Bittersweet Season

by powerbab

Synopsis: Hayln Wilson is tired of the fast lane and wants out. She decides to leave it all behind for the wild of Alaska not knowing what's in store for her. Come along on an adventure of endurance and hardship and love. Disclaimer: All the characters in the story are the product of my imagination and any similarities to real life people are purely coincidence. However, I did steal part of the lyrics from Kid Rock's song "All Summer Long". Bittersweet Season By powerbab Hayln Wilson stood about 5' 10" and had the build of a line-backer with thick arms, pronounced shoulders; thighs and calves like tree trunks and a stomach as tight as a drum. Blame that stocky physique on her hardy German ancestry. Her hair was a fine dirty blonde mess of curls that was either hidden under a bandana or pulled tight in a pony tail at the back of her head. She walked with a straight back, head high and green eyes forward on a confident step. People that saw her or interacted with her at work were intimidated by her but once they got to know her, realized that she was a genuinely nice person.

Hayln had spent 10yrs in the military. Her plan to retire from civilized society was born out of her adventurous nature that had haunted her since childhood. The idea of living off the land and living in the wilderness away from the ever burgeoning rat race always appealed to her. But everyone knows that sooner or later life just has a way of taking over and years pass, dreams fade. Hayln had stayed connected to the forest and nature through camping and hiking. She found that it quieted the beast within and cleared her mind, allowing her enough peace to return to life.


Life, life was a whirlwind existence, subsisting of processing widgets day in and day out for a mortgage company. Now the company was prospering due to the mortgage crisis as people who were duped into financing lost everything. Pictures of lives were discarded or interrupted floated past my vision. Faded photographs of family and friends thrown into trashcans, shoved down to make room for more. A job that once was intriguing now created acid reflux and migraines from staring at the computer screen too long. Watching as VPs and CEOs made money off people and then when they went into default, making even more money off of them. Then after that, the vultures came and picked over the remains. It was disgusting! It was shameful! With prices for living starting to climb higher and higher and the wage of the working man slumping lower and lower, life was becoming as one trapped in quicksand. No matter where one turned it was more of the same. They raped you coming and going.


The idea of living off the land, leaving society came one evening while I was browsing the internet. I stumbled across a website of a couple who had lived in the wilds of Alaska for a year. The more I read the more intrigued I became as thoughts and pictures stimulated a long forgotten ideal. I schemed and pondered and thought schizophrenically about the possibilities of leaving it all and striking out on my own. Wilderness frontiers may have been explored long ago but the one that was overlooked was the one within us.

So I started to plan. I gave myself 5yrs to pay off my existing debt and buy land. First I needed to find the land and check it out. I spent countless evenings pouring over websites promising cheap land and maps to their locations. I found a 6 acre plot of land on the side of what looked like a mountain and I contacted the agent. Yup I was correct. It really was 6 acres on the side of a mountain for $3500. So I bought a plane ticket, filled out my vacation request and pulled all my hiking gear from the storage room in the basement. A couple weeks later I found myself in a crowded local airport waiting to board a plane headed to Alaska.

I landed in Anchorage hours later and rented a 4X4 truck. According to the realtor, I was going to need one. Making my way through the hustle and bustle, I finally pointed my truck points north and enjoyed the scenery as civilization melted away. The mountains were ahead of me and civilization behind. I was so excited that I almost missed my turn off. "Shit" I screamed as I hit the breaks and swerved onto the dirt road. "Phew!" `Good thing no one was coming or I'd be toast before I even got there' I laughed out loud, my hear pounding in my chest. `Feel real alive now' I smiled.

45 minutes later I pulled up in front of Betty's Convenient Store & Gas. I was supposed to meet the realtor here for directions. Although, I don't know why he wouldn't just take me there but eh, whatever. I stepped out of the truck and stretched. I had been in that thing for 2 1/2hrs and after that plane ride, I could feel my legs stiffening. It was mid-June and the weather wasn't half bad. Sun was still shining and a cool breeze ruffled my bandana. Wisps of lazy clouds drifted slowly by. As I looked around at the raw beauty of nature surrounding me, I felt the weight of my life in the lower 48 slide off and an ease started to creep into my bones. The building in front of me was nothing more than an old cabin converted into what looked like a store. The weather beaten clap board looked to have never held paint before. The front porch had a huge pile of wood stacked up almost concealing the stores only front window. What was left of it was plastered with 1970's advertisements for tobacco and hygiene products. To the left of the store was another house looking structure with a sign on front that stated Sheriff/Post Office. A beat up old Bronco was parked in front. The sign painted on its door spelled "Sheriff" in faded letters. I smiled slowly and headed up the stairs to meet the realtor.

As I pushed through the front door of Betty's, the bell over top of the door jingled, allowing whoever ran the store to know someone had entered. I was struck with the thought that this place would probably not have much but I was surprised to see that it appeared to hold a little bit of this and that. They even had enough room to have a pot-bellied stove off to the left with 2 extremely warn, brown, leather chairs. The floor was covered with old worn black and white linoleum tiles that looked to have endured many winters of being trod upon with slushy feet. When I finally finished perusing the store, I looked up and spotted a counter towards the back. Figuring whoever ran the place might be back there, I walked back on squeaky boards, passing shelves almost to the ceiling stocked with assorted canned and dry goods. My eyes zeroed in on something I hadn't seen since my Army days. "Powdered eggs?!" I murmured, chuckling to myself, "God! Those were horrible!" I said, replacing the box. "Excuse me! Can I help you?" came a distinctly booming female voice. "Yes" I said turning towards her "I'm suppose to meet Robert Geddys here." I was shocked to come face to face with a short, stumpy, middle-aged, red-headed woman who didn't look like she should own that big of a voice. "Ah, you must be that Hayln Wilson he mentioned the other day. Well he should be along shortly. Said he had some errands to run but I expect he'll be here soon. My names Betty. Where you from?" She stated, heading towards me with her hand outstretched and a smile on her face. "Hayln and I'm from Cleveland" shaking her hand. "So are you planning on moving here or just camp and what not?" "Um...planning on moving here." "Good. It's about time some youngins move here. Need fresh blood, ya know?" she grinned. "Sure" I said glancing back at the shelf. "I own the place. If there's anything you need, I got it or I can get it for ya. Just let me know" she stated matter of factly. "My husband and I opened this store years ago but he's since died and well now I run the place." "Oh, I'm sorry..." "Oh, no need. He was a drunk who played with a chainsaw and well ya get the picture" She stated, waving my apology away and walking back towards the counter, "Good man, just couldn't handle his liquor" I didn't know how to respond to that one but with raised eyebrows. So I didn't say anything, just continued to pretend to look over the shelves. Just then the door bell jingled and I looked up in time to see a small man, with thinning hair and a battered briefcase in his hand, walk in. "You must be Hayln Wilson" he said, walking towards me with his hand outstretched "You found Betty's ok I see?" "Yeah no problem." "Lets go have a seat and we can talk" he said, turning away from me and heading towards the beat up leather chairs. "Ah" he sighed as he plopped down "Let me get the papers and we will have a look. You were interested in that plot of land off SR-30 right? 6 acres?" he said, rummaging through his case. He seemed in a hurry and I didn't like hurried. That smelled of a rip off. "Yeah, the one on the side of the mountain for $3500" "Um, we are" he pulled a small sheath of papers out and promptly stowed his case beside the chair. Flipping over the pages he said, "Ok, you wanted 6 acres off SR-30 for $3500 and it looks like they are looking for cash up front. No loans, no promise money, all of it up front. Here is a copy for you and alls I need from you is a cashiers check and sign here and the deal is done" sitting back he smiled at me. I carefully looked over the pages and it looked like a pretty straight forward deal but I hadn't even seen the property yet and I sure as hell wasn't signing anything much less handing over my hard earned money. "I would like to see the land, Mr. Geddys" "Uh...I'm a very busy man and I'm sorry but I really don't have the time to take you out there. I have another appointment I have to be at in about 20min." he stated looking at his watch. "Well I'm not signing anything until I look at the land. I'll tell you what. I'll go find this place by myself and I'll camp out there for a week. If at the end of the week I want it, I'll meet you back here at the same time as today with signed papers and a check. Now, how does that sound?" He sat there for a moment and I could see the wheels turning plus his fingers were drumming on the arm of the chair. "Hey yah know what, I don't see a problem with that. Take the papers, spend the week, and I'll see you Sunday" "That is fine with me" I said as he stood, shook my hand and was gone before I could hardly get up. I blinked and shook my head, looking down at the papers in my hand. "Mm...that Mr. Geddys is a funny little man, isn't he?" Betty stated, her arms crossed over her chest "Strange but he's never ripped anyone off that I know of" "Good to know. Say how do I go about finding this SR-30?" "Head east out of town and the first dirt road you come to take a left. That's SR-20. Stay on that for about 10mi. and you'll see SR-30 to your left again and you take that. The property all along that road has been broken up and it has little signs with lot numbers on them. Yours shouldn't be hard to see. They're all along the road" "Well I had better get going. See you in a week Betty and thank you" I waved as I headed out the door.

I jumped back into the truck and gunned it out onto the road. I was in high spirits and nothing could get any better than this. I'm going on an adventure, it all starts here. I spy a road on my left but I don't see any signs so I kept on going. About 10min later I still hadn't come across the road. `What did she say? First dirt road to the left right outside town?' I craned my neck over the steering wheel watching the road. The road, if you could call it that, was starting to take on the appearance of a foot path. Finally, I turned the truck around, thinking I had somehow missed the sign.

Getting back towards town, I realized that none of the roads had signs. So I took the first road I had thought was the one on my first time out of town. This road had been graded recently and was full of divots. It felt like I had driven over on the shoulder of a highway! Finally it faded out and I spotted another road on my left. Turning down it, I spotted the first little 2X2 sign that had the lot number on it. "God! Could those signs get any smaller?" I whispered, squinting to find mine. "Yehaw!!" I exclaimed, as I spotted the number for the land I was looking to buy.

I pulled off the dirt road onto a little patch of ground that looked to be a driveway but it stopped a few feet into the forest wall. ` much for getting to the property easily' I mused hopping out of the truck. I grabbed my gear out of the bed and looked around for signs as to where to head while buckling myself into the pack frame. Spotting a small foot path, I headed in that direction with a spring in my step, looking forward to seeing what this lot had to offer. After about a 10 min hike up a grade, I came into a clearing and turned around, heavily panting. "Good Lord!" I gasped, dumping my pack, trying to catch my breath. I stood with pack at my feet looking up towards the forest beyond the clearing and the mountains beyond it. I turned slowly to where I had come up and was struck with awe at the beauty that unfolded before me. From my vantage point I could see over the tree tops to the mountain range looping around to the right of me and rippling out into the valley below. I was stunned to say the least. I plopped down, leaned against my pack and just sat and watched.

Finally I felt motivated to set up camp and I thought that if it all worked out, that this was definitely the spot for me. So I began setting up camp. I couldn't tell what time it was but I could feel it in my body that it was time to sleep. Tomorrow would be a day of exploration and planning. With the tent set up, I snuggled down into my sleeping bag and left the window open so that I wake up to the beauty that surrounded me.

The next day found me rested and ready for a hike. I discovered a creek that ran through the property and as I hiked about I schemed of the many uses that it would be for me. From fresh water to an energy source if I even wanted power at all. The remainder of the week was spent looking over the surveyor's maps and walking off the 6 acres, placing flags at the property line. I knew for sure that the natural clearing was mine as well as the creek but I wanted to know my boundaries. Most evenings I spent at the fire just whittling away or soaking up the peace and quiet I felt. I knew I had things I had to do when I got back home and I wanted as much relaxation time as possible. I had brought a small notebook and pen in order to write my thoughts and ideas. I needed to close up shop, so to speak, back home. As much as I wanted to just stay here and say `Screw it all!' I had responsibilities that I needed to take care of back home.

