Disclaimers: These character may display a quality or two that remind you of our lovely ladies, but get over it. They’re mine.

Violence: I don’t think so.

Subtext: Um, kinda. That is to say they’re both willing, but…..

If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com

Thanks, love. You goof. I love you.




Kim Pritekel




Part 1



1856-1883 Liveoak, Colorado


Sarah Elizabeth Montgomery stood at the foot of the twin graves, fresh dirt forming the mounds, her eyes burning from all the tears, though now her eyes were dry. She wasn’t sure she had any tears left. Her small right hand was held in the larger hand of her sister, Mary, who stood next to her fiancé, Michael Bowing Donner. Being eleven years older and the only family left, Mary was now expected to take care of her baby sister. She knew that’s what her parents would have wanted. She glanced down at the golden-haired child, and felt a twinge in her stomach. She did not want the responsibility.

Little Sarah looked up to the sky, green eyes closing against the heavy layer of clouds, the sky like iron. She closed her eyes, wishing herself away, flying high in the sky like a bird. Squeezing them shut tighter…

….Sarah opened her eyes, looking out at the night. The breeze through the open window of her room ruffled her curly locks. She really should shut the blinds. The air smelled of snow. She liked snow. It was so much fun to play in. Her cheek became cold, and she realized that it was because she was starting to cry again. Sarah ran a small hand across her nose, catching the wetness on the back as her nose began to run. She sniffled once, wondering what would happen to her now. She knew Mary didn’t want her, and Michael was mean. The small child, unusually small for her age, laid her head down on small arms, and cried. Outside the snow began to fall, drifting in through the ruffled curtains, falling upon…

…the ground like small white feathers. Sarah hated that old cotton tree. Every year the ground would be littered with the pollen, covering everything like a blanket of snow. She finished hanging the laundry on the line, and looked out at the empty street. She sighed, saddened that the mail wagon had yet to come by. Jesse was supposed to write. She missed him, her only friend. Her sister had warned her about him, saying Jesse and his brother were nothing but trouble. Sarah didn’t care. Jesse was her friend, he treated her good and was nice.

With another sigh, and slumped shoulders, she walked back to the front porch. Mr. and Mrs. Michael Bowing Donner were supposed to leave soon. She didn’t know when; Mary never told her anything. Just soon.

The night wore on, Sarah sat in her rocker near the fire, writing. Seemed that’s all she did. She enjoyed it, though it could be lonely when a journal was your only friend. She sighed, picked up her pen, began to write, the tip scratching…

…and the wheels creaking as the carriage wobbled from side to side with the clop of the horse’s hooves. Sarah watched from the front porch. Mary turned to wave once, then did not turn around again. Her older sister’s words coming back to her:

"Okay Sarah. You’re sixteen now, and can take care of yourself. I’ll be back to check on you from time to time. Michael will send you enough to live on." Then with a quick peck on the cheek, she was out the door.

Years went by, Sarah got older, and always stayed true to her journals. Loyal to the loyal. Loyal to the end. She knew that life could give you a hard knock…

…on the door, but there was no answer. Trudy Todd stood on the old porch, which was worse for wear, still a bit winded from her climb up the hill. Perhaps she’d send her handyman around to fix the rotting boards.

"Sarah, honey?" she called out. The widow began to grow nervous. Sarah had not been to the store for over three weeks. Completely against her nature. The girl had come in at the same time on the same day for nearly thirty years, since her parents’ death. The old woman looked forward to the young woman’s visit every week, the Todd Grocery in need of her sweetness. "Sarah?" the older woman drew her brows, and reached down to try the knob of the old two-story. To her surprise, it opened. "Sarah?" she asked, her voice a bit quiet. She felt strange, the feel of death in the air.

Trudy walked to the old library, where the girl usually read. The widow put her hand to her mouth, gasping in saddened surprise.

"Oh, honey." She walked to the still form, slightly slumped over in the rocker. She did not touch the girl, knowing it was not necessary. On the skirted lap was a volume of Sarah’s numerous journals, opened, face-down. Trudy picked it up, the pale hand that had laid on top of it dropping back to Sarah’s lap. Trudy closed the leather-bound book, and walked over to the paneled wall near the stone fireplace, feeling around, looking for the knothole. It came loose, and she pulled the board free. Inside were the other books, stacked neatly in order by block of seven years. Trudy gently, lovingly laid the last book with the others, put the board back in place, left to get the doctor.


Present Day- Denver, Colorado


The blue prints were spread across the table. I leaned over the plans, my finger pointing to a building.

"This one will be the first to go. Don’t want to renovate it, just demolish it."

"Cass-" I glared, making John Williams cut himself off.

"Okay. Well. Now I think we’re all on the same page?" I stood, looked around the room, the seven men surrounding me nodding. "I should hope so. After going over this for nearly two months. Alright. See you all there in three weeks." My site supervisors and foremen knew that was their cue, and left the room, all except for my right hand man. He waited patiently for everyone to clear out, then turned to his boss. My father, Larry, had been his boss before me. I was rolling the blue prints up, and putting them back in their tube.

"Cass," he said, his voice low. "What are you doing? Don’t you think this is a bit… ambitious?" I looked at him.

"John, I’m a woman leading up her own construction company, buying it out from under my father, making it into my own private empire. Do you really think this is ambitious?" I stuck the plans with my briefcase, ready to be taken home with me only to end up at the work site in the morning.

"Cass, I don’t need your resume,"

"Good. You have a job to do, John. Do it."

John sighed, running a hand through his thinning light brown hair. "Well, is there anything I need to bring?" I grinned, a devilish twinkle in my eye.

"Just your spurs, cowboy."

When I finally had the office to myself, I sat behind the massive desk, putting my feet up on the blotter. Staring out the window, the sounds and sights of Denver just beyond.

I thought of John’s word, ambitious. I smiled, knowing Williams didn’t know just what kind of cord his words had struck. Trying to live up to the image my father had built for his child before their birth, then realizing that his only child was a female. I had one hell of a lot to live up to. The old man was a bastard and it helped heal my wounds everyday knowing that the company Larry Billings had worked so hard to build was gone, taken from him, by me. Billings Works had now become Cassidy Construction.

I turned my attention back to the project we were starting, taking the book I’d picked up from the library and flipping through the pages, looking at the old black and white pictures. At one time Liveoak had been a small, but thriving town. I had read the reports, done my research and knew what had happened to the town, how they had been suddenly and inexplicably been attacked by a large group of raiders in the late eighteen hundreds, 1898 to be exact. But still, why had it all fallen apart? Everyone left alive had picked up and deserted Liveoak. A couple decades later a few men looking for the last great payload had set up camp there, but were soon gone, and Liveoak became a ghost town once again, sitting vacant for another forty years until my grandfather, Jacob, had bought the town for the land it sat on, leaving it to his son to rebuild. When my father hadn’t been able to pay his debts, racked up over years of mismanagement and greed, he had no choice but to sell it to me, along with his company.

I smiled, studying the old buildings, breathing in the scent of old paper and dusty spines. With a sigh I set the book down and studied my gear, piled by the door, ready to be loaded into the Jeep. I planned to head out that night, stay the night in my car, then explore Liveoak tomorrow. My crew wasn’t due there until the end of the month, but I always preferred to size up a situation first myself, decide what needed to be done, what buildings would go, what would be broken down for material. My grandfather would be proud; his town would finally see some action, though it may not be the kind of action he would have liked.

I had been up for some time off, and I figured this would be the best way. Kill two birds with one stone; get some ‘me’ time, and get some work done.

