The Shore House - Heidi Hostetter


“Everything goes.”

Kaye Bennett stood on the dewy grass in the early hours of a cool May morning and addressed the work crews scattered across the lawn. She pointed to the open front door of her family’s beloved shore house and spoke in a clear voice. “I want you to take it all—every dish in the kitchen, every blanket on the bed. All of it. Get rid of it.”

Three years she’d waited for this day, many times doubting it would come. Now that the moment was finally here, she was anxious to get started, to put her family’s life back together. She’d spared no expense to make it happen. The sandy road in front of her house was lined with moving trucks, non-profit donation vans, and workers’ personal cars, and her yard was humming with activity.

“Okay, you guys. You heard the lady. Let’s go.” The foreman Kaye had hired to supervise the crews grabbed a padded moving quilt from his truck and made his way into the house.

“Hang on a second.” They turned as Kaye called them back. “I forgot to tell you that I put a cooler of cold drinks on the back deck and there’s food in the kitchen. It’s going to be hot today; pace yourself.”

Then she stepped aside and allowed them to work.

The shore house had belonged to her husband’s family first and Kaye had loved it from the first moment she saw it. A three-story Dutch colonial built in 1918, it was one of the first homes in Dewberry Beach, New Jersey. The house was cedar-shingled with sensible black shutters flanking each window, and it sat behind a white picket fence on a quiet sandy street. Inside, there were two big bedrooms on the third floor, each with dormer windows that overlooked a quiet salt pond and eyelet curtains that fluttered in the evening breeze. The shared bathroom was bright with natural light coming from the skylight above. Downstairs were three additional bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a sunroom in the far corner. Each room had been painted in shades of sunny yellow or cool nautical blues and had been decorated with local flea-market finds. Renovations over the years had expanded the kitchen on the ground floor, adding a mudroom to hold beach towels and coolers, and a wide deck overlooking the pond. Her husband’s den faced the front of the house, with a view of the garden. In the middle was the family room with shelves and cabinets stocked with board games and puzzles for rainy days.

Purposefully missing from the shore house was a proper dining room, good china, crystal glasses, and anything that required silver polish. Formality was reserved for the Bennetts’ house in Princeton. Here at the shore, sandy feet were welcome, outdoor showers the norm, and kids were allowed to play outside until the streetlights came on.

Kaye and her husband Chase had spent almost every summer of their lives in Dewberry Beach. They met when they were kids, playing together every summer holiday. Years later, they spent their first summers as newlyweds in this very house, as guests of Chase’s parents. After Stacy and Brad were born, Kaye packed up the car and brought them to the shore house too. Later, when Chase’s parents were ready to downsize, Chase bought the house from them and gifted it to Kaye, who vowed to keep everything the same because it was perfect.

Three years ago, everything changed.

It began as an ordinary Saturday morning. Chase had gone into his New York City office to finish a client presentation scheduled for the following week. He was the only one in the office, but as the managing partner of a financial firm he often put in long hours. Sometime during that morning, he suffered a near-fatal heart attack and lost consciousness. If it hadn’t been for the secretary who had happened to come in because she’d forgotten her headset, Kaye would have lost the love of her life.

The doctors at the hospital in New York couldn’t predict the extent of the damage or if Chase would ever regain consciousness. They admitted him to ICU and Kaye never left his side. It took him three days to regain consciousness, another four to recognize his wife of thirty-five years. When the doctors warned of a very long road ahead, Kaye took steps to simplify her life so she could focus on Chase’s recovery. That included leasing the shore house. The rental agent had been delighted at the prospect of offering a legacy