At the end of the week I packed up camp. Taking one last glance around, I headed down the animal path to the truck. Mr. Geddys was to meet me at Betty's and I had a 2 1/2hr ride after that to catch a plane back to Cleveland.

I pulled up in front of Betty's and walked up the same battered, fire wood stacked porch that I had 7 days prior. I walked through the front door, the bell chiming overhead. "Well stranger! Looks like ya made it after all!" came Betty's booming voice. "You think I was dead or something?" I laughed. "Naw, just that most people who come up here to this kind of seclusion don't last long and you being a woman and all...well I guess I may sound a little sexist!" she laughed "Just those are the facts." "Well I'm a bit stronger and seclusion is what I'm here for." "Ah, well then you've come to the right place! Care for a coffee? Just made some." "Yeah, sure. I could use a cup. Thanks" I said, plopping down into the leather chair. Just then the door bell chimed and Mr. Geddys entered. This time he looked as if he'd just come from hunting. His woodland camouflage spruced up with a neon orange vest but the brief case definitely stuck out from all the other assorted outdoor accoutrements. Betty brought me a coffee as I sat waiting for Geddys to get situated. "Hello Ms. Wilson. Nice to see you again!" he offered his hand and sat down opening his brief case "Have you made your decision?" "Yes I have and I would like to purchase 6 acres, off SR-30, lot #6 for $3500." "Well congratulations! I'm sure you have everything we need?" I nodded my head and pulled out the papers, signed and with the check on top. Handing them over, Geddys flipped through the paperwork making sure the appropriate spots were signed or initialed. "Umhm...yes...ok! Looks like a done deal young lady! I will send you the dead once the check has cleared and here is a receipt of acceptance." He stated as he scribbled out a receipt, ripped it off and handed it to me. "It's been a pleasure and I hope you enjoy our little community" he said with a flourish as he dawned his cap, shook my hand and disappeared out the door. `Jeez! That man sure does move fast' I thought. I took another sip and looked at the receipt in my lap. It felt surreal, as if it hadn't just happened but here was my proof. I sat in front of the cold stove, sipping coffee slowly. Finally finished, I pushed myself up out of the chair and headed towards the back of the store to return the empty cup. "Well, how did it go? You get everything taken care of?" Betty asked, taking the empty cup from my outstretched hand. "Yup. Now I have got to be going. Have a plane to catch" "Well you take care and stop by next time you're in town" "Will do. Thank you" I said as I turned and headed towards the door. "Your welcome" she called after. Call it what you will but Betty being so nice to me made me feel welcome, as if I was already apart of this little spot of heaven.

Feeling extremely exhausted, I got back in to Cleveland about 10:30pm, dumped my pack by the front door of my apartment and headed for bed. I didn't even take the time to take a shower, which I was sorely missing for about a week. I shed my clothes, stepped into bed and got myself comfortable. My head hadn't even hit the pillow before I was fast asleep.

My apartment is small, about 600sq ft of a minimalist's bliss. Walking in the front door you are standing in the dinette with the kitchen off to the left divided by built-in-book shelves, something that all native Clevelanders can identify with. The dinette holds my battered desk with laptop sitting, gathering dust on top. Moving forward through the entryway is the living room, decorated as sparsely as the dinette; 2 camp chairs, bookshelves made in to a TV stand, and a TV. A little hallway on the left leads to the bedroom on the right and the bathroom straight back. The bathroom holds the basic 1920's-1930's style fixtures complete with claw foot tub and my bedroom holds nothing more than 2 pallets with a mattress on top and a dresser. Minimalist my ass! I was down right pathetic! Ok, so when I did have people over it was sad and short but for the most part I didn't care. I loved living free of nick knacks and crap that people collect in their lives. I felt free to go when I wanted or stay or to be rather honest with ones' self, I didn't like commitment and being tied down to one place. Strange, since now I owned land in a whole another state a world away and yet I felt at peace with that. There was just something that called to me, pulling me, dragging me whether I wanted to go or not.

The next day I had to get up early in order to beat rush hour traffic and make it to work on time. Always love it when I-90 is in gridlock but it gave me time to think of all of the things I had to do. Slowly but surely, time passed. Hours grew into days and days into weeks and weeks into months. I was so entrenched at work. Making as much money as possible and paying off debts and school loans. Who would have thought a minimalist could owe so much! At night after work, I spent every moment pouring over websites and books about living on your own in the "wilderness". I even read "Into the Wild" which made me depressed and I vowed to never watch the movie. Not that I was so arrogant to think that I wouldn't fall into the same trap but that I was confident enough in my research that I would never have those problems. I am all about smarter not harder. I kept a notebook of all my ideas on how I would live and what I would do and how I would do it. I wanted to explore every angle and work over every hypothesis to ensure as little contact with the world or as little hassle as possible when I moved out there.

The months turned into a new year and I made plans to visit my new piece of land as soon as the spring thaw hit and roads were passable. I planned out my 2 week vacation in stages with each stage becoming an intricate plan. I drew up rough plans on what I wanted and needed for my log cabin, even right down to shelving and window ledges. I bought a chainsaw, drawknife, plainer, chisels, auger, saws, and axe off of an old guy on craigslist. I learned how to cure meat without the help of technological convenience and had enough beef jerky to last me the 2wks. I learned to dry fruit and bought nuts and seeds for added protein. Every time I went to the grocery store I bought a little more for my trip. I even added to my growing pile of camping equipment. I bought an outdoor shower, mini-clothes washer for those personal items, bought clothes that would last at least a week without washing and even invested in a water purifier. Hey, the creek may be pure glacial mountain water but I certainly did not want to end up with some nasty parasite! I bought books on game dressing, edible plants and cabin building. My one pride and joy was a pair of binoculars that I had picked up at a consignment shop , that had seen better days but still worked, along with a .38 and .20ga shotgun. A week away from my trip, everything was planed, bought or prepared. I was ready for the next phase of my adventure, land preparation. I would live on the land a whole 2 weeks getting the area ready for my eventual permanent stay.

The day finally arrived when I packed up all my gear into tight compact boxes and shipped it all to Betty's. I had been in contact with her since my first trip and she had said that she would store my stuff for me until I got there. So I packed up all my tools and gear, minus personals and food, and mailed them to her at the store. A week later I was on a plane bound for Anchorage.

I landed mid-day, rented out a 4X4 truck and got on the road. 2 1/2hrs later, I pulled into the Betty's Convenient Store & Gas parking lot and hoped out of the truck. I looked around and seriously found the place pretty much the way I had left it a little over a year ago. I stretched my arms over my head, shook them out as I headed up the stairs and through the front door, door bell signaling my arrival. I stopped and breathed deep the dusty old wood smell of the store and smiled. I was finally here! "Hey there stranger! How was the trip?" boomed Betty. "Fine. How have you been?" "Great! Say your packages arrived yesterday. I'd say that was good timing!" "Yeah it sure is" I chuckled. "They're all in the back store room and if you pull your truck around back you can load from the back door. Much easier" she stated. "Will do" I nodded and headed back out the front. With the truck loaded and some small items purchased at Betty's as a way of saying thanks for holding my stuff, I was back on the road headed towards my land.

Once there, the hard job of hauling all my stuff up the narrow animal trail started. About 2hrs later I had all my gear unloaded, the truck parked and secured. I made my last trip up the path, set my camp up and plopped down in my camp chair, munching on some seeds and nuts watching the world around me. I built a decent fire and watched the dying sun. I was tired physically but mentally I was wide awake. Tomorrow I had to mark trees for cutting, clear out some of this growth in my clearing to get the area ready for building.

The first phase of the project was to mark trees, cut and peel and store them for curing over the winter. After that I would spend the rest of the time wandering my land in search of edible plants, wild berry patches and checking out that creek I had. I know it doesn't sound like I had much to do but I had never felled a tree before or even peeled one for that matter and I had no way of knowing how long that would take me. So I sat and watched the fire and allowed my mind to think of all the things I needed to do and somewhere along the line I fell asleep.

I was awoken by the howling of a loan wolf. I jerked upright cursing under my breath, skin crawling. I stoked the fire and added more wood. Then I proceeded to open the oblong box with my .20ga in it and loaded it with slugs. No way was I going to be caught off guard. Eventually, I feel asleep again in front of the fire with the weapon across my lap.

The next morning dawned clear and nippy. I pulled a baggy of dried fruit out of my pack and munched away on them all the while watching an American Bald eagle skim the treetops. `Must be looking for breakfast' I mused munching happily. After breakfast was complete, I pulled out my day pack and filled it with a water bladder, jerky and fruit. I opened the boxes with my tools in it and pulled out the chainsaw. Prepping the tool, I secured it to the pack, hefted it onto my shoulders and proceeded to walk into the forest. I walked for about an hour and realized that it was pointless to lug this crap around. So I disposed of the pack by a huge tree that was distinguishable and continued my search with spray can in hand and shotgun over my shoulder. It took about 3hrs but I had about 48 trees marked for cutting, all dispersed so as not to make another clearing. I had chosen trees that were not too far from my clearing so that when they cured, I wouldn't have far to carry them. The 48 trees weren't enough to finish a cabin but it was a start.

I cut the first tree 2/3rd of the way through, backed out and cut down at an angle. Slowly, the tree started to fall and I gave it a hard push, sending it down to the forest floor with a loud crash. "Wahoo!!" I screamed triumphantly, pumping my fist in the air. I had my first log down, only 47 more to go. Working on pure adrenaline of a superhero, I felled the remaining 47 trees. Stepping back from my last tree, I shut off the chainsaw and looked over the work I had completed. Suddenly I felt dizzy and my stomach growled loudly for nourishment. I walked back to that funky tree and rummaged through the pack for food and water. Even though it was late spring and chilly, I still felt hot and sweaty. So I removed some clothes that I had piled on that morning and sat down for a break. I tore off a hunk of beef and contemplated my next step, peeling the logs. I had come to this conclusion that green logs were really heavy and once cured they would be easier to haul back to camp. So I decided to cut the branches, using the biggest ones to lift the log off the ground in preparation for peeling and curing. Hey why work harder when you can work smarter?

After lunch I went back to camp and picked up the axe for chopping branches off and then headed back to the logs. It took me the rest of the day cutting the branches off and raising the logs. I had got to my 5th tree when I realized that gloves would probably be needed. My hands were aching and I could see blisters starting to rise. I was tired and sweaty and felt pretty much done for the day, so I packed up the pack and headed back to camp.

The remaining days of my 2wks were spent trimming trees, setting up the logs and peeling. I was beat. I had never done so much physical work in all my life but somehow I felt more rejuvenated than if I had laid on the beach sipping Pena coladas for those 14 days. In my time here, I had seen more wildlife than I had ever seen in a zoo! Moose, bear, elk, assorted birds, wolves, squirrels and weasels all from my binoculars. I didn't have much run-ins with the more dangerous animals probably due to all the noise I made cutting those trees down but they were out there and I could see them grazing on the side of the mountains some times.

My last day there was spent packing everything up to take down to the truck. As much as I didn't want to haul all this stuff back I didn't have a place to store it here that would keep it out of the elements. That was something that I had not foreseen, so I began to haul everything back down, one box at a time. That night I spent looking at the stars by the fire, cuddled up in my bag and dreaming of a day when I would live here permanently.