* * *

The sun was beginning to set as I approached the fence and the DO NOT TRESPASS sign, big as day. I unlocked the fence, drove through then closed it behind me. I was actually looking forward to the time alone. My work was hectic, and my life was work. I never had any time to be alone. I had not seen my housekeeper in months. We communicated through notes on the dry-erase board in the kitchen. My German shepherd, Nero, sat on the seat next to me, tongue lolling out to the side, looking around. The first time I’d spent any time with him in far too long. He wasn’t too happy with me these days.

I drove down the dirt road that was Main Street, most of it overgrown with weeds and wild grass. I had to be careful as I maneuvered the Jeep across pot holes, and large rocks. I looked around, the dilapidated buildings all around me. Part of me thought it was such a shame to let a town die. So much time and energy and certainly money had been put into it. Houses and buildings had to be built, and I knew that wasn’t cheap. Now they lay in piles of rubble, or discolored heaps, a ghost of what they used to be. I guess that’s why they were called ghost towns.

Shaking the thought out of my head, I brought my focus back to why I was here. The land was worth more than I made last year, and was no good with an old fire hazard on it.

I looked at my map to see where everything was, what had been what, most signs unreadable or missing. I slowly made my way over the rubble in front of a burned out building, I believe it had been the old mercantile store. Just a skeleton of a building still stood, rough edges reaching toward the sky like broken bones.

Driving on, I saw the old well at the end of Main, which really should have been called Only. I grinned at my own joke. Really did need to interact with people other than construction workers more, get some culture in my life.

The well was still in relatively good shape though the bucket line had either disintegrated or been taken long ago. Weeds and wild grass grew to just above the stone of the well, itself. Only the cap could be seen.

"This place is in some pretty poor shape," I told my dog, reaching across to rub his head between his ears. His only answer was a pitiful whine. I understood the sentiment. At the end of the street I shifted the Jeep into 4-wheel drive and headed up a small hill where I had seen a house. Poor Nero was thrown around, holding on for dear life, looking at me all the while as if I were trying to toss him out of the car on purpose. The path, which was probably pretty crude in its time, was severely overgrown with weeds and grass like the street, but also fallen trees and mud slides over the years had made the road quite the obstacle course. I was glad I had brought the Jeep instead of the car.

Finding a somewhat flat place to park, I pulled the break and looked at the place before me. It was a two-story that had been white, most of the paint peeling or chipped off. The porch was sagging terribly, one side of the railing completely off, laying on the ground. I glanced up, curious if any of the windows had survived time, weather and idiots. Only a couple windows were actually broken, looking as if something had been thrown through. The others were dirty as hell, but intact.

"Come on, boy." I hopped out of the Jeep, grabbing a tool belt and hard hat just in case. I had no idea how sound the place was. I put my .38 at my back and headed out.

The porch was a bit sturdier than it first appeared, but I was still careful. The door hung on by a hinge, so I gently pushed it open, not wanting to rip it off. Part of me felt stupid; the place was going to go anyway. There was no reason for me to be careful or gentle, but it just felt wrong to barge in the place, almost like desecrating someone’s grave.

The house was empty, save for trash scattered, a couple broken pieces of furniture. The wood floors, which had probably been in fairly decent shape in their day, were warped and actually raised in places from a century of rain.

Directly in front of the door was a large staircase, which actually looked remarkably stable, the banister following the winding path all the way up to the second floor. The wood of the railings and stairs were dull and dust-covered, but certainly nothing a heavy dose of polish couldn’t fix. I would definitely be exploring up there later.

I tested my weight on the floor, seeing if there were any soft spots, or places that had already fallen through. So far so good. To the left of the stairs was a small room filled with windows, a large bay window the centerpiece. It must have been beautiful at one time, I tried to imagine the room during its heyday. I wondered what the room had been used for; it couldn’t have been any larger than ten by ten. I walked in, noting with disgust a pile of what looked to possibly be human waste in the corner. Amazing.

I left the smaller room and walked across the hall where there was a hall heading toward the back of the house, and another room straight ahead, to the right of the stairs. This room was a decent size, the center of attraction being the large stone fireplace with wood paneling surrounding it. It, too, needed work. The room would have been airy and bright, the southern wall filled with windows, unusual for a house of this age. I stood in the middle of the room, hands on my hips and gave it another look. I wouldn’t mind revamping the old house and keeping it for myself. I felt comfortable here.

Shaking my head to clear it, I headed toward the back of the house. Once I got out into the hall I realized Nero wasn’t with me. I looked in the two rooms I’d already been in, nothing.

"Nero? Come here, boy." I patted my hand against my thigh, still nothing. Then I heard him whimper slightly. Outside. Worried, I quickly made my way out only to stop short. He laid across the front seat of the Jeep, tail to me, whined again. "Nero? What are you doing?" His tail began to wag when he heard my voice, but he stayed where he was. "What’s up?" I walked around to look him in the face, surprised to see he was actually frightened. Bending down to his level, I petted his head, kissed his nose. "You okay, big guy? Why are you so scared, boy? There’s nothing to be afraid of." He raised his head a bit, cocking it slightly, tail gaining a little speed. "That a boy." I stood and headed back toward the house. "Come on." Glancing over my shoulder I saw that he hadn’t moved. Trying to decide what to do, I didn’t want to leave him out there, but didn’t want him to be scared, either. "You stay there Nero. Got it? Stay." He whined, laid his head on his paws.

I headed back into the house, determined to see the entire thing. As I entered I stopped, realized how hot it had gotten outside, even for a mountain town. The house was so cold, I thought it had cooled off out there. I suppose when houses were built during the time this one had been, there was not a whole lot known about insulation. I headed down the hall alongside the stairs.

The room at the end of the hall was what had been the kitchen. A table stood at one end, the carved legs dusty and one broken, the table at an angle. There were no chairs anywhere. The room was large, the doorless back entrance at the far end. Shelves still lined one wall above what must have been the stove, the gas pipe still visible through the plaster of the wall. The wall above was smoked black from years of cooking. I ran a finger over the dark stains, smooth and cool. I could almost smell all the things that had been cooked in here.

Near the back by the door was a small room filled with windows flooding it with sunlight. I wondered what it had been used for. Probably a pantry.

Leaving the kitchen, I decided to head upstairs. As I walked down the hall, I saw Nero sitting just outside the front door, staring at me, tongue hanging out of his mouth as he panted.

"Well, look who decided to come to life." I walked over to him, bending down to give him a proper hug. "Come on, Nero." Reluctantly, tail tucked between his legs, the dog followed me.

I headed up, taking each step carefully not wanting to break a leg falling through. The stairs squeaked, some steps soft from age, my dog following slowly behind. I ran my hand up the banister for a bit, taking my hand away only to see the palm and pads of my fingers near black with dust. Wiping them on my jeans, I continued up. The upstairs was not as large as the first floor, only having two rooms, probably bedrooms. I headed to the left, both rooms at either end of the hall, a large octagonal-shaped window in the wall straight ahead, the colors of the stained glass dull and streaked. I looked at the walls curious to see what kind of shape they were in. Some of the plaster had been broken off, revealing the boards beneath.

The room was small, one window, the glass broken out. A pile of old newspapers sat in the corner. I walked over to them, figuring they had been someone’s blanket for a night or two. Kicking them with the toe of my boot, a small mouse ran scurrying to a hole in the wall, making me jump. I put my hand to my chest, taking deep breaths before smiling at my own stupidity and surprise. Nothing else to see, I walked back out into the hall.

"Sad, huh boy?" Nero whined. He walked with me toward the other room before stopping short, another whine as he pushed himself against the wall. "What is your deal?" Shaking my head, I walked in. I had no idea I had such a wimp for a dog. This room was a little larger than the first, and to my surprise a brass bed sat in the center, against one wall. It was tarnished and the bedding was no longer existent, the mattress old, stained, feathers sticking out in places. Amazed it was still there, I walked over to it, marveling at the quality of the work. I tried to picture what the bed had looked like brand new. It would have been expensive.

