The first time my husband, infant son, and I traipsed 120 miles due east from Manhattan to Montauk, it was love at first sight. As a transplanted Michigander, Montauk, on the easternmost tip of Long Island, became my touchstone. The town embodied all the things I loved about laidback summers on the Great Lakes and as an added perk it was only sixteen miles away from glitzy East Hampton—summer home of the rich and famous.
Walking the beach toward the lighthouse, I would fantasize about which rickety steps might lead upward to my new cottage.
Then I found it.
Through a set of newly purchased binoculars, I saw that the cottage was modest. It had three-sided ocean views and an upstairs balcony the size of a ship’s crow’s nest. There were twenty seven wooden steps leading up from the secluded beach. I pictured myself reading mysteries on the screened porch or sipping a glass of local Long Island wine on the swing that gently swayed under the eaves.
There was only one problem. The cottage wasn’t for sale. And even if it was, we couldn’t afford it. We lived in Manhattan in a wonderful apartment and we both had careers—but the price of an oceanfront cottage, even the small cozy one I fell in love with, would’ve been way beyond our means.
But that didn’t stop me.
On our weekend jaunts to Montauk, I would wake at sunrise and walk a mile east from our hotel toward the lighthouse, a beach chair strapped across my back, a thermos of coffee, and a book in my beach bag. Then, I’d set up camp at the bottom of the steps leading up to my cottage. The wonderful thing about Montauk’s beaches was the fact that they had public access. You could own a multimillion dollar cottage on a cliff, but the beach belonged to everyone.
I never saw anyone coming down those twenty-seven steps. No one sat on the swing or stood on the deck gazing out at the Atlantic. I fantasized that the cottage was uninhabited, the family fighting over whether or not to sell. (Sell, darn it!) My husband thought I was bordering on the obsessive but I was determined to have my cozy four-room cottage. (I knew it had four rooms because I’d stalked a local real estate agent until she showed me photos of the no frills cottage from when it’d been sold years before.) I had all the realtors in town on speed dial, they had me on their blocked list.
One day, I opened my laptop, typed: Better Homes and Corpses —A Hamptons Home and Garden Mystery. A few pages later, I got the cottage of my dreams. It was everything I’d imagined, right down to the flagstone fireplace, wide-planked wood floors, and a vintage turquoise fridge…
I got my cottage in Montauk without spending a dime.
Kathleen Bridge started her writing career working at the Michigan State University News in East Lansing, Michigan. She is the author and photographer of an antiques reference guide,Lithographed Paper Toys, Books, and Games. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and has taught creative writing classes at Bryant Library in Roslyn, New York. Kathleen is also an antiques and vintage dealer in Long Island, New York, and has contributed to Country Living magazine.