The next morning, I awoke to the sound of raindrops hitting the hot coals of my dormant fire. "Damn" I muttered, fighting my way from the depths of my bag. I hurriedly stuffed the bag into the carrier bag, attached it to my pack and scurried around camp gathering the remainder of my gear. Kicking dirt over the fire, I hustled my butt down the trail for the truck. I barely made it when the heavens opened up and poured their contents. "Phew" I panted, climbing into the cab of the truck "Barely made it" Spring, it's supposed to be rainy but I had gotten lucky. Because of my tight schedule, I could not afford a day off due to rain but I had gotten pretty damn lucky.

I made arrangements with Betty to continue to store my gear there. I had tried to figure out some sort of payment arrangement with her for doing that but I was waved off and told "That's what neighbors are for". The trip back seemed short and I found myself dragging into my apartment at 11:30pm. I hadn't showered for 2wks, save for a baby wipe bath and I fell into bed exhausted, but all that was on my mind was the bliss over 2,000 miles away.

My life returned to normal, if you could call the rat race normal. I spent most of my time working, day dreaming and spending as little money as possible. Again my lists grew along with my plans and again days turned into months and months into a new year.

This year seemed boring compared to the other 2yrs. I made it back for my annual 2 weeks vacation but the only thing on my agenda was to pull all the logs from their wintery resting places and stack them at the site. Then I had to mark off where I would dig the holes to drop my poles that would make the foundation for my cabin. I was able to procure 10 bags of cement from Betty's and by the end of 2 weeks I had a rough outline of a cabin. I felt pretty pleased with myself, seeing as I was a city gal and all! Soon I was back to my life in the city and back at my mind raking job, dreaming of next year, the year that I escape it all!

In the spring, I placed a notice in the paper for a moving sale. I spent the night before the Saturday spring sale, placing tags on everything in the place that was to sell. Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny. The day was spent buzzing people up and slowly but surely the items disappeared with their new owners. I didn't have much but what I had some people wanted. A few items didn't sell and Sunday I dropped them off at the local Goodwill store. There was nothing left but the gear I was going to be taking with me when I left the lower 48 behind forever.

I put my 2wk notice in, sold my car and notified the landlord that I wasn't going to be renewing my lease. I had been in contact with a local man in Anchorage about a '85 Chevy pickup and had plans to meet him on the day of my arrival.

My departure day came and I found myself in the busy Cleveland International Airport. I checked my bags, got my pass and waited for the plane to board.

Several hours later I found myself talking to Jim, the man with the truck. I purchased the truck for a mere $1200, chucked my gear in the back and was on my way. I stopped at Betty's, picked up my stored gear and an hour later found myself hauling my supplies up the mountain path to my clearing.

I won't go into the whole gory detail of building my cabin. You can read that for yourself in the many books out there on how to build your own log cabin. All that I can say is that it took a lot of time and patience scribing, notching and fitting the logs snuggly together. Once I found my groove, the walls went up quickly. The windows and door was no easy task and it took time and money caulking and treating the exterior of the cabin. In the end, I had a nice little tight cozy place I could call home.

I had been at the cabin for six months and the beauty that surrounded me was immense but I loved every solitary minute of it. From the rising sun in the morning, sitting in my camp chair sipping coffee, to the setting sun overlooking the valley below. I felt lighter somehow, more at ease. I toiled day in and day out working on the cabin to finish it before the first snow and that was no easy task for 1 person. The hardest part came when the log walls got to be shoulder high. Not that cutting and peeling was any easier. That had taken me 2 weeks of back breaking work last summer to do but in Alaska, summer days have a tendency to last well into the night hours. The remainder of the cabin had taken a lot of new muscle and the help of a pulley system that I had rigged, to finish. The only things left were the finishing touches on the interior and furniture but I could do that at my leisure during the winter months. For now, I was content to explore my new world and luxuriate in the peace and quiet I found.

The days had been growing shorter, colder and my supplies were running low as well. I figured I had about another couple days before the snow started flying as I watched the low hanging clouds from my front porch sipping the mornings brew. The first frost had come and gone several weeks prior and I knew it was only a matter of time before I was snow bound. `Those clouds look awful heavy' I mused as I watched over the rim of my cup the clouds rolling lazily in. I breathed deeply the crisp morning air and I could definitely smell the snow. `Best get into town and get ready for a long winter' I sighed as I emptied the dregs off the porch and entered my home.

I took stock of what I had and what I needed; made a list and counted out the dwindling pile of money I had in a tin on the shelf in the kitchen. I laughed at myself for leaving my money in such an obvious place but then who was going to rob me out here? I had lived in the city for 17yrs and would have laughed at the fool who kept his money in his mattress but here, there was no one to bother you, except maybe for the occasional moose or bear. Imagine my adrenalin spike of fear when a big old grizzly decided to meander past my cabin one morning! I was petrified but the bear took no notice and kept on going. I think I sat in that chair well into the morning until my bladder screamed for release which provoked me to move! Since then I had carried my .20 gauge shotgun with slugs loaded for a little peace of mind and never let its presence out of my sight.

Standing in the doorway and looking over the cabin. To the right was a shelf that ran along the wall under the window that held all my clothes. Several pegs, augured into the wall, held an assortment of fleeces, gloves, scarves, hats and my trusty L.L. Bean -20 degrees coat. A stove set neatly in the corner in hopes that its proximity would warm my clothes when I put them on. Along the back wall sat a stack of firewood that would last at least a night and a morning and next to it was the bed. On the left wall was another window where my handmade desk and chair would be placed. The remainder of the space, wrapping around to the front door, housed my makeshift kitchen. That plus the desk and chair was something that I was going to work on during the winter months. I mentally went down the list of things to make sure the cabin was safe from harm. `Lantern extinguished, check. Fire out, check. Windows closed, check.' Everything looked fine as I tugged the heavy, hand-made door closed and latched it shut. I picked up my barren pack frame from by the door, slung it over my shoulder and headed down the mountain to where my '85 Red Chevy pickup was stashed.

I emerged from the foot trail and pulled off the tarp on the truck. I threw the frame into the bed, rolled up the tarp, stuffed it behind the seat as I climbed into the cab. Several minutes of giving her some gas and I was on my way.

I pulled up in front of Betty's Convenient Store & Gas a half hour later, shut the truck off and climbed out of the cab. Nothing much had changed since the first time I had stepped foot in the store a couple months prior. Still had the stack of wood on the porch and the dirty windows still held the same old advertisements they had before. A chill was in the air as I walked in and felt the warmth of the place hit me in the face. "Hey stranger! Long time no see!" came the booming words from a short stumpy red-head behind the counter. "How's that cabin of yours coming along? Did the pulleys help?" "It's almost finished and the pulleys were a life saver, literally!" I laughed. "So what can I do ya for?" "Just getting some supplies before it starts snowing" I replied handing over my list. "Good thing ya came down because we're suppose to get the first snow fall tonight. Hm, let me see" she read as she fingered the paper and turned to look over her shelves. "I can have this all ready for you in about an hour. That suite ya?" she quarried glancing over at me. "Yes that suites me just fine. Be back in an hour." I said as I turned and headed back out the door. Right next to the store was the post office/sheriffs department. If I had any mail it would be there. I walked in the door and was greeted by Norm Wilshire, the sheriff/post master. "Hey Hayln. Here to get your mail?" "Yeah. How's it going Norm" "Good. Hang on let me look" he said as he swung his feet off the desk and started rummaging through a box. "Looks like ya got something here" looking at the name on the envelope as he handed it over. "Thanks" I mumbled as I turned to leave. "Wait. You have to sign for it." he smiled as he flipped around a notebook and held out a pen. "Thank you" he smiled at me as I gave the pen back and he closed up the book to store it in its spot. I nodded as I headed out the door, pulled it shut and glanced down at the envelope. `Junk mail?!' "You have got to be kidding me" I chuckled as I tore it up, shoved it in the pocket of my down vest and stepped off the porch. `Those people will do anything to get your money' I mused as I headed back over to Betty's.

I perused the book rack looking for a novel to pass the time as I waited for my list of things to be collected. Finding one that looked to be interesting, I walked over to the stove and plopped down in a beat up leather chair. Flipping the cover open, I started to read. Several chapters later I heard my name through the din of the book. "Hayln you mind helping me here for a minute?" It was Betty and as much as I hated to move, my stuff was ready. "On my way" I sighed as I closed the book and head towards the counter. "Alright, I got your stuff together. Here is your list back and the total will be $352.65." she said as she handed me my bill. "Damn! Did the prices go up or what?" I cursed looking over the bill. "Hey honey, gas has gone up and it's costing me a fortune to ship this stuff here. You want that book too?" "Yeah, guess it doesn't matter now, now does it? Here but this book on and a newspaper" I sighed as I reached for the paper. I barely had enough and my dwindling stock pile back at the cabin wasn't going to last much longer. Well I'd figure it out when spring comes next year. I had the whole winter to think about it.

I collected my receipt as I scooped up a box of food stuffs and headed out to the truck. 10 min later found me back on the road headed out of town singing along with Kid Rock and happy to be getting back to my little slice of heaven. And we were trying different things, we were smoking funny things Making love out by the lake to our favorite song Sipping whiskey out the bottle, not thinking `bout tomorrow Singing Sweet Home Alabama all summer long Singing Sweet Home Alabama all summer long `It's too bad I didn't get some whiskey' I mused as I pulled into my spot and hopped out of the truck whistling the tune. Dropping the tailgate, I pulled the pack frame and 2 boxes over to the edge and strapped them on. I hoisted it up onto my back and started up the path. The wind had picked up and the temperature had fallen at least 20 degrees. I knew that I had better get a move on or I'd be hiking this crap up in a blizzard. A half hour later I was on my way back down for the last load. Tiny snow flakes began to fall as I re-trapped the truck and hefted the remaining boxes onto my back. The snow was starting to stick but the trail was still wet and the snow was falling heavier as I finally came into the clearing where my cabin sat. I dropped the pack on the porch and leaned against the wall panting, my breath coming out is small white clouds. `Good Lord!' I thought to myself `That was too close. I need to pay attention. Guess it would help if I had a radio' I sighed as I opened the door and started hauling the boxes in. I opened the door to the wood burning stove and pushed the ashes about with a piece of kindling looking for some coals. Pulling a chunk of dried cardboard off a box I relit the fire and soon had a decent blaze. After lighting a lantern, I started to unload the boxes one by one and stack my supplies neatly on the shelves. Once done, I collapsed the remaining boxes, threw them in a corner and pulled up my camp chair to read the paper. I didn't know what time it was when I awoke from my nap. The paper was lying open on my lap and the cabin had a distinct chill of a fire left untended. I folded the paper and put it aside. Stretching and yawning, I threw some more logs on the fire and made sure they had caught before heading off to bed. Bed was a loosely used term. It was basically a frame with a piece of board on top where my sleeping bag, pillow and several blankets rested, another project for those long winter months. I stripped down to my thermals and crawled into my bag and drifted off to sleep not knowing that the morrow would bring changes to my life.

The next morning my eyes opened and I looked around my blue early morning lighted cabin. I could tell the fire had been out for a while because my nose was cold. I rolled over onto my back and stared up at the beamed ceiling. `God I need to find a maid to light my fires in the morning!' I sighed as I scooted over to the edge of the bed and hopped my way over to the stove, still in my sleeping bag. Once lit, I collapsed into my chair and waited for the cabin to heat up. I glanced over out the window and saw that the snow was still falling. `Damn! Betty was right about our first snow' I stood up and looked further. Oh yeah it had snowed! There looked to be about a foot maybe more already on the ground and it looked like it was going to snow more.