Turning away from the bed, I saw a large mirror sitting in its stand in the corner. The glass had been cracked, and the silver behind the glass tarnished in places, given the images a slightly yellowish tint. I looked at my image, slightly distorted in places from the spider web cracks that ran out from the original break. My hair, no longer its usual dark color, made to look a strange brownish/green, my blue eyes crooked as the crack ran right through my reflection.

I glanced around the rest of the room, empty save for debris that had fallen off the walls and a large water spot in the corner by the bed. I looked up at the ceiling to see another spot mirroring the first. The spots were old, our rainfall this year far below where it should be. I wondered when the last snow had been here in Liveoak.

"Come on, boy." I scratched Nero behind the ears and he gladly followed me down the stairs, racing past me toward the end and running out onto the porch. "Strange pooch."

I was glad to feel the warmth of the day against my skin, rubbing my arms to warm them a bit. I glanced up into the sky, the clouds outside were beginning to gather, dark and foreboding. Judging by how yellow and dry everything was, this may be the first hint of rain in this part for a while. Far off I heard the deep rumbling of thunder. The scent of rain was in the air as well. It was coming with the night. I looked at my watch to see it was nearly seven. It had been a long day, and I wanted to settle in and relax.

It didn’t take long to unload what I needed from the Jeep: blow up mattress, small battery-powered heater and lantern, cooler of food and drink, food for Nero, my .38 and my laptop with its battery pack.

As the rain fell, I decided it wasn’t too wise to stay in the car, sleeping wet not exactly a goal of mine. I set everything up in the room with the fireplace. Maybe if I stayed here long enough I could see if it still worked, or what would need to be done to fix it. Surely it was clogged with dirt and leaves by now. I also wouldn’t be surprised if some birds had made a home in there.

I set everything on the floor, looking around, I suddenly felt very sad and alone. I felt like there was not another living soul on earth, just me and Nero. He stayed close by me, perking up only when I brought out the container of Dog Chow and a bowl of water.

As the rain began to fall harder, the late August night got colder. I brought out a blanket and laid it on the blow up mattress, filled with air and ready to go. I looked around the little nest I had made, chuckling as everything was as close to each other as possible. Truth of it was, I was a little creeped out for some reason.

I took the library book about the town out of my pack, and sat back against the wall, blanket firmly wrapped around me, and began to read more on the town, wanting to find out who this house had belonged to and what had been their fate.

I sat upon the bed, my hands folded neatly in my lap. I had no idea what to do, then I never did. I couldn’t simply ask her to leave, could I? No, of course not. How would I do that? I was bothered and a little flustered. No one had been here for so long, and I missed the quiet. I hated feeling so powerless. And that beast she brought with her. Why is it in my house?

I stood and walked over to the window, the night my best friend, and cloak. I was always so saddened to see the glass broken out of its pane. I remembered all too clearly when that had happened. I have no idea anymore how long it had been, the time passing me by as it always has. But two of them came in, running through my home as if hunting a wild animal. They looked in every room, torches in their hands. I was so terrified they would burn the house down. Thank god for the Sheriff; he always did try to save me. But they still managed to break out my window.

I heard her walking around downstairs. I had grown used to the way they started to dress, but I was surprised to see her not in a dress. Wasn’t that inappropriate? Rarely did I see them anymore, the kind like her. I only saw the other ones, the violent ones or the smelly ones.

I turned and walked toward the door of my room, glancing briefly into my mirror. I looked into my eyes that had grown so sad. I hated to be this way, but I missed my writings. I couldn’t find my journals. Where were they? I knew where I put them, or used to, but I could not remember how to get there now. Perhaps she could help?

I walked to the top of the stairs, staring down. It looked as if she had gone into the study. It was dark out now, but I could see a light in there. I sat down on the top step, pulling my dress over my knees, resting my chin in my hands, and waited.

* * *


I twitched once, then realized the sun was beating right in on me, trying to nudge my tightly closed lids open. With a groan, I slowly opened them, looking around, completely disoriented. I sat up, my back protesting all the while. I stretched my arms above my head, listening as my vertebrae cracked and groaned.

Nero was still asleep, on his side, all fours out before him. Lazy ass. I stood, trying to stretch my body. I was too old for this camping bullshit. I opened the ice chest to grab a bottle of orange juice, and walked to the front door to look around as I drank. Absolutely gorgeous. The mountains curved around Liveoak forming a sort of valley, and as the nights were getting colder and colder up this high the fog in the early morning was magnificent. One thing about living in the city was you never got to see anything quite like this. The blue of the mountains, gold of the sunrise and white fog. Brilliant.

I turned back to head into the house. Today I would explore. I walked back to the room with the fireplace, and looked around. Now that it was full daylight, and I was for the most part awake, I looked around at what remained.

There were holes in the wall near the back window, and I walked over to it. I imagined there had once been some sort of shelving there as there were studs left in the wall. I looked to the floor to see a pile of wood lying there. Perhaps that had been the shelves. Further down the wall I saw a couple books, mostly intact. I kneeled down and picked on up, a rather large spider crawling out from under it. Catching my runaway heartbeat, I looked at the book. The pages were yellow and stiff, much water damage on the frail pages. The looked at the spine, wiping off some of the grime of age to read: Treasure Island by R.L. Stevenson. It looked an original copy. Too bad it was in such poor condition. I carefully turned some of the pages to see if it was readable at all. It was, a bit. If I was extremely gentle with it, I could probably get most of the story.

I carried the book to my little nest and set it down next to the library book. The fireplace caught my eyes, and I turned my attention to it. Running my fingers over the fine stone, covered with years of dust and soot. I ducked my head to look inside the actual fire pit. It was in much better shape than I had thought, and with a bit of work could be functional. I’d have to get on the roof to check out the chimney.

But it didn’t matter anyway, because this house would be a pile of boards and glass within a month.

I stood and looked around the room again, deciding to check out the kitchen more thoroughly.

My back to the wall, I listen. She woke early, and I’ve been curious ever since, wondering what she is doing, what more of my house is being destroyed. I hadn’t heard the usual sounds of destruction, so maybe she’s different. The beast came upstairs last night, looking around. The dog stopped in the doorway of my room as I lay on my bed. It looked at me, the head cocking slightly to the side. I could hear how afraid yet curious it was. It was conversing amongst itself, wondering what it should do, and if it should get its owner.

It could see me. That was new. I could hear all its questions, and I tried to answer them for it. I wonder if it worked, as it scurried away, running back downstairs to its master.

Its master.

I roamed the house as I usually do, making sure that every room is safe and secure, no more destruction. I found myself in the reading room, the fireplace always inviting for me. But, there she was, the master of the beast. She slept, her body curled up upon itself. I knelt down beside her belongings. They are strange, the little box that I feel emits heat. How does this work? I reach for it, she turns over in her sleep, causing me to snatch my hand back. She pulls the blanket a bit higher on her shoulders. I was surprised by her sudden movement, but manage to regain my composure. I glance over at the beast to see it is still asleep. This is good.

Looking back to her, I see her eyes are tightly closed. I looked at her, in her strange clothes, blue colored trousers, a loose garment on top with long sleeves. The material looked soft, and I wondered where a person could find a bolt of it. It looked as if it would make a wonderful comforter for my bed. I’m always so cold.

I stood, turning away from the women when I felt drawn. I turned around again to see the fireplace. What was it? I didn’t understand it, why every time I came into this room I always turned to it. Perhaps wishful thinking; I missed the sound of popping flames and the smell of burning wood.

