulse on real estate if anything ever went up for sale. Just as she started to get lost in thought, Scott swung her around and she laughed and spun. She’d hoped the night would never end.