I made coffee and breakfast. Eating hurriedly, I thought of the things I needed to do outside before I really was snow bound! Scooping the last of the bacon and powdered eggs into my mouth, I swallowed them down with the last gulp of coffee and hurriedly got dressed.

Stepping out onto the porch, I pulled on hat and gloves and headed out to the wood pile. No way was I running out of wood during this and having to come out and get more! Thus began my first winter in Alaska. Most of the winter was spent on making the cabin homier and more comfortable. I had salvaged some unique pieces of wood that were fashioned into a table and chairs. They hadn't been especially hard to make but with patience they turned out pretty nice. I had plans on varnishing them come spring when I would be able to get to a hardware store. The bed was another project that took quite a bit of time but in the end I had a functional piece of furniture. When things were slow or I just didn't want to be indoors, I strapped on my snowshoes or skis and went exploring. I loved every minute of it, being out of doors, feeling the biting cold, the sun only lighting and not heating. It was intoxicating and I was drunk on how fulfilled I felt.

Spring came and with it warmer winds and longer suns. Supplies were dangerously close to being completely extinct and I decided to make a trip into town. I counted out the remainder of my money, made a list, checked the cabin and headed down the path. The truck looked to have faired well during the winter. I had gone down several times and turned it over to keep the battery from dying during the winter. The old girl really didn't want to turn over but with a little coaxing she roared to life. The snow had melted from the roads leaving them muddy and almost impassible. Several times I thought I was going to get stuck but thankfully the truck was 4-wheel drive.

I pulled up in front of Betty's and hoped out. I felt like a bear just coming out of hibernation, all grouchy and stiff. I walked up the steps and pushed into the store, the little bell tinkling my entrance. "Hoowee! Look what the cat drug in!" boomed good ol' Betty. "Thanks Betty, do I look that bad?" I grinned sheepishly. "You look like you ain't had a bath in weeks! And you stink!" she laughed, pinching her nose between her thumb and forefinger. "Great! Thanks a lot! It's hard to take a shower in the dead of winter" I laughed, turning to look at the shelves. "Hey, ya know I'm just messin' with ya, right?" "Yeah, yeah. You try having no indoor plumbing" I waved her away, continuing my perusal. "You bring a list?" "Yeah but I only have $200 left so get me whatever is within that range" I said as I handed her the list. The door bell jingled but I didn't pay any attention to it, I was too busy checking out the newspaper. "I'll hook you up, no worries. Hello Kate! You back for the summer?" asked Betty as she came around the corner of the counter and headed towards the front door. I was paying absolutely no attention until Betty said the name. I looked up, peering over the top of the paper, around the corner of the shelves. There, standing about 4inches taller than Betty was a woman that I hadn't seen before. Betty bounded toward her and wrapped her in a big hug. I couldn't get a good look at this person until she looked up and looked directly into my eyes. I froze, my breath sticking in my throat, as I watched those blue-grey eyes look directly back at me, smiling. Betty pushed her back and started yammering unintelligibly at her. Finally she looked down and broke our stare. I pulled in a raged breath and backed away out of line sight. `Dang and I stink!' I thought to myself as I raised my arms to sniff my arm pits. I tried just standing still and looking at the paper, trying to absolutely be a fixture as Betty and the strange woman walked towards the counter. "Hey, Hayln! Come over here. I'd like you to meet Kate. She owns some property across the road from you, so I guess you're neighbors" Betty filled in as she came around the corner of the shelves, where I was hiding, with Kate in tow. "Hayln this is Kate and Kate, Hayln" Betty motioned with her hands. "Hi" I mumbled and offered her a little wave and smile. Somehow I had become social inept in my solitude on the mountain. "Hello. A pleasure to meet a new neighbor" she smiled, extending a hand. I did not want to shake her hand. I wanted to take my dirty ass right back up the mountain where I came from and never darken the door of Betty's ever again. So I quickly grasped Kate's warm soft hand and retreated back to the paper. Betty and Kate continued their conversation as Betty filled my order. I receded to the comfort of the leather chairs in the front of the store away from them. I was engrossed in my paper when someone plopped down in the chair next to me. "God don't you just love it here?!" Kate blew out as she drew off her knitted hat and ruffled her long curly brown hair glancing over at me. "Huhm" I cleared my throat, "Yeah it's nice" I continued to look at the paper, pretending to read. She laughed a deep throated warm laugh. I could feel myself growing warm as I fingered the paper. "Well yes it is nice but can't you just fffeeellll the earth coming to life?" she drawled out clutching her hands in passion. "Sure" glancing at her nervously. `What is wrong with me?' I thought, turning the page. She smiled at me again "Not one for words are you?" she looked at me through soft hair that had fallen hap-hazardly over her forehead. "I guess I have just been too long by myself this winter" I stated bluntly, laying the paper down in my lap and smiling at her. At that moment Betty called for me and I rose, tucking the paper under my arm. "Since we are going to be neighbors, feel free to stop by sometime and work on your social skills!" she smiled up at me. Again I was trapped by those amazing eyes and the store began to fade around the edges of my vision. It was so weird but I finally shook myself out of it and said, "Will do. Nice meeting you Kate" I smiled and headed for the counter. "Same here" she called out after me. I could feel her eyes on me as I walked towards Betty and I could feel my gait become awkward at that knowledge but I didn't dare turn around. I was appalled by my total lack of grace and I wanted nothing more than to pay for my stuff and get the hell out of there.

I was loading the last bit of boxes into the back of the truck when I heard my name being called. "Hayln" I turned around and there she stood, one arm draped around the post that was holding the porch roof up, watching me. I laid the box down and turned toward her fully, her blue-grey eyes watching my movements. She stood there so nonchalant in hiking boots, baggy jeans, an earth-toned thermal under a down vest and the same knitted cap perched on her head. I swear she looked so amazingly beautiful in a rustic sort of way. "Yeah?" I asked, standing there limply in my jeans and flannel shirt. "Would you be, by any chance, interested in coming over for dinner at my place?" "Um..." I looked over at the truck. "It's just that" her hand gesturing, as she looked off at the sky "I like to break into a new season with a good dinner and conversation but my friends didn't come up with me this time and well, I was wondering if you'd be interested?" her hand falling to her side, she looked at me. "Well, um..., ok" I smiled up at her. "Great! Fantastic! Be at the road at 6pm sharp!" she clapped her hands excitedly. I looked at her puzzled, `Why at the road' I wondered. As if reading my mind, "I say that only cause it is sooo hard to find my cabin and it's better to meet me at the road" "Oh... ok. See ya at 6 then!" I nodded as I backed towards the truck. "At 6!" she waved after me as I pulled out onto the road and headed back to the cabin. I shook my head wondering how in the world I got myself a dinner invitation with someone that I was nervous to be around. Better yet, why was I so nervous? `Probably cause I feel like I just crawled out of a cave!' The closer I got to the cabin, the more I thought about not showing up. `Hey, I don't have to go back to Betty's till the end of the season when she's gone' I thought to myself. Plus I hadn't taken any kind of real bath since fall and I really didn't want to inconvenience myself.

I hauled the last of the boxes up on my shoulders and was starting to head up the path when I heard a vehicle driving up. "Shit!" I swore as I crouched down, trying to hide with 2 boxes strapped to my back. The truck roared past and then braked right across from where my truck was stored. I could make out someone sitting in the driver's seat, waving in my direction. `Guess I didn't do a good enough job hiding' I growled. I stood up and waved, then turned back heading up to my cabin. `Now I'll have to go' I thought. As I heard the truck pull off the road and drive in the opposite direction, I glanced back but I couldn't see where she had gone through the dense spring foliage. I shrugged my shoulders and continued up the path.

After putting my supplies away, I found myself getting ready to take a bath. I walked outside and pulled the big metal tub off the wall of the cabin and carried it back in to place it in front of the stove. I heated water and got my toiletries ready. I filled the tub almost completely with cold water and waited for the water on the stove to boil. Soon I had a nice steaming bath and I stood naked beside it dipping a toe in. I slowly lowered myself in and slid down to allow the water to cover me. Hey, it wasn't much but it did the trick! I luxuriated in the warmth of the bath and thought about this dinner I was to attend. I didn't want to go but in a way I felt compelled to go or drawn to going. I dunked my head under the water and closed my eyes. There she was, standing so relaxed with her arm around that post and watching me. I took the time to look her over in my mind. She simply was beautiful. There was no way else to describe her. She was vivacious and warm and full of life. That much I could tell from just our brief interactions. I wanted to know more about her, get to know her, find out all about her. The urge was definitely strong and I finally decided to emerge from my warm cocoon and do something about it. My head broke the surface and I panted for breath. I hadn't intended to stay down that long, funny how your thoughts just get away from you sometimes. I reached over to my whined up watch lying on the chair next to the tub. 5:50 it looked back at me. "Shit" I murmured and pushed myself up and out of the tub. I snagged the towel and quickly dried off. Tugging on pants, long-sleeve thermal and flannel, I stepped into my hiking boots and quickly adjusted my clothes. I hurriedly ran a comb through my hair, blew out the lamp and grabbed the flashlight as I headed out the door. I made it down to the road 10 minutes late but there she was, standing there with a lantern in hand. "Hey! I didn't think you'd make it" she said "Sorry about that. I got a little distracted" I said fidgeting with the flashlight. "Well come on then. Supper is waiting and I have a nice Merlot to go with the steaks!" she grinned at me, grabbing my arm and walking backwards into the woods. "You have steak and wine?" I asked, my eyebrows shooting up, feeling like tonight was definitely going to be fun. I hadn't had steak or any kind of alcohol in over a year! "Oh yeah! I've got 2 rib eyes with our names on `em! She exclaimed merrily, swinging the lantern in one hand and her other nestled in the crook of arm. "It's sad but I haven't had steak or any kind of alcohol in over a year" I said, trying not to think too much about why her hand was where it was. "Well then. I guess you are in for a treat!" she smiled over at me and I felt my heart pound away in my chest and a delicious warmth fill the area between my legs. God! I was a wackadoo!! I was actually kind of turned on!! But I didn't even stop to wonder why I was even turned on. We walked a little ways further and then all of a sudden, we were at her cabin. I didn't even remember really walking there or what we had talked about. "Well, here's my place" she smiled at me as she stepped from my side up onto the porch. I stopped and looked up at her and the cabin. It was definitely a bit bigger than mine. Light glowed softly from the big window beside the door and I could see checkered curtains on the windows and smell smoke coming from a chimney I couldn't see. "Looks nice" I stated. "Thank you. Well come on in and let's eat" she turned and walked through the door. I entered the warm cabin and spotted a big fireplace on the opposite wall at the back of the cabin. Its fiery glow spilled out and filled the cabin with cheery warmth. To the left of it was a rustic pine bed and to the right was a stack of wood. A couch was placed almost in the center of the cabin with a small table and chairs off to the left behind it. The kitchen was on my right. I saw that the small table was set for dinner and a lantern glowed from its place in the middle. "I see you don't have electricity either" I murmured. "What was that?" she asked, taking a pan off the potbellied stove and walking towards the table, the smell of some serious beef wafting over me. "I said I see you don't have electricity" "Oh. No, I don't think anyone out this way does. That is unless you have a generator and I really don't understand all that electrical stuff anyway" she pushed a big slab of steak onto my plate and then onto hers. As my eyes became accustom to the light, I spotted a bowl of green beans and blueberries already sitting on the table by an open bottle of wine. She put the pan in the sink with a hiss and returned to her place at the table. "Well sit down and eat" she smiled as she pulled out her chair and sat down. I sat down in mine as she poured us both a healthy glass of wine. Sitting the bottle down she picked up her glass and said, "Here's to new neighbors and hopefully friends" she smiled, raising an eyebrow at me. I raised mine, nodded my head as we both took a sip. As soon as I swallowed, I felt the warmth flood my body, moving down my arms and legs. It had been a while. "So, Hayln, how long have you lived here?" she asked while cutting her food up. "A little over a year" I said, tugging a piece off my fork and into my mouth "Oh man!" "What?" she looked up in surprise "This has got to be the best steak I have ever tasted!" I sighed as I closed my eyes and chewed slowly. "Take a sip of wine and it'll be even better" she laughed pointing at my glass with her fork. The night progressed as well as the bottle of wine but I felt good, really good and I was enjoying the company surprisingly. We continued to eat and chat about this and that. Trading snippets of our lives and getting to know each other.