I sighed, headed out of the room.

As I stand on the stairs, listening, I hear her leave the room, and see her, she is walking into the hall, toward the kitchen. What will she do there? I want to follow, but am not sure if I should. The dog follows her. It looks up at me as it walks by, staring me in the eye for a moment, then stopped, looking directly at me, and barks. It is loud, ringing in my ears. I cover them, not hearing such a sound for so long. The beast hurries after its master.

I ran my fingers across the wall as I walked down the hall, then stopped when I heard Nero bark. I stopped and turned to see him standing at the foot of the stairs, looking up.

"Come on, Nero. There’s nothing there. Let’s go." He stared for a moment longer, then hurried to catch up. "You nut." I ruffled the fur on top of his head as I started walking again. He stayed with me, tongue lolling out of his mouth. As I looked at him, it seemed as if he was a completely different dog from yesterday. He still seemed a bit squeamish now and then, but overall, comfortable.

I turned my attention back to the room before me. The kitchen had been fairly good size for the time. I could imagine besides the stove there probably had been some sort of wash tub close to it. I looked at the table, where I can still see someone standing over it, rolling out dough, or measuring ingredients. Probably even sewing.

Staring at the ceiling, I saw a pan rack I had missed initially yesterday. There were no pans hanging from its iron prongs, but once there had been. Copper pots, iron skillets and huge iron cauldron for soups and boiling water for washing.

What had happened to kill the past so suddenly?

I headed into the room I figured had been the pantry. Some shelves had managed to survive the years, thought cobwebs gathered in the corners, and dust permeated everything. I looked up to see an old lantern on the top shelf. I grabbed it, careful so nothing fell on my head. I did not need a nest of bugs living in my hair.

The glass was covered with dust on the outside, and soot on the inside. It was in good shape, and I’d guess still useable. I continued to look around the room, just barely large enough to fully turn around in. It was dark, only a tiny window that looked into the kitchen. I looked through the smudged glass, my heart stopping in my throat as my peripheral vision caught movement.

My hand on my chest, I stepped out of the pantry, and looked around, glancing out the back door. Nothing. I turned back to the room itself, looking at the table, the stove pipe, down the hall where just the very edge of the banister could be seen at the end. There was no one there. Just Nero standing in the doorway, staring at the wall. Stupid dog.

Chuckling at my own childishness, I headed toward the backdoor. I wanted to see what was outside.

I closed my eyes, my chest nearly convulsing in fear and surprise. I had no idea she had been in the pantry, and when I had seen her face through the window, it had scared me greatly.

My head fell back against the wall I had pinned myself to, my hand on my heart. I opened my eyes to see the dog staring at me, its head cocked slightly to the side. I stared into its eyes, seeing the beautiful brown of their color, and I saw a wonderful caring soul behind them. It wanted to know if I was alright. I smiled at it. It whined once, then turned to follow its master outside.

I had gotten curious, hearing silence for so long. I remembered as a child my mother coming to see what my sister and I were up to when things got too quiet. I laughed to myself. Perhaps I’ll learn not to do that again.

I finally pushed away from the wall, and carefully walked toward the back door. I did not want to get startled again, nor did I want to run into her. I was not terribly comfortable being in the same room as them.

I pressed my body as close to the door frame as possible, and watched. She, followed by the dog, walked around, trying to push the unbelievably high weeds and grass out of the way. Now she was over by my garden. The dog followed, happily wagging its tail.

"Come on, Nero. Check this out," she said, the dog hurrying over to where she looked. Nero? That must be its name. I watched how they interacted and felt, I wasn’t sure. I had a strange feeling, one that I unfortunately knew well. I felt sad. I had never had a beast of my own, and perhaps to my own detriment. Trudy Todd always used to say I should get one, then perhaps I wouldn’t be so lonely.

I found it ironic that what I most wanted I had, and did not want. She and Nero were not invited here, nor were they wanted. But I still watched on, fascinated.

I stood, the old shovel in my hands, and stared down at the tool. The wood handle was worn, looking as though it could snap at any moment. The head of the shovel was still very much intact, albeit extremely rusted. I turned it in my hands, wondering if it could still be of use. Possibly. Using it as a walking stick, I continued further into the mass of weeds.

"Watch for snakes, Nero." He whined, and I grinned, then stopped, the hair on the back of my neck standing on end. I turned to look over my shoulder, the distinct feeling of being watched surrounding me. I looked up at the windows of the top floor, almost expecting to see the face of some entity staring down at me. There was nothing there, of course. A shiver still passed down my spine.

Off in the distance was an old, half burnt out building. I figured it had either been an outhouse or the opening to the root cellar. Either way, I didn’t feel it warranted exploration.

Small, useless buildings like that would be the first to go.

I looked around the yard, trying to see if there was anything else here for me. I saw nothing, so headed back toward the house.

* * *


Nero followed me as I walked though the town, my library book in my hands so I could attempt to make some identifications. I stopped in front of what had once been a feed store, and looked up. The two-story was in remarkably good shape, the wood worn and warped, but still in one piece, most of the windows gone.

I shaded my eyes from the intense rays of the morning sun as I took in the building as a whole. The front door was no longer existent, which was not much of a surprise to me. I headed inside, the main room extraordinarily dusty and dark. I saw what I assumed had been a long counter for buyers to lay their goods out on, the remnants of shelving against the back wall behind it. I was shocked to see a few mason jars stored in the corner behind the counter. They were still sealed, but too covered with grime and age to read what the contents were. I could not even imagine from looking at it.

I made a slow circle from the center of the room, looking the entire place over. The stairs, mostly all there, off to the left at the back of the room, narrow with the railing missing. The rest of the room was wide-open space, making me wonder if it had either been possibly a saloon as well as a feed store, or even an eatery. There was plenty of room for tables and a bar to line the back wall.

Walking over to the stairs, I tested a few steps, they were not sturdy. Deciding to continue my exploring, I left the old store.

As I walked the streets of Liveoak, some of the old plank sidewalk still there, I envisioned the town made new again; rebuilt feed store and grocer, a saloon at the end of the block with posts built for horses to be hitched to. Just an effect, of course. I could see a gift shot where the old barber used to be, perhaps the barber still there, the old red and white pole that was still there, could be used again. Visitors could have their hair done by an actual barber in the garb of 1880 cutting their hair, then they could stroll on over to spend money in the gift shop.

I stood in the middle of the street, rubbing Nero between the ears, looking all around me. The possibilities were endless.

Shaking the thought out of my head, I turned back toward the house where my gear was, and where I’d planned to start my demolitions today. I brought to my mind’s eye what I had planned for this town, the vacation homes, and of course the water that was beneath this area. It would bring in more money than I could have thought of.

Whistling an unknown tune, I hurried up the hill to the house.

* * *


A pile of tools were sitting on the porch, and I was about to add some more. Tool belt over my shoulder, I grabbed up the hammer, sledgehammer, crowbars, and box of screwdrivers and pliers, and headed inside.

Dropping everything near my other stuff from the night before, I looked around the room to try and decide where I wanted to start, and exactly what I was wanting to do. I knew the demolition crews were set to arrive in two and a half weeks, but I decide to get a start with the house. There were some things that I could use later, like the bed. It was worth something. Plus, I wanted to see what the house was made of.

A lot of the material from these buildings could be incorporated into the structures we’d build for the resort. People usually like a bit of authenticity.

I watched from the doorway to the room. Oh my, what was she going to do? I did not like the look of the tools she brought in. I had seen something similar once with Mary’s husband, Michael. He had come over just before they married to knock down a wall that had been damaged during a small fire here in the house. I had told Mary not to try and use the cloth for warmth. The flames licked at it until it was no more.

