We left the cottage for the mansion. My friend showed us our room. Deciding who gets which room is a little like deciding who gets which half of the sandwich. Do you keep the bigger half for yourself? The answer, of course, is yes.

Our friends had claimed the larger room. "The kids are in the room next to ours," she explained. "We thought you'd prefer the privacy."

Uh-huh.

I looked around. As sprawling as the house was, there was something plain about it. It sure wasn't the artsy little cottage where we would have stayed. My friend intuited my displeasure. "It doesn't wow you when you first see it," she said. "But you'll love it when you get used to it."

We sat down to a feast of lobster, stewed chicken, and vegetables.

After dinner, we relaxed on the wide and beautiful veranda, high on a cliff, just like the online picture, and watched the dark nighttime waves roll in as the sea breezes caressed our faces.

Despite myself, I started to feel better. But I guarded against feeling too much better. Things, I knew, couldn't go well. Not with all these people.

I didn't want things to get off on the wrong foot, which is why, when asked about the coffee the next morning, I replied with a dodge. "It gets you going, that's for sure."

My friend strolled in. "Good morning," she said, stretching, holding her cup of coffee extended like the statue of liberty.

"Great coffee, huh?"

What was this? I wondered. A plot? Had they planned this out before they went to bed last night? Let's wake up, make lousy coffee, call it good, and see how Jim, aka Jimbo, reacts?

My wife finally emerged.

"Is there coffee?" she asked.

"Here," I said, handing her mine. "I'll get another."