I learned that she was an artist out of Portland, Oregon who had perfected the art of painting texture into her pictures. At least that was how she described it. She wasn't married and didn't have any kids. She had bought this place soon after her first real check as an artist and came up here during the summers to relax and paint. As the night grew long and the bottle of Merlot disappeared, her hands seemed to find my hand or arm more and more. At first I didn't think anything of it because I just figured that artists were just like that but then sometimes I would look into her eyes and see something that I couldn't quite define and I just stored it away to analyze for later. I think I was a little in shock, at any rate. I hadn't been around people all winter and I think that having someone around all of a sudden was making me feel weird. "You want to go sit on the couch by the fire?" she asked, standing up and taking our plates. "Yeah" I responded as I picked up the remaining dishes and carried them to the sink. I sat down on the end of the couch, turned sideways and watched her as she filled a percolator with water and coffee grounds and placed them on the stove. She looked so cute with her hair tucked back behind an ear, some of it escaping and falling forward and a look of concentration on her face. "Aids in digestion" she looked up at me, motioning towards the pot and smiled. "Yeah and keeps you awake all night long" I grinned, one eyebrow quirked in mischief, the comment holding a more sexual flavor than anticipated. She laughed and turned to gather cups with spoons and sugar. I turned back to look at the fire. `God! Am I flirting?' I chastised myself. `I don't think I've ever flirted with anyone in my life! I think I've lost my mind, God, how embarrassing! It has to be that wine!' I sat and watched the flames lick away at the wood. A little while later, Kate sat down and handed me a cup. She placed the sugar bowl on the coffee table and handed me a spoon. "What are you thinking about?" she asked, sitting back and taking a sip from her cup. "Oh nothing really" "Oh come on. We are friends now. You have to share" she rationalized for me. "Well...I was just thinking how nice it was that I met you and that we had dinner. I have to admit that total isolation has been refreshing but lacking" I met her eyes as I took a sip of my coffee. "Why are you out here all by yourself?" I laughed, "A long story!" "Well hey, you are drinking coffee!" she winked. I almost spat my coffee across the room but I caught myself and started to laugh with her. The two voices in my head started speculating amongst each other `Did she just wink at you?' `Nah! It couldn't have been a wink' `Oh I think it was a wink!' the voice paused for a moment, then continued. `Oh yeah, I think it was a wink' the voice said definitively.

The night continued on her couch as I talked about my adventures and why it was that I came out here. We traded philosophical ideals back and forth and some we had to agree to just disagree on! All in all, it was a very good night. It felt good to connect with a human being again and laugh and talk and philosophize. In all my calculations, it had never occurred to me that I would seriously miss human contact but here I sat, in the wilds of Alaska, with an enchantingly smart woman sitting across from me. The more we talked and shared the deep inner workings of ourselves, the more I felt a bond grow between us. I watched her facial expressions as she talked about some topic that we had wandered into, how her nose wrinkled as she laughed and looked down to pluck at some invisible string on her jeans. The soft curly brown hair escaping from its prison behind her ear and obscuring her face a little. The way her laugh sounded like warm caramel to me. "You're not going to puke are you?" she was leaning forward, her eyes searching my face and her hand on my thigh. "" I barely said and looked down at her hand. She glanced down and then pulled her hand back, almost as if she weren't too sure why her hand was on my thigh. "Well" I said as I stood up "I think I had better call it a night" "Oh hey, yeah, sure" she stood and took my cup, heading for the kitchen "You probably have lots to do tomorrow" "Yeah, I have to cut wood" I laughed "It's so mundane but it has to be done" "I'm sure" she chucked her response as she walked towards the door. We stood at the door, I looked down at her and I tried to read what she was thinking but I was in no capacity to do so. "Thank you" I murmured. "Your welcome" she said back as she handed me my flashlight. "See you around?" I grasped the light, my hand slightly covering hers. "Sure. Drop by anytime" "Same here" I stepped out the door and started down the stairs. "Good night" "Night" I touched the light to my head in a mock salute and headed into the darkness.

I got back to the cabin and was greeted by the dark. I lit a lamp and started a fire. Even though it was spring, it still had a tendency to get a bit cold at night. So I sat and watched the infant fire grow and contemplated the evening but I could have no peace due to the antagonizing voices in my head. `What an absolutely enjoyable evening' `Oh yeah? What part? The part where she touched your thigh or the part where you flirted with her?' `God!! Why do you have to bring up the embarrassing stuff?' I thumped the arm of the chair `Cause' `Well jeez! I don't know. It was just fun to let my hair down and have a good dinner and conversation' `Yeah and you like her' `Sure she's nice' `Yeah, right! You really like her' "Like her?" I let the words roll around on my tongue. I didn't know what that meant. "Grrrr!!" I huffed as I stood, blew out the lamp and climbed into bed. I didn't know what I was feeling but I did know I had a fantastic evening and I would like to hang out with her again. Hopefully, I would have gained some kind of social grace by the next time we did hang out. Sleep was a long time coming but I was finally able to drift off and I didn't wake till well into the next morning.

So I kept myself busy and tried not to think of my neighbor. I hadn't heard from her since our evening together and that had been about a month ago. I just didn't want to drop in. I had never had a friend that was an artist and I just didn't want to interrupt if she was working. I just figured that most people who were artists were kind of reclusive when it came to working. So I just never dropped by and time had passed.

I was sitting on my front porch, one morning, just sipping coffee and relaxing, listening to the birds and various other woodland creatures when a voice broke into my closed eyed reverie. "You look so at peace" "Jesus!" I screeched, jumping up and spilling all my coffee down the front of me. "Oh shit! I am soo sorry!" she said, moving forward trying to brush the drops off the front of my shirt. "You scared the crap out of me!" I said turning and walking into my cabin in search for a towel. "I'm truly sorry about that! Did it burn you?" she asked following me into the cabin. "No, I think I'll live" I said, trying to sop up the now cooling liquid from out of my shirt. "I'm such a moron! I am very sorry about that!" she looked up at me, just standing there in front of me, her eyes wide with sincerity. "Hey, don't worry about it. Would you like to join me on the porch for a cup of morning joe?" I asked, quirking an eyebrow in her direction and refilling my cup. "Yeah, that would be great" she smiled `Still lacking social grace, check' "Wow, you built this place all by yourself?" she asked in awe, hands in her back pockets, looking around the cabin. "Yeah I did" I replied, pulling a second cup off the shelf. "How long did it take you?" "'Bout a year" I said. "Wow...was it hard" "Yeah, if it wasn't for some pulleys, I would have never gotten those top logs and roof up" "That is amazing! It looks so homey in here. You did a good job" "Thanks" I handed her a mug. "Did you build all this furniture too?" she asked, running her hand over the desktop. "Yes I did" "This is really nice. It must have taken you forever to do" "Well it wasn't too bad. I had all winter" I laughed and took a sip. She spotted my little bear family, that I had whittled, sitting in the window. "Oh wow! A little bear family! These are amazing!" she set her mug down and picked up the Momma bear. "It so detailed. Where did you get them?" she asked, placing the bears back in a row along the window ledge. "Um...well, I made them" I stated simply. "They're good, really good" she looked over at me, picking up her cup. "Thank you" I took another sip. We settled ourselves out on the porch and I resumed my efforts of relaxation. I had no idea why she was here but I liked the fact that she was sitting mere inches from me. Just feeling her presence brought peace and satisfaction to my being. "So how's the painting coming along?" I asked, my feet resting on the railing, my head leaned back with closed eyes. "Sh.." I turned my head and opened one eye to look at her. She was sitting much like me, head back, her hair flowing over the back of the camp chair and eyes closed. I watched her as she relaxed and listened to nature, her face serene and peaceful looking. I looked back out over the valley spread out before us and took a sip of coffee. I loved mornings like this, when the forest is alive with the sound of animals at play and a slight breeze of warm earth and honey suckle. So we sat, both lost in thought. "So what have you been up to?" she asked, turning her head to look at me. "Um...nothing much, you?" I sighed as I turned to meet her gaze. "Just a little of this and a little of that" she murmured "So what are you doing today?" she asked looking up at me. Again, I was caught in her dream filled blue-grey eyes; how the pupil contracted and expanded; how the flecks of grey stood out when you looked closer. "Earth to Hayln, you in there?" she waved her hand in front of my face, laughing. "Oh sorry. Got side tracked" I offered sheepishly. I could feel the blush creep up my face. "I see. I was just asking what you were doing today" "I'm working on a project" "Oh yeah? What kind of project?" she smirked slyly. "Uh...wood carving, sculpting or whatever you want to call it" I nervously offered. "Ooh, can I see?" she sat up looking excited. "Um...dunno, not really finished and..." I trailed off. "Oh come on. Let me see, please?" she begged. "Oh alright. Come on" I motioned as I stood. We walked back to the wood pile where I had been working on my project. I had found this log of wood about 5 ft high and about 16 inches in diameter. I roughed off both ends and sanded them down so that the log could stand upright when finished. Then I proceeded to cut out a rough image of a bald eagle in flight. As I had gotten more and more into the project, the eagle had started to really take shape but it was in no way finished. "Wow...that is going to be amazing when you are done" she looked in awe. "You really think so?" "Oh yeah. The raw beauty of the wood and how the eagle seems to be coming out of it at you, it'll be a nice piece" "Thank you, it means a lot" I said shyly "So what did you come up here for?" " Oh, I almost forgot! I use to come up here all the time and paint and I was wondering if it would be ok if I used your porch?" she turned and smiled at me. "Hey, no problem. Come any time you want to. You're welcome here" I smiled back. "Well then, I'll get out of your way and get to sketching" she turned back towards the cabin. I went back to the cabin and picked up my carving tools and headed back out to my work of art, leaving Kate to sit on the porch, sketchpad in hand. I sat there and looked and contemplated my next move. Time slipped away, like it always seems to do when I am wrapped up in my fun.

The day stretched into another and another and another. Kate came up most days and sat on the porch sketching away. Some days I would sit on the porch whittling some of my smaller pieces and others I would spend on the eagle. Some days I would chop wood or go for a hike but I never saw what Kate was working on because I just thought it may be rude to ask.