I took a step closer, her back to me as she walked toward the wall with the fireplace. She was examining the stone. I wondered why. Instead, my attention was averted back to the tools. They were shiny and looked dangerous. Father never let us touch his tools. He said we would hurt ourselves. How is it, then, that her father allowed her to have his tools?

Nero sat next to its owner, ever faithful. Its head turned, and the beast looked at me, then the tail began to wag. I smiled, liking this. Did it mean it was happy to see me? How delightful! Rarely was anyone happy to see me. No one had for so long.

Suddenly the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, and my eyes were jerked up…

I picked up the sledge, feeling its weight in my hand, then turned to the fireplace. The wood paneling around it was in excellent shape, and would make wonderful building wood. I brought the hammer back over my shoulder, and started to bring it down.


I stopped, the hammer nearly tearing my arm out of its socket as I stopped the swing, and looked around the room.

"What the hell?"

I covered my mouth with my hands, so afraid. I knew she couldn’t destroy the wood around the fireplace, but if only I could remember why.

I turned in a full circle to see nothing, and hurried to check out in the hall and outside. There was nothing there. What the hell was that? I put my hand on my chest, my heart beating wildly under the skin. I wasn’t sure if I was frightened, or just surprised. Kind of like turning a corner only to nearly run smack into someone.

I headed back into the room, and over to the fireplace, the sledge hammer tapping lightly against my leg as I tried to decide what to do. Taking a deep breath, feeling quite stupid, I brought it up again when I noticed a loose part in the wood.

My brows drawn, I kneeled down next to it, seeing the gap next to a large knot in one of the pieces of wood. Tossing the hammer aside, I brought both hands to it, trying to jimmy the boards apart. They would not move. I sat back, rubbing my chin. Maybe they’re not meant to, and time has moved them. I grabbed my flashlight, and shone the beam in the tiny space between the boards. Not a great deal could be seen, but it was hollow, not stone like I figured it should be. Even plaster.

I grabbed the crowbar, and started in again. With a grunt from me, and a groan from the boards, finally it came loose. Setting the board aside, I grabbed the flashlight again. The hole was not exceptionally deep, but was filled with dust and spider webs. Grimacing at the amount of critters crawling around in there, I pushed aside the mess they left behind, seeing the edge of something. Finally I reached in, feeling smoothness beneath my fingers. And the edge of a book, or two. Three?

Pulling out the volumes, I saw there were actually four. They were covered in an inch of dust, the gummy strings of the webs also spread across the face of the first. Wiping it all away with a towel, I looked down at my find.


I traced the gold lettering with my fingertip, not sure what to do with them.

I held my breath, my hands still at my mouth. Could it be? Oh, was this where they had been the whole time? I took a step forward, cautious, but I had to know, had to see my beloved journals.

I looked over her shoulder, my eyes hungry for the sight of the leather covers. My breath drew when I saw it was them. I had found them. My eyes went Heavenward, and I smiled, ever grateful. I wanted to touch them so badly, but didn’t dare. They were here. With me.

A shiver ran through me suddenly. I looked out the window to see if a storm was on the way. Turning my attention back to my find, I looked at each volume individually, carefully opening the cover to see a date written on the first page of each. The first was dated: 1856, the last 1883 and the years between. Each journal held, what appeared to be, about seven years worth of entries. They were all written in the same beautiful, almost frail, handwriting. The name that adorned each entry was Sarah Elizabeth Montgomery.

"So that must be who lived here." I flipped through some of the pages, actually very well preserved for being over one hundred and twenty years old. "These yours, Sarah?" I mused. I set the journals aside, and turned back to the hole in the wall.

My head lifted when I heard my name. I had not heard it in so long, I nearly had forgotten what it was. The sound seemed foreign to my own tongue as I mouthed it. Sarah. Yes, that was it.

I stared at this stranger in my home, wondering who she was, and who had sent her. Was she here to bring me Heaven or Hell? She had found my journals, this was a blessing. But, all that I knew of tools was destruction. What did she plan for my house? I knew I could not stop her, and for that I may be eternally sorry.

Then my thoughts drifted back to when I had cried out. In that moment I knew she could not destroy the wood. I knew there was something hidden, my secret space I had discovered as a very small child.

My older sister, Mary, would take my toys and books. I had very few memories of my mother, I was so young when she and father died. But I do remember her introducing me to books and writing. She told me how important it was that I learn to read and write. She told me that Mary would marry, and would not have to worry about her future. But me, she said I would have to rely on my wits and mind to get me further in life. I didn’t understand then exactly what she meant. My mother was my hero, my life, so I listened, and I learned, and I lost. She died, Mary got married, and I lived alone.

I turned away from her, walked to the window to look outside at what had once been a beautiful flowerbed. I had spent hours outside, my large straw hat to shield my head from the sun and heat. Mother always told me that with my fair hair and skin I would get burnt in the sun very easily. She had been right. That lesson had been learned the hard way.

Smiling at the thought, I left the room and the stranger. I wanted to be alone.

I shined the flashlight beam back into the hole, looking for anything else that had been so cleverly hidden basically out in the open. There was nothing more. Somewhat disappointed, but not real surprised, I shut the flashlight off, and put the boards back in place.

* * *


I looked around, the streets before me were dusty and full of tracks. Upon further inspection, I realized they were horse and wagon tracks. Drawing my brows, I tried to figure out where I was.

I was standing right in front of a two-story building, rundown but still workable. The door was open, but I saw no one on the boardwalk. I looked up and saw the sign hanging over the door. It was crooked and worn, the paint barely readable.

Todd’s Grocery

I walked toward it, peeking my head around the door to see the place was empty. Pushing the door open, I walked in. The cash register sat on the counter to the left, the money drawer still open. I looked inside to see bills and some change. I had never seen old money before. Kind of cool.

I saw the shelves were bare, but dust-free. It was almost as if everything had just been bought, the store emptied in one huge swoop. Crazy shopping spree by the whole town. But where was the town?

But somehow in my dreamy state of mind that didn’t seem so odd, somehow.

I saw the stairs at the back of the store, and headed toward them. I wondered what was up there. My mind conjured up all sorts of different scenarios; it was the local town brothel up there. Or a gambling hall.

Okay, Cass, you’ve seen far too many westerns.

The stairs creaked under my weight, but were stable. My hand slid along the rail, smooth, but rough and splintery in some places until finally I reached the top. In front of me was the wall, and a sharp left turn later got me into a hallway, long and sort of dark. I felt like I needed to have a lantern in my hand here at night. Luckily it was day, and light shone through the windows in the rooms to the left and right of the hall.

There was three doors to either side, six total. I looked inside the first on the right, and saw a bed, stripped down to the mattress, and a pillow. A small table stood beside the bed, a large pitcher and bowl on it. I turned to see two wooden hooks mounted on the wall next to the door, and that was it. Checking out the other rooms, I found they all looked pretty much the same, and I figured that this top floor was also a B&B type thing.

Suddenly I found myself out on the street again, and facing the hill with the old house on it. I looked at it, stunned to see it in its previous glory. The siding was white and spotless. Dark green shutters lined all the windows, and the porch, up and in one piece, had a rocker sitting on it.

I started up the trail that would take me to the house…

* * *


I opened my eyes, saw something yellow in front of me. Blinking rapidly, I saw that it was the flashlight. I grabbed it and sat up, my head hurting with the intense pain of a sharp headache.

My god, I felt like I’d been run over by a train. My head in my hands, I flipped the flashlight on. I still had my blanket tucked all around my legs, making my lower half look like either a burrito or a mermaid. All my gear was stacked neatly by my pillow, including the open journal I’d been reading before bed. I grabbed it, and pulled it on my lap, staring down at the page. The beautiful hand writing, so dark against the stark whiteness of the page. I tried to imagine the hand that wrote this. From the writing I could see Sarah Elizabeth Montgomery being petite, small.