One day, I came back a little late from a hike and found Kate still sketching on the porch right where I had left her that afternoon. "Still here I see" I said as I set the shotgun against the rail and dumped my day pack by the door. "Umhm" she muttered, still concentrating on what she was doing "I'm not bothering you am I" she asked distracted, looking over at me. "Naw" I plopped down into the camp chair next to her. I tried to take a peek but I couldn't see. "You want to have a look?" she offered. "Oh no. Ya know, I don't mean to be rude or anything" I said looking out over the tops of the trees. "No it's ok. You can have a peek" she grinned, handing me over the tablet. I was shocked at how well she had captured the view. It was like a Monet or something. I'm not any kind of artist buff but it looked really good and it pulled me in. I went to lift a page but stopped and looked over at her. She was watching me, her eyes met mine. "Is it ok?" I asked, motioning towards the pad. "Yeah, go ahead" she said softly, continuing to stare at me; which I was beginning to feel a little weird about. Sure I liked her but I didn't even know what that like was all about. Plus with her staring at me, it felt like she was trying to read my mind and I just couldn't have that. I flipped the page and found myself looking at myself bent over a piece of wood, concentration etching my face, as I chipped away at the eagle. I was shocked and I didn't know if I should be worried or flattered. Hell, I didn't know how to react to this! Does anyone? I flipped some more pages and they were all of me in different positions working on the eagle or splitting wood or walking into the woods. It was weird and yet my heart was hammering away in my chest at the sheer novelty of the idea that she just may like me too. `Hello raging hormone! She is an artist' the little voice in my head decided to say. `Yes; but, why would she sketch me?' I asked `Cause you are the only human being out here' ` may be right' "These are really amazing" I said as I handed back the pad. "Thank you, I'm glad you like" "You sketched me..." I trailed off softly. I wanted to know, was curious to know but I just couldn't hand her them back without asking. "You're the only human form out here" she winked. `There's that wink again!' `Yeah I saw. I am sitting here, remember? She totally read my mind' She put her things into her backpack and made like she was about to leave. For some reason I didn't want her to. "Would you like to stay for dinner?" I blurted out. She looked over at me in surprise. She hesitated for a moment. "Yeah sure, that would be nice" she decided. I didn't have much but there were some items I had saved for a good occasion and I thought that this was definitely a good occasion. So I made breakfast for dinner, one of my favorite and less expensive meals.

We sat in front of the stove and eat our dinner, talking about everything and nothing. More of our lives were revealed and talked about and the night wore on slowly, languidly. "Would you like some cocoa?" I asked, removing the remnants of dinner to the kitchen. "Yes please" she smiled up at me. I set the kettle on the stove, got the mugs ready for hot water and stoked the fire. Soon the kettle was weakly whistling and I poured the steaming fluid into the cups. Giving the mixture a swift stirring, I hand her a cup and sat down next to her. We started to chat about politics, which is normally a dangerous territory even for friends who have known each other for years but with us it was just a conversation. I had been out in the wilderness for over a year and had no access to the outside world. So she brought me up to speed on things that had been going on in the country. Sitting by the fire, I slowly looked over at her. She sat there gazing into the fire, the light reflecting in her eyes. The knitted cap still pulled tightly down, allowing only the longer hair to escape below the edge. Her skin looked smooth and soft and suddenly I wanted to reach out to find out if that were true. Her eyebrows were immaculately shaped to their natural curve. Her lips looked soft and it felt like it would have been the most natural thing in the world, at that moment, to lean forward and kiss them. A scarf hung loosely around her neck and barely grazed the floor. Her hands were bare, folded around a mug of hot cocoa. She was absolutely stunning and I could feel a bond with her as if we had a rope tied around us holding us together. The hairs on my arms stood up as a flood of realization hit me and flowed up and out of the top of my head, enhancing all of my senses. I could see the pores of her skin and the tiny blond hair that lightly covered her face. I could smell her, a mixture of detergent, soap and some unknown fragrance. "What?" she asked, looking curiously over at me. "Huh?" "Why are you staring at me like that?" she asked, turning slightly towards me. Now I was feeling like a perv and looked back at the fire. "I was just looking to see if you needed a refill is all" was my lame response. She didn't say anything else but I could feel her eyes on me, digging into me, not allowing me to run but she didn't say anything and turned back to the fire. I sighed to myself and continued to stare. `Jesus!' I thought to myself `What the heck is wrong with me? I know I've been in the woods for a while but jeez!' Thoughts flew around in my head like a whirlwind. I had never been attracted to anyone before but it didn't surprise me that I was attracted to her. She was amazing and beautiful, smart and witty. We had so much in common and things that we didn't only complimented our friendship.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched her drain the remainder of the contents of the cup and stand to leave. "Well I hate to go but I have to get back" she said, walking into the kitchen and placing the cup in the primitive sink. "Ok" I stood and walked towards the door. She met me there and I stood and looked down at her. She was about an inch shorter than I but I felt bigger than life around her. She looked up into my eyes as if to try to read what was going on. "Well I am glad you stuck around today. We should do this again sometime" I smiled, resting my hand on hers, squeezing them gently. "Yes we should" she said as she pulled me into a quick hug and then was out the door before it could register that she had hugged me. I stood there for a moment, trying to remember the feeling and watched as her flashlight bobbed down the foot path. Once the light disappeared, I slowly shut the door and walked back to the fire. I slumped in my chair thinking back over the past few hours spent with her. "God! I am an idiot!" I cursed out loud as I felt the flush of embarrassment sweep my body. `I almost blew it tonight and for what? I don't know what she's thinking or feeling and she may not even be attracted to me! What a fool' I thought as I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes. I started to feel tired as the hum if the evening with all of its emotions drained out of me and I became clear headed again.

I walked towards the bed, shedding clothes, all the while looking out the window at the moon that hung full and low allowing the whole valley to be bathed in its light. I blew out the lamp and crawled between the covers. Sleep was hard coming but finally I drifted off thinking of her.

Slowly the summer slipped away from us. Days for me were spent getting ready for winter and Kate spent most of her time on my front porch. Somehow her easel found its way to the porch as well as her paint supplies but that didn't bother me. There was just some unspoken permission for her to paint there and I enjoyed every minute of it. Sure I had given her the ok to do so but I figured she would do her painting at her place and that just didn't happen. She kind of slipped easily into my life, like a hand slipping into a well worn mitten, comforting and easy. In a way, she became a permanent fixture. In the back of my mind I knew that she would be heading back to Portland soon but I didn't want to break the magic of the moment by asking when. Unfortunately, that day came all too soon and she told me that she would be leaving for Portland the next day. I felt depressed but I tried to hide it. We made plans to have a feast that night after a long day of work, her packing and me chopping wood. I was in agony, like someone dragging me to church on a cold Sunday morning. With each falling of the axe, my stomach lurched. I thought I was going to be sick. I knew somewhere down the hill that she was loading her truck with her belongings and I didn't want our summer to end, I wanted the paradise I felt to continue. Most evenings we would linger over dinner and cocoa on the porch and chat, the bond growing to an almost visible connection. Our chairs moved closer, knees touching, shoulders touching. Occasionally our hands would find each other and slip into a comfortable embrace. We never talked about it and I certainly never brought it up. It was a weird silent acknowledgement about how we felt towards each other but it was never spoken.

That night we dined on her secret stash of rib eye that she miraculously produced for our final dinner, along with some bottle of red wine. Dinner was cooked and ate in virtual silence, our eyes never wavering far from one another's. It was a silent conversation of a beautiful season ending, that bitter sweetness of having met her and now she was leaving and I didn't want the night to end. "You want to sit on the porch and count stars?" I asked, clearing the table and putting the kettle on to boil. "That would be nice" she replied as she started to take the chairs and blanket from their spot by the door. I grabbed cups, quickly mixing cocoa and heading to the porch. We settled casually in our chairs, mugs in hand and blanket tucked around us, drawing us closer. Her free hand slipped softly into mine and I slowly wrapped my fingers around hers. "I'm going to miss you, you know?" I sighed as I turned to look into her eyes. "Sh..." she whispered softly, laying two fingers gently against my lips "Don't say it" I kissed her fingers and looked up into her eyes. She looked back with such intensity, her pupils dilated, making her eyes look black. I forgot to breath as she closed her eyes, her head slipping down till her chin rested on her chest, a stray lock escaping its place. I gently reached out and placed it back, lingering to feel its softness. I slowly ran my thumb down her jaw and rubbed at the smooth soft skin it found. The air was filled with crackling tension so thick that it became hard to find air to breath. Slowly I raised her face to look at me and our eyes met. I brushed her lips with my thumb and slowly leaned forward to feel their softness with my own. They were as soft as butterfly wings and not like the scratchiness I had felt in other kisses in times past. I became lost in the exploration of her lips and finally her tongue. I almost passed out with the soft warm cocoa taste of it. Our breathing becoming erratic as I found my hands curled up in her hair, her knitted cap slowly, softly finding its way to the floor. The cup slipped out of her hands as she grasped them around my back in an attempt to pull me close, the arms of our chairs getting in the way. I clambered over debris, our lips never leaving one another's in an attempt to get closer and I became tangled in the blanket, almost falling. Our lips separated as I kicked the blanket away from my legs and pulled her up against me. Our faces mere inches apart, I felt her breath on my face and saw the craziness in her eyes. Pushing her back against the cabin wall, the chairs skittering out of the way, our bodies fused together. My senses were on overload, my breath sputtering as I gazed down at her upturned face, eyes closed, inviting lips slightly parted. I could feel her heart beating rapidly in her chest, her breasts smashed against mine. I bent slowly towards her, breathing her chocolaty air, my eyes closed allowing the emotions to roll over me. Our lips softly touched and a wild exploration ensued. Hands roaming; teeth, lips, tongue clashing. I felt the air being sucked from my lungs as I brought my hands up to her neck, thumbs brushing the sides of her face gently, her hands finding their way under my shirt, raking soft circles. I kissed her lips softly, her eyelids and nose and leaned back a little to look at her, her face warm with passion. It was the most erotic sight I had ever seen. Her eyes fluttered opened and she looked into mine with dark wanting. We stood there, just looking at each other, feeling our bodies against one another. "I..." we both started then laughed shakily, as I buried my nose in that spot where her neck meets her shoulder, my hands softly gliding over hips to meet at the small of her back, pulling her into a tight hug. I could smell wood smoke, soap and her and I was drunk. "I've wanted to kiss you for a long time" she sighed, snuggling into me, her fingers playing along the waist band of my jeans. "Me too" I murmured from my warm haven. "I don't want this to end" "Me either" my mind sluggish "Don't go, stay with me" I asked lazily. "I can't, I have to go back" she pushed me back a little to look at me. "No, I mean tonight" I said softly as I leaned down till our foreheads touched and kissed her soft, bruised lips. I slowly pulled away, allowing my hand to slip softly down her arm and engulf her hand in mine. I pulled her gently into the cabin and towards the bed. We climbed into bed, clothes still on minus boots and we laid in each others arms, all curled around each other. I laid my head on her chest and she kissed my forehead, her hand brushing hair out of my eyes and we fell asleep.

The next morning I awoke slowly. I was laying on my side facing the window, the sun streaming warm lazy fall particles over me. I lay there realizing I was alone and wondered if I had had a wonderful dream last night. I thought dreamily about the kisses we had shared and my hand snaked out to touch the dented pillow where she had undoubtedly lain. I scooted over and buried my nose into the pillow, breathing deeply to find her scent. My ears became attuned to the noises of nature outside the cabin and I slowly rolled over, my eyes searching the cabin for her. Not finding her, I jerked upright in bed and listened intently. I swung my legs out over the floor, stood and walked towards the door. That was when I spotted a note propped up against the wall of the cabin on the counter. Hayln it read and I picked it up, allowing the pad of my thumb to rub softly across my name. I flipped it open, I hate goodbyes. As I write this I see you lying there in the sunlight and you look so young and peaceful. I want nothing more than to go back to bed and wrap my arms around you and kiss you awake but I hate goodbyes. I have to go sweetheart, back to my gallery, back to the real world. I want to be with you, I want you to be with me but I would never ask you to leave your world. That was all it read. I turned the note over, hoping there was more but there wasn't. I could see impressions in the paper and I held it up to the light in search of some unseen message but all that I found was her prior attempts to write the note. I sat the note down on the counter and stepped out the front door and listened. I was greeted only by the sounds of the forest and instinctually I knew I was alone, that she had left. Instantly, I was flooded with the ferocious need to know if she was truly gone. I shoved my stocking feet into boots, grabbed my flannel shirt and went running madly down the foot path shoelaces and shirt tails flapping. I charged into the woods across the road, crashing through underbrush as I ran to her cabin. I skidded to a stop as Kate's place popped into view. My eyes roaming over the place in search for a sign but there were none. The place was boarded up tight. I jumped onto the porch and banged on the door like a madman. "Kate!" I pounded "Kate, please open the door!" but I was met only with silence. I jumped off the porch and ran around the cabin but did not find her truck. I came around the side and plopped down on the porch. She was really gone, the dull aching sadness rolled over me, enveloping me and I cried.