I stared into the darkness beyond the reach of the flashlights beam, trying to see the author. Imagine what her face looked like. She had yet to describe herself in her writings.

I glanced at my watch to see it was nearly four in the morning, and I knew there was no way I was going back to sleep.

I scooted back to lean against the wall, and moved my arm as Nero made his way over to me, laying his head on my lap. I petted him as I thought about that weird dream. Part of me wished I could go back to sleep to see more of Liveoak before it fell to pieces. It always amazed me what the mind could conjure up. I wonder how close I had to come to what the town had really looked like. In Sarah’s journal she had described the town so well, what it had looked like, the people and characters who lived there.

The only one I didn’t see was Sarah herself.

I heard movement downstairs, and I wondered if it was the woman, or if someone else was inside. Did the woman have a name? Surely she did. I wish I knew what it was. I also wonder what she thought of her partial tour of the town.

* * *


I awoke, my head against something hard, my upper body cold. Opening my eyes, I realized I was still leaning against the wall, the journal open on my lap, the blankets gathered around my waist. I looked around to see the flashlight laying next to my right hand, and it looked to be on. Well, was. Picking it up, I flicked the switch. Sure enough, the batteries had died.

"Shit." Tossing it aside, I knew I’d have to find civilization and pick up some more supplies. I had not intended to stay the entire three weeks, but now I decided that perhaps it would be a good idea. I wanted to know more about Liveoak, and those who lived in it. I had a feeling Sarah would help me do just that.

Maybe it would be good to just take some time and relax, not worry about work or time. Just lose myself in another time. I looked at the journals beside me. I’d definitely have some good reading material.

Today Nero and I would head out to stock up for another couple of weeks before the work crews got here.

I found a Wal-Mart about thirty miles away, and quickly pulled the Jeep into a space and headed inside.

As I pushed the buggy down the aisle I thought about the old house, and I really didn’t want to tear it down. I had a feeling there was so much history there, and it just seemed a shame. The rest of the town just looked like an old movie set, no real personality in any of it. I didn’t feel it was worth saving. Was there some way to incorporate it into my plans? I shook my head to clear it, and moved on.

Walking by the hardware department, I turned into an aisle where rows upon rows of different types of nails and screws and fasteners lined the shelves and peg boards. This sort of thing was my candy store. My eyes opened wide and I looked at every single nail, thinking in my head all the things that could be done with that one particular nail or screw.

My grandfather used to take me around with him to the different construction sites and explain what everything was used for, and how it worked. He had loved my interest and enthusiasm, and had done his best, to the detriment of my father, to teach me everything he knew. I learned from the best until I was the best.

Eat it up, old man. Do I seem bitter?

I chuckled at my own thoughts as I continued to look for what, I didn’t know. I grabbed a package of nails, reading the vital information, then tossing them into my cart. Several more packages of different types followed until I had enough to build a house. Or, rebuild.

Next I headed to the Home Depot. An hour later I had a truck following me back out to Liveoak filled with drywall supplies, lumber and a door.

* * *


I watched out the second story window as the woman’s wagon left. I had seen those before, and was always amazed that there was no horse attached. I didn’t fully understand what pulled them. I wish I could ask her.

The house was completely silent. What I had prayed for a week ago, I did not want now. Was she leaving for good? I didn’t think so. She had left too much of her gear here.

I hurried down the stairs, feeling like a child who’s been left alone when her parents decide to go to the local horse show, and the girl is allowed to see everything that is kept from a child’s eyes. My delight was heightened when I saw her gear by the fireplace right where she’d left it. And my journals. Stopping at the door to the room, suddenly I felt like an intruder.

I pressed my back to the wall and looked at all that was before me. I could see the strange mattress that she slept on. What was that made of? Surely not goose feathers. It was red. Never in my life had I seen a red mattress. I wondered if it was soft and comfortable. My eyes trailed over the tools, shiny in the mid-day sun.

My curiosity overcoming me, I hurried to the fireplace and her gear wanting to see more. Of course I kept glancing at my journals. Oh what I wouldn’t do to take them upstairs to my bedroom with me and write more. I had no idea where my pen was now. Did she have one?

I knelt down next to her things, and looked at everything, marveling at how different household items of hers looked from those same things that had once belonged to me. I often dreamed that they were still her, that all I had to do was go downstairs to the kitchen and there I’d find my stove and counters. My table is still there, but it’s broken. Can she fix it with these tools?

My gaze fell to my journals again, stacked neatly in a pile against the wall. I reached my hand out, needing so much to touch them, to feel their solidness. I closed my eyes and thought hard, opening them again to smile as the cover of the first journal slowly opened. I knew I didn’t have the strength to read the journal, open other pages, but at least I could see the words, my handwriting, knowing that I had written that, I had been there. I had existed, and that was the proof.

I leaned in, my eyes gazing at my carefully scripted words. My life filling four volumes. Everyday of it listed there for all to read, to know and understand. That was all that I am or ever was.

I felt a tear sting, and I closed my eyes, the single drop sliding out from beneath my lid, slowly, lazily sliding down my cheek. I opened my eyes in time to see it fall from my chin onto the page with a soft plop. Within a moment it had already begun to fade like it was never there. More tears came. Was that my hell? To be invisible for eternity?

I heard the wagon returning, and stood, hurrying back to my bedroom.

"This way, gentlemen. I want the wood, plaster and sheetrock in the kitchen." The delivery guys grunted their way to the back of the house, red-faced from the heavy load.

"Okay, Cassidy. Anything else we can do?" the lead guy asked, walking back to the front door, wiping his hands on his pants.

"Nope. That’ll do it. Thanks, Mike. I appreciate it." I dug in my wallet to find a twenty, and gave it to him. "Lunch on me." I grinned, and he smiled taking the money.

"Well, good luck to you."

I watched the two men leave, and turned back to the house. I had a lot of work ahead of me, and had no idea what I was going to do. I headed into the front room with the fireplace, that probably being one of the first things I worked on after the roof. I looked at my gear, glad to see it was all still there, and no indigent had decided this was the day to come to Liveoak. My eyes were drawn to the journals. The top volume’s cover was open. Biting my lower lip, I knelt down, curious. I know I had left all four books stacked neatly to keep them together. They were beginning to wear, and I didn’t want to chance them falling apart.

I shook my head, dismissing the entire thing when I noticed a slight smudge on the page, just under Sarah’s name. I traced my finger over it, my hand quickly pulling away. It was cold, almost like a little smudge of ice. My brows drawing, I closed the book.

* * *


I stood at the bottom of the hill to head up to the house. The grass was green, the weeds sporadic, and if I didn’t know better, I would have thought were there for decorative purposes. Clever way to spruce up the yard. I looked around for the road that I knew led to the house, quickly finding it. The road was slightly pitted, but nothing major. I noticed there were no tracks on this road at all. Just dirt and rocks.

Making my way up the steep path, I looked up at the house at the top of the hill. The porch was painted a bright, new white, the rocker still on it, slightly rocking as if someone had just gotten up from it. I noticed a clothesline along the side of the house, wet clothes hanging. There were two dresses, one white the other blue and green and some women’s underwear. I noticed there was an easel set up near the front door, the artist would be facing a huge stand of trees, the mountains visible through their branches. It truly would make a wonderful picture.

I looked at the porch, in shock at its condition. The rails looked freshly painted, green to match the shutters. The house looked so nice and peaceful. I could imagine a family living here, kids, dog all of it. The inner door was open, only a wooden screen door to keep summer bugs out. I looked inside, the wood floors polished to a shine.

Turning, I looked out at the view from the porch. The entire town of Liveoak could be seen, plus the mountains behind it. It was truly breathtaking. I looked at the canvas on the easel and saw the view I had seen before, painted in water colors. It was wonderful, very realistic and true. I wondered if Sarah was the artist.

I turned back to the house, my eyes going to the brass handle on the screen door, my hand reaching out for it…

* * *


My eyes snapped open, and I sat up with a jolt. In the darkness my gaze went straight down to my right. I had no idea why, and reached a hand out to see what was there, if something had awaken me. Smooth, cool leather. The journal. I grabbed the flashlight, and clicked it on, closing my eyes as my head began to pound when the light washed into my eyes. I grabbed my head, rubbing my temples.

"God, I feel like I’m hung over." Running a hand through my hair, I looked around. The sun could just barely be seen creeping over the horizon. I guess it must be around five or six in the morning. Nero whined, but began to snore again. "Thanks, pal." I muttered. I stood, taking my blanket with me as I made my way to the front door that I had fixed the day before. A brand new one in the frame, it helped to keep some of the night breeze out. I unlocked and opened the door, stepped out onto the newly revamped porch. I had jacked the existing porch up, gone underneath to replace the rotten and broken boards, and to put some stabilizers in, making it solid and safe. It needed more work, like to be completely replaced, but I didn’t bother. Why would I?

I could see the light blue line all along the horizon and tree tops of the sun beginning to rise further away, soon to spread its glory to Liveoak. I breathed in the mountain air, filling my lungs with more pure air than they’d ever get in Denver. Every day on the news you were told what parts of the city were affected the most by the smog that day, and in the winter, which parts could actually use their fireplace. God, why did people ruin their world? Being in a place like this, you could forget all about that, all about the problems of the world. Here it was just you and nature.

The dream came back to me. The strange thing was I remembered it so vividly, every detail, as well as the dream of the night before last. They were more like a memory than a dream. Gee, had I lived here in my past life? I chuckled at this thought. But the dreams did leave me perplexed.

I had been reading Sarah’s journals every night before bed. I read pages and pages. Learning about how her father, Alfred had been a miner, striking it rich with the silver mines. He had taken his payday and moved his young family to Liveoak. His wife, Elizabeth had been a teacher here. She taught her young daughters Mary and Sarah how to read and write at a young age. Four-year-old Sarah had been seen by many in the town as a child prodigy, learning to read and write by age two, and a master at the piano by age six. That’s when the good had ended. Alfred and Elizabeth had been killed in an accident involving a wagon that had lost a wheel and a steam train. Mary, many years older than her baby sister had been left to care for the child who was not very healthy.

Mary had her own life by that time, as well as her own fiancé. All that was good and well, but what really got me was this poor girl after all this, and once she had grown up.

I leaned against the pole by the stairs of the porch, and imagined this girl, so young and alone in the world. After Mary had married her fiancé, who Sarah called "The Beast", she had left Sarah alone, sending her money every month to live on. Sarah had pretty much given up, and figured she’d be a spinster, all alone for the rest of her life.

The sky began to glow as the sun peeked up over the treetops, burning the sky with its radiance. I watched in wonder as the sky was clear like crystal. There was no smog or fog layer to block this unbelievable wonder.

I couldn’t stop the smile that spread across my face as I looked out over the town, seeing the dead wood coming to life for just a moment as it was touched by new light.

I turned and headed back into the house.

I sat on the top stair, watching Cassidy. Cassidy was her name. I heard the man call her that. It was nice to have something to call her other than just her or she. Cassidy. An odd name, sounding much more like a last name than a first. I wonder what her last name was. Joan?

I smiled at my attempt at a joke. She stood on the front porch, which I was so grateful she had fixed. I wondered what she was thinking standing out there all alone. No one had ever done anything good for this house, only bad things. They’d knock down walls, or destroy furniture. I was intrigued by this one. Who was she? My angel? Maybe come to finally take me out of this place?

I had come to think perhaps staying in my family home was my hell. For what sin I did not know. I had tried to live a good life, albeit very quiet. But I didn’t feel I had had a choice in that. No one understood me, that I knew. Until the day I, well, that day, I didn’t know why I was such an anomaly to everyone. I think the only two people who ever really understood me were my mother and Mrs. Todd. I was so thankful for her friendship. Even after her husband had died, and she had been so distraught. She had come everyday to at least say hello, sometimes buy one of my paintings.

My attention turned back to Cassidy. It felt good to know someone else’s name again. Mrs. Todd and the sheriff had been gone for so long now, I often forgot their faces. I can no longer remember my parent’s faces at all, or even their first names. Mary is almost gone to me, now. I never did get to see my niece and nephew. She wrote me a letter telling me she was due to give birth the following spring, and they would visit to let me see the baby. They never did. Mrs. Todd told me about the boy that was born two years later.

I didn’t want to think about these things anymore. I spent all my time wondering, thinking, remembering. I didn’t want to. Instead I watched this odd woman who had come to my house a week ago. I had watched in absolute awe as she had fixed the porch, and even put together my rocker. Her hands worked so quickly and deftly. Like she really knew what she was doing, without a moment’s hesitation. The chair was sturdy, as I had tried it out myself last night. I smiled, covering my mouth with my hands at my badness. I knew it was my rocker to begin with, but somehow I still felt like an outsider.

My attention went to the door when I saw Cassidy make her way back inside, and to the reading room. I hoped she would make the fireplace work. I was so tired of being cold all the time.

I watched the hot pot I’d bought at Wal-Mart heat my instant coffee, and I waited, quite impatiently. I had not had a cup of coffee in a week, and I was beginning to get caffeine headaches. Pathetic, yes. But a fact of life, all the same.

I ran my hand over the arm of the rocker. Such a beautiful chair. I rocked myself steadily, my feet and ankles flexing to gently move back and forth. I hadn’t sat in one of these in a long time. A memory came back to me suddenly. My mother used to rock me in her arms, my young self curled up in her arms. I couldn’t have been any older than three or four as she died on my fifth birthday. A rare blood disease taking her from me and leaving me with that bastard of a father. Or so they told me. My grandfather told me when I was fifteen that she had killed herself by taking an overdose of prescribed sleeping pills. She couldn’t take it any longer.

I could not bring myself to believe that a mother would leave her own child, but who knows. I smiled. I wonder if Sarah was with her mother, wherever she was. My thoughts drifted back to my mother. I had seen a picture of her once, when my father had been out of town. I was young, maybe eleven, and had gotten snoopy. I went through his room, not sure what I was looking for. I had taken some money from his bureau drawer, and there I had found a small picture album. There were dates and names printed on the bottoms of the photos, and I had seen her: Carol H. Billings. I had always wondered what the H stood for. Never did I dare ask my father. He would have skinned me alive had he known it had really been me going through his stuff and not the maid.

My mother had been beautiful, long dark hair to bring in her Native American heritage. Her features had been strong yet feminine. Her eyes, nearly black, were filled with depth and soul. I wish so badly I had been able to know her. My father had refused to talk about her, and anytime I asked as a kid, he’d tell me it was none of my business, and he had to work, to leave him alone.

She had been the smart one, to get away from him when she did. No matter how much I tried to hide it, or how strong I appeared, there was a very large part of me who missed her, missed what could have been. Maybe she could have saved me from him, from his cruelty. A smile spread across my face. But then again, I had gotten my vengeance. Now he was broke and alone. May he die that way.

I grabbed the journal from the pile, and opened it up to the page I had saved. I was nearly finished with volume two now.