I dragged myself slowly back to my cabin. Looking out over the treetops from my porch, I could see low black snow-laden clouds on the horizon. It was going to snow.

The winter had to have been the coldest and longest one on record but I was snug in my log home. I was able to kill a caribou after the first snow but I didn't feel much like eating. Days turned into weeks and the piercing pain of her departure slowly turned into a dull ache. My initial emotions of bitter anger, receded into depression as the winter howled on outside. Sometime in February, I realized that I was missing the bald eagle. I searched through the snow around the cabin for my wooden project but found nothing. I was angry for having been so wrapped up with Kate that I had left the piece to suffer the harshness of the outdoors. In a way it had become real to me and I felt the bitter sickness of it being lost, almost as if I'd left a defenseless wounded animal out in the woods to suffer death alone. It pained me to no end and I began another carving in hopes that it would quell the agony I felt by so much loss.

Spring came with its usual flood of color and smells. I had weathered another winter but now I had no money, Kate was gone, the eagle was gone. As soon as the snows had melted, I went searching for my lost child but didn't find it. At that point, I gave up hope of ever finding it. I felt like a ragamuffin with nothing, an animal living off the land. My carving that I had started on had turned out beautifully. It was of a mother bear curled around her cub. I had poured my heart and soul into it and it came out exactly as I had imagined it. Supplies were dangerously low. I had to use honey to sweeten my coffee in the mornings which made the coffee taste strange. Not that having to restrain old coffee grounds had anything to do with it. The cocoa was gone a long time ago and I had only a sliver of soap left for just one more bath before I headed into town. I had decided to take the bear carving in with me to see if Betty would take it for items that I really needed. I had thought about some things over the long winter months and had decided that instead of buying vegetables that I would grow them. I had decided to can and dry as much local fruits and veggies as possible so that I wouldn't be lacking over the coming winter. I needed to get my head out of my ass and start worrying about my survival.

I pulled on my last clean clothes that I had been saving for this trip. I ran a comb absently through my long damp hair and let it hang loose so that it would dry on the trip. I slipped on my boots, grabbed the pack frame and quickly fastened the carving to it. Hoisting it onto my shoulders, I stepped out the door, glancing back to do a once over on the cabin. Finding everything safe and secure, I latched the door shut and headed down the path towards the truck. I barely made it into town; the gas light was on for half the trip and I feared that I might not make it. The truck died as I pulled into the dirt parking lot of Betty's and I silently prayed that she would barter with me on the carving because now I needed gas along with the food that was to last me the spring, summer and fall. I stepped out of the cab feeling as if a stranger. I hadn't been back to Betty's since my last spring supply run, forgoing the fall trip due to lack of funds. I had mostly subsisted on the remnants of caribou and beans and I was absolutely sick of that concoction.

Of course nothing had changed as I stepped through the door and the bell jingled my entrance. "Well I'll be damn if it isn't Grizlette Adams!" boomed Betty, running around the counter and enveloping me in a bear sized hug that matched her voice. "Good Lord girl! You've lost weight! But you smell better than the last time I saw you" she laughed giving me another hug. I laughed with her and hugged her back. "Yeah I sure hope I smell better" I smiled wanly. "Well I know you're here for supplies so come on now, give me your list" she asked reaching out her hand. I slipped my hand into my pocket and found the battered piece if paper and pulled it out. "Um...Betty, I have to talk to you about money" I started slowly. "Hey don't worry about it. That bald eagle carving of yours sold for a lot of money and Kate sent it to me for you" she said smiling, hand still outstretched waiting for my list. I was flabbergasted; I just stood there with the list in my hand staring at her in shock. "You didn't know?" Still in shock, I shook my head no. "Oh" she dropped her arm. "How much did it sell for?" I rasped when I found my tongue. "$500" "$500?" I gasped. "Yup" "Holy shit" I whispered. A child could have knocked me over with a pinky finger, I was so in shock. "She said she sold it in her gallery in Portland, said that people have been after her ever since wanting to know more about the artist. She sent me a note with the money and she sent you one too. I had no idea we had another artist among us" she mused as she headed back towards the counter. I followed her, numbly, not even aware that I was even moving. I stopped at the counter as Betty went into the back room and returned with a manila envelope with Betty's address printed neatly on the front. Inside was the $500 in cash with another sealed envelope, my name printed neatly on it as well. I absently gave Betty my list and headed to the leather chairs to read the letter. I was awash with raw emotion of what the letter might hold. My gut was in knots as I sat down slowly in the chair and withdrew the envelope. Running my fingers over my name, I carefully ripped the envelope open and withdrew the single sheet of paper inside. I'm sorry that I left without saying goodbye. I hate goodbyes but it wasn't really a goodbye. I'll be back in the spring. I re-read the line again, covering my mouth with a trembling hand, a lone tear escaping my eye. I have missed you terribly and I can not wait to see you again, to be in your quiet, warm presence; to kiss your soft lips; to sit on your porch sipping cocoa and hold your hand and to lie in your arms, listening to you sleep. Sometimes I sit by my front window, looking out at the night sky and wonder what you are doing and if you are ok. I hate the fact that you have no phone. I miss hearing your voice. I hope you will understand that I had to go back to Portland. It wasn't easy for me. I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I have thought of nothing but you since I left. Don't be angry with me. I took the eagle knowing that you had no money and that it was an amazing piece that would sell for a lot of money and I was right! I was shocked when it sold after only being in the window for 2 days! Sweetheart, you have an amazing gift and people want to know more about you, they want more! I want more. Until spring, Kate I sat there, the envelope open on my legs and stared at it as if it were a foreign object. I was in such shock that I could barely even think. I swiped a stray tear from my cheek and glanced at my surroundings. Slowly the numbness wore off and things started to become clear again. I decided to walk over to the post office to see if I had received any mail. "I'll be back, Betty. Just going to get mail" I hollered. "Your stuff will be ready when you get back" she hollered back her reply from somewhere amongst the shelves. I stepped out of the store and pulled the door closed. Everything looked so very crystal clear as I viewed my surroundings. I stepped off the porch, my feet crunching on the gravel, as I headed towards the post office/sheriff's office. Of course I hadn't received any mail but I didn't care, I received the only letter that mattered. So I got back into the truck and pulled it around back to load. I paid Betty, loaded my boxes and headed back home. It took me a little over an hour to haul all the boxes up to the cabin. I had added some more items to my list since I had the money for them. Of course I got another book and paper to help pass time but all the while hoping that I wouldn't need it, that Kate would be here soon. To be honest with myself, I really didn't know how I felt about her leaving me or about the fact that she took the eagle. I tried not to look too closely at those feelings for fear of finding some real hate. I didn't know if you could care for someone so deeply and yet hate them so much. A week later I was sitting on my porch, drinking the preferred cocoa. The sun had set only leaving trace fingers of light. I had totally zoned out, just looking at the sky when I heard the sound of a motor. My ears perked up, my feet dropping to the porch floor, as I leaned forward to catch the sound again. There is something to be said about the senses when you live in the woods all alone. They become sharper, more attuned to everything around you. I peered into the darkness below where the road was and strained my eyes for light. I waited and watched, my body tense, straining to hear or see anything. There it was again and possibly a head light! It was hard to tell, spring was in full bloom and the foliage had grown dense. Even my foot path had to be trimmed now or I would have lost it to the overgrowth. `If it is her, what am I going to do?' I thought to myself, all of a sudden very nervous. `Go find her' the voice said back. `It's going to be weird and awkward and I'm not too sure how I feel about things...' I trailed off lost in thought but the voice wouldn't leave me in peace. `Go to her' `No! She left me, she stole my carving, and she left me to be miserable! No I will not go find her' `Do you care for her?' `Yes' `Do you want to see her?' `Well yeah, I do' `Go see her then' `No! I am angry! What she did to...I almost died!' `But you didn't. Look at it from her point of view. She had a gallery. What did you want her to do, leave it all for you?' `Yes!' `That is unrealistic. She has a life and responsibilities; she couldn't just up and leave like you besides how do you know she even likes you like that? She may not even be...' `Shut up!' I screamed in my head `She kissed me, I felt it, I know she felt it too and she slept with me all night long. What the fuck! You're supposed to be on my side!' `I am on your side. What must she have gone through to have to leave you behind?' `Hm...' I pondered over that last thought. I sat thinking and missed seeing a truck beaming it's headlights through the foliage as it turned off the dirt road. I didn't hear any more sounds of an engine and so thinking I had been hallucinating, I plodded off to bed thinking I had lost my mind.

The morning dawned grey and overcast. It was spring and rain was to be expected but not hoped for. I puttered around the cabin going through my daily routine. Now that I had stocked shelves I could have a real breakfast! The night before was forgotten. I made eggs, bacon, toast and coffee with grounds that hadn't been re-used. I picked up my plate and cup and headed out to the porch to enjoy the damp morning. As I opened the door, there she stood, poised to knock. We stared at each other, neither one of us saying anything or moving, just looking into each others eyes. "Hi" she offered shyly as her arm dropped back to her side. I didn't respond; I was still in shock. The plate was balancing on my cup, the door latch still in my right hand. I stood there, frozen, watching the emotions play across her face. The smile slid from her face and she looked away. I looked her over as she stood there so uncertainly; dressed in the same old hiking boots, jeans and cap but with a rain jacket on, the hood pulled over her cap. She looked a bit haggard, slight dark circles appeared faintly under her blue-grey eyes. A sense of joy and something unnamed rushed through me and the plate began to shake. Quickly I laid the plate and cup off to the side and stood back in the doorway to look at her. I felt weird as if I were seeing a ghost. To assure myself that I wasn't, I reached a trembling hand out and pushed a wayward damp strand of hair out of her face. She looked up at me, her eyes wet with emotion and the flood gates ripped open. I grabbed her hand and pulled her to me, my nose burying itself into her hair and neck, her arms coming around me. Both of us were crying and trembling. A little while later when the trembling had subsided, we still stood there in each others arms. Slowly I pulled back and looked down at her. Her face was streaked and I carefully brushed the tears from her cheeks with my thumbs. "I've missed you" she whispered. "I've missed you too" I whispered back as I leaned forward and softly brushed my lips against hers. The feeling of absolute rightness and warmth flowed over me as her lips responded to mine, erasing all the months of doubt. I could feel her hands working the shirt from my pants, her hands seeking warm skin, scratching slow circles on my back. A lightning bolt of desire shot through me as her hands slipped below the waistband of my jeans and grasped my behind, melding my hips to hers. My hands slid unbidden under her shirt, feeling her warm soft back. I slid my hands up her ribs, my thumbs brushing the swell of her breasts. She gasped and I moaned, as she sucked my bottom lip. Desire ripped through us as we hungrily devoured one another's lips. As suddenly as it began, it stopped and I leaned my forehead against hers, her warm breath assaulting my face. "God, I've missed you" I gasped, breathing heavily. She leaned back, took my face in her hands and kissed my nose. "I've missed you too" she murmured, as she snuggled into me. Just then our stomachs growled and we both started to laugh. We pulled back from each other and stared both of us smiling. "Do you want breakfast?" "Sure" she said as we stepped away from each other and I moved towards the stove. She retrieved a plate, utensils, and mug as we gathered our items and headed to the porch. We ate in almost silence, looking at each other with fever bright eyes. "Do you hate me?" she mumbled with a mouth full of food. "Hate is such a strong word" I laughed, "Pissed off is more like it" I smiled, taking a bite of my bacon. "Oh baby! I am sorry. I had to leave. I didn't want to but I had the gallery that I couldn't just leave. I hope you can understand that" her hand grasped my knee and she leaned forward to look me in the eye. "I think I understand" I nodded. "I am sorry, I truly am. I hated every moment away from you, I..." "Sh...lets eat and just enjoy us" I sighed as I looked at her and smiled. After breakfast, we cleaned up and playful banter ensued. It was light and fun and I found myself falling head over heals for her. I watched her as she playfully swatted my ass with a dish towel and threw me an evil smile, the corners of her eyes crinkling in laughter as I tickled her senseless. She broke my grasp and pushed me away laughing and gasping at the same time. "Stop!" she shrieked, her eyes dark and merry. "Never!" I bellowed as I lunged for her. She dodged out of my grasp and ran screeching from the cabin, with me in hot pursuit, out into the light rain. I chased her around the cabin and wood pile, finally catching her hand as she tried to move around the far end of the stack. I grabbed her roughly and started to devour her neck and mouth oblivious to the sprinkling rain. Emotions flooding us both as hands and mouths savagely explored each other. Want and need coursed through my veins and I wanted nothing more than to feel her against me. I picked her up, her legs wrapping around my waist as I carried her back into the cabin. We hit the bed with a thump and hands found zippers and buttons. Clothes flew and neither one of us stopped to realize what we were doing. I slowly slid my naked body down over hers, relishing the soft warm pliable skin. I groaned as I felt her hands grasp my hips and pull me to her. I leaned down slowly, watching her eyes slide shut as I slowly kissed her. There was no need to hurry; I had her here with me. I wanted to slow things down, take my time and enjoy her, not that I had even a clue as to what to do. I was just going with the flow but she had other things in mind as she flipped me over onto my back. I was so not accustom to being out of control but the unease slipped right out of my mind the second her lips started to kiss my neck and move down to my collar bone. "God! I just want to eat you" she growled somewhere from under my breast. I couldn't speak; I was too assaulted by the feelings and emotions that were crashing over me. I couldn't handle it anymore not being able to touch her, so I slowly sat up, taking her with me, pulling her down to straddle my lap. My hands roamed her back as she wrapped her arms around my head, kissing me. Her skin was as warm and soft as satin and I started to kiss all of her. My hands wound their way up into her hair, my short fingernails lightly scratching her scalp. Figures curled around strands of gold and I slowly pulled her head away from me, exposing her neck to me. I devoured her neck, jaw and chin, my need for her was so intense and I was so blinded with hunger that I found myself sinking my teeth into her collar bone only suckling when she cried out. I pulled back sharply, scared at what I had done. "I'm so sorry" I murmured as I looked into her dark crazy eyes and bent to lightly kiss the reddening area. "It's ok" she whispered as she ran her finger through my hair "Kiss me" I pushed her back down onto the bed, my body covering hers as our lips met with ferocity. Lips, tongues, teeth clashed in a battle for dominance. Hands roamed, breasts caressed as I settled myself over her leg. I could feel our hips match up and the sheer feeling of her warm soft stomach against mine nearly made me swoon. Her kisses were harsh and at one point I felt a tiny pierce of pain as she sucked on my bottom lip. She had bitten me. I pulled back and she gave me a wicked look. That one look drove me crazy and I ground myself into her. We passionately explored each others bodies with hands, lips, tongues and it felt so exquisitely surreal to master her body and her mine. Slowly the painful sweetness of orgasm swept my body as I clung to her, convulsing. A moment later, nails digging into my forearms, she joined me in that same painful sweetness. We laid for who knows how long, our panting slowly calming to deep breathing. We fell asleep; all tangled up in each others nakedness.

I awoke gradually and I breathed her scent in, allowing my eyes to slowly close in pleasure. The memory of what had happened hours before drifted over me. I was laying on my stomach, a blanket draped over my bare behind, warm fuzzy light drifted over me and I was alone. Slowly, I rolled over and glanced around the cabin to find her standing over the stove in my shirt, her legs peeking out and looking so damn sexy with her hair all tussled. I slipped softly from bed, taking the blanket with me as I creped up quietly behind her. Wrapping her in a blanketed hug, I buried my face in her neck and kissed her softly. "You're awake I see" she softly laughed. " look so sexy standing here that I just had to touch you" I murmured, pulling her back into a tight hug. "You're squishing me" she gasped. "Sh..." I whispered as I turned her in my arms and kissed her. The kissing quickly grew into a vicious want to possess her again but she pushed her hand against my chest, breaking the kiss. "Wo there Tanto!" she laughed merrily "There will be time for that later, right now I am famished and by the looks of you, you need to eat too!" she exclaimed as she poked me in the stomach with a fork and turned back to the stove. "Gee ya don't have to be so mean about it" I grouched, gingerly rubbing my forked bare stomach. That warm caramel chuckle was all the response I got.

We ate and she filled me in on all that had happened since her return. Conversations were had about my art and what was the best course of action but all the while I was in and out of the conversation, lost in my own sexual thoughts. She had awakened the beast in me and it was very, very hungry. "You're not listening to a word I'm saying are you?" she cocked her head to the side, smiling. I shook my head no and took another bite of my food, my eyes never leaving hers, grinning. "What am I going to do with you" she smiled.

The dam burst and the rest of the day on into the evening was spent in lustful pursuits of finding more ways of pleasuring each other. Finally sleep became persistent and it's slow, smoky fingers, pulled us into a deep sleep.

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. We spent our first days together in bed but slowly reality drifted back in to settle in our minds. Some days she would stack wood while I chopped or I would watch her paint as I carved. And yes I do have scars on my hands were I missed the wood because I was watching her! Other times I would work in my garden, which was coming along nicely without my constant attention. Leisurely walks were made in the afternoons as we explored the forest and mountain that rose behind my cabin. I don't even think she aired out her cabin, we were so involved with each other that time just existed and things were forgotten. Most importantly we made love every chance we got, the bond growing even more as our relationship matured. I felt as if I had found the missing part of me; as if she were somehow the other half of who I was suppose to be. I knew that shortly she would be heading back to Portland and I just didn't think I would make it through another long cold hard winter without her. I still continued to work my garden and chop my wood but all the while wondering when she would have to leave and what I would do or say. I didn't want to bring it up because I didn't want to spoil this amazing world we were in together. Unfortunately, as we all know too well, that world dissolved when she told me over dinner one night that she would be leaving for Portland in a week. I was crushed, dinner sat like sawdust in my mouth as I stared at her. "Hayln please don't look at me like that" she whispered, her hand resting on mine, her thumb rubbing my fingers. "I want nothing more than to stay right here with you for the rest of my life but I can't. I continued to stare without saying anything or swallowing. "I would love nothing more than for you to come with me but I know that you won't and I would never force you to do something like that. It just wouldn't be right" tears were glistening in her eyes as she spoke and I knew it hurt her as much as it was killing me for her to say that.

I could feel myself slowly shutting down piece by piece and I stood, collecting dishes and headed for the sink. I felt dead inside, as if someone had gutted me and left nothing but a shell. She tried to pull me back to her but I was numb to her attempts. She was talking and talking, hugging me, placing small soft kisses on my lips but I felt inept to respond. I sat in the camp chair in front of the stove and stared. She kept talking but I didn't remember anything or really heard anything she had said. I fell asleep in front of the fire and when I awoke the next morning, I found her gone, again. I didn't bother searching for her, I knew she was gone from her note that she had left. Her note was a blur about how sorry she was and hopes that I would join her and a business card with her address of where I could find her. The note slipped from my fingers and I slowly started my day without her, numb to even the cold blustery wind that spelled snow coming.

I was ready for winter but not for her leaving me again. So I busied myself and soon the snows came so thick and heavy that I was relegated only to my tiny 600sq ft cabin. The craziness that stirred in me was ferocious and slowly it consumed my mind. I was going stark raving mad here and the only thing I could think about was her. Some days it was really bad and I would shuffle around quietly crying and other days I would trash the cabin in anger. I was a mess! I was inexplicably in love with her and I finally admitted it to myself.

Finally I had had enough. I quickly secured the cabin, bundled up and strapped on my skis. I had to get to her, I had to find her or I'd loose my ever loving mind! The truck was buried and so I pushed on towards town. Two hours of fighting my way through blustering wind and drifting snow, I found myself in front of Betty's. I hitched a ride with a trucker heading to Anchorage after dropping off supplies at the store. I was able to buy a ticket on the next flight out only after I borrowed another $600 from Betty. That was something that I really didn't want to do but after seeing me in such a state, Betty quickly placed the order with her credit card. I swore I would have a check in the mail as soon as I got to Portland.

The flight wasn't too long and I found myself extremely bewildered as I stood in the airport looking around at all the people rushing past me. I slowly made my way towards the exit and I began to wonder how I was going to get to her gallery. I pulled out the battered business card to look at the address again when a folded bundle of bills slipped out with it. "Betty" was all I said as I realized with a smile that she must have put my $300 back into my pocket when she had hugged me. I quickly found a cab and read the address to him. Soon I was speeding out of the airport and headed into the downtown area of Portland. I looked out the window and watched the suburban area become more urban and snow began to fall lazily. I started watching the street signs and tapped on the cabbies shoulder when we drove up to the light at the street we were to turn onto. "Let me out here" I said as I handed him a $50 "Keep the change" I mumbled as I stepped from the cab. "Thank you! Merry Christmas!" the cabbie exclaimed over his luck.

I had forgotten that it was Christmas Eve! Of all the holidays, that was one that I had so often wanted to love. I had had happy memories of my childhood Christmas' but nothing could ever come close to those feelings until now. I stood at the corner, the snow drifting lazily down in big flakes, looking for her gallery. I started my walk, humming a Christmas song and not even knowing what I would find once I found it. She more than likely wouldn't be there, not on the eve of a major holiday but I was willing to take that chance. Christmas lights winked at me from darkened store front windows as I made my way down the street. Soon enough I spotted her gallery and I slowly made my way across the vacant street to the store front. I stood at her gallery window; it was a tall single pane of glass that reached from the ground to the ceiling. Frost covered part of the glass, obscuring a painting that stood on its easel, a light highlighting the artists work. I could see her in her glass office at the back of the store front, bent over the desk looking at something on the computer which hid the lower part of her face. The remainder of the gallery space was bathed in light that escaped the office.

I watched her as she absently brushed a wayward curl back behind her ear. At that moment I knew I was totally in love with her and the feelings washed over me with such intensity that I felt like I couldn't breath. She must have sensed my gaze and looked up. Shock registered on her face as our eyes met. I must have been a sight looking like some vagabond standing there, my face pressed against the window watching her. She slowly rose and walked out of the space towards me. My mind screamed `I love you!' but the words never left my mouth. Instead, my hand rose, touched the cold frosty glass and wrote backwards the words "I love you". She walked slowly up the window, smiling at me, bent and breathed on the glass and wrote, "I love you too".

The End

Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed!! If you guys liked, loved it, hated it or just want to make a constructive comment; drop me a line at

Return to the Academy