* * *


I was standing in front of the screen door, my hand on the brass handle. I looked around me, the rocker to my right on the porch, the small table beside it. A glass pitcher of what looked to be lemonade sitting atop it. It looked really good, the little slices of lemon floating around. A single glass sat next to it, yet to be filled.

I turned my attention back to the door before me, pulling it open. It squeaked a bit as I stepped through the door, looking around. To the left the room was a bit dark, curtains pulled tightly shut. I could make out a couch and high-back chairs. This looked like a sitting room, for entertaining guests. Not used often. To the right was the room I knew well. The fireplace was bright and beautiful, a larger mirror hanging over the mantle. I was surprised at that. There was no indication in the real house that a mirror, or anything else, had ever hung there. The floors were highly polished, and obviously lovingly taken care of.

I could smell something baking, and looked down the hall that ran alongside the stairs. The kitchen was at the end I knew. But my attention was caught by movement on the stairs. I turned my head, and about halfway up I saw a figure, but just the long skirt of a woman, and bare feet at the end. I tried to look further up the woman, but the further up I got, the more blurry she was. She stood there like that for a moment, then the feet turned and hurried up the stairs, out of sight. I had the distinct feeling that I shouldn’t follow her. Not yet.

Instead I made my way to the back of the house and the kitchen. I wanted to see what that damn little room was really used for.

The massive stove was just as I imagined it would be. The thick pipe rising up the wall, and out of the roof to release the smoke. A pan sat on top, and I could smell a cake or something in the lower oven part. A large wash tub sat against the opposite wall of the stove, empty and clean. But a damp towel was laid over one side, so I figured someone had recently done some dishes or some cleaning. I was surprised at just how spotless this place really was. For living out in the mountains, with dust and dirt constantly a foe to contend with. You’d never know it. The floors didn’t have a speck of anything on them, nor did any surfaces.

Damn, I’d love to have the lady of the house as my new housekeeper back home.

I turned around to see the small door that led to the room. Walking in I realized sure enough, it was a pantry. I wasn’t sure what exactly I figured I’d find, but I was surprised to see the shelves lined with food, nearly to the detriment of the wood. Some boards were bowing under the weight of the jars of canned vegetables and fruits and bags of flour and sugar. How many people lived here?

I left the pantry to wonder to the back door, amazed at what I saw out there. To the right and a ways from the house was a massive garden, the likes I’d never seen before. Rows upon rows of corn, carrots, tomato plants and cucumbers. A multitude of colors and shapes. Bell peppers, onions. It was truly incredible. There was a small farm here.

I saw a small cat lying in the shade near the house.

"Midnight?" It raised its head to look at me. This was the cat that Sarah had talked about, and had drawn a picture of in her journal. The black cat with the incredible green eyes. This was it! "Hey there." I took a step toward her, and true to the nature Sarah had described, the cat took off at breakneck speed up the nearest tree. I looked up at it in wonder. "The cat had endeared itself to me, even though it wouldn’t allow me near it within a 100 foot radius. At least she was company." I recalled Sarah’s words from her journal.

I turned back to the house, and walked in through the kitchen, on up the hall until I found myself at the bottom of the stairs. I looked up…

* * *


My eyes snapped open, followed quickly by a sharp pain in my head. I brought my hand up to my temple, and rubbed gently before opening my eyes again. Looking around I saw that the sun had gone down, and I was sitting in the rocker, the journal face-down in my lap.

I smelled something, and saw that my hot pot coffee had flowed over.

"Shit!" I jumped out of the chair and grabbed a towel from my stuff, cleaned it up. As I did, I looked around the room, trying to remember what I had seen in my dream world. My eyes automatically went to the mantle above the fireplace, and the wall there. As I stared I could see a large square of lighter colored wall there. Drawing my brows, forgetting all about the coffee mess, I stood and walked over to it. I followed the pattern of the obviously cleaner wall, with my eyes. Something had most definitely been hung there.

I reached up and traced the lines, trying to get a feel for the exact size and shape of whatever had been there at one time. I took a step back, fitting the mirror from my dream into the space. It was a perfect match. I rubbed my chin, confused. I had never noticed that clean spot before. How was it, was it just imagining what this place looked like in the past? My mind putting all the clues I had together to form a complete picture? A thought coming to me, I hurried out of the room.

It was getting dark, so this would be difficult. I turned on my flashlight, cutting weeds out of the way with my crowbar. With Nero by my side, both of us digging, though he didn’t have a clue why, finally I stopped dead in my tracks. I gently pushed the dense weeds aside, shining the light down to see, faintly, but it was there, a small trench-like line. The dirt was hard and crusted over, but the row was definitely there. With a grunt I pulled the weeds out and threw them aside. Three rows, four, five. I was stunned.

Standing and looking back at the house, it was in the exact same place it had been in the dream. I turned back to the area, and fell to my knees, continuing to dig, looking for what I did not know. But I felt something hard against my hand, and then a sharp pain in my finger.

"Ow!" I brought it to my eyes seeing a splinter sticking out of the fingertip. I pulled it out and looked back at the ground. There I saw a small wooden steak, a small square attached to the top. I grabbed it, and turned it over, wiping off years of dirt and mud. I could make out something orange. Using spit and the sleeve of my shirt, I got the rest of the caked mud off to see the faintest bit of the color. I’m shocked I was able to see it at all. "Oh my god." I breathed. I looked up into the night sky, completely confused and shocked.

Those dreams were so real, so vivid.

I stood and headed back to the house, my little garden marker in hand. Nero followed closely behind, his nose working overtime. He whined once, then hurried in front of me into the house.

I stopped inside the kitchen, bringing back to mind what I had just seen in my mind less than an hour ago. I could almost smell the cookies from my dream. I closed my eyes, breathing in their sweetness, only to open them and see the pantry door in front of me. I went in again, almost surprised to not see it overflowing with food reserve. I looked at the shelves that were still intact and saw that they were bowed, forever changed. I ran my hand along the smooth surface, looking around me, seeing the little window that looked into the kitchen.

When I had been in the dream house, I had always had the feeling that I was seeing something special, seeing something that I was not meant to see. I didn’t understand it then, and I sure as hell didn’t now, but I had the feeling that I was indeed seeing this house, and what it looked like before. I was given a glimpse into the past.

I sighed, left he kitchen.

I stood by the door between the hall and the kitchen, feeling ashamed. She had been there, so close, but I had been afraid. I didn’t know what she would say when she saw me. If she saw me. Cassidy had seen my house, and what I see everyday. My house, my joy. My only passion next to my journals. What I had always wanted, I was afraid to take.

She was able to see what was right before her eyes, and believe. I think it was through my journals, my path to the past for her. She had followed it, and I was grateful. I didn’t know what I’d do with this knowledge and power. Truth be told, I was terrified of it. She could hurt me this way, offering her a glimpse into my world. I didn’t know what to do from here. I could run from her forever. All I had was time, after all. But I didn’t think that was what I was to do. I knew she wouldn’t stay forever, but if I could only keep her here for a bit. Just a bit.

My gaze went to the door when I saw Cassidy reappear. She looked shaken and confused, but had found my garden. I saw the little wooden vegetable marker in her hand. Nero ran in before her, stopped to look at me, his head cocked slightly to the side. I smiled and said hello. His tail began to wag, and he turned to look at his owner. He didn’t understand why she couldn’t see me, too. As I looked at her, I saw that she was such a troubled soul. I wished there was something I could do to help her.

I guess it would help if I helped myself, first.

I turned and headed upstairs.

* * *


The sun was hot on my back, but I knew it was smart to do this now rather than when it got really cold. I wiped my forehead and turned back to my task. The roof was in much better shape than I had originally thought. I had a load of shingles brought in today, and was laying tarpaper now. The radio told me the weather would be changing soon and I needed to get all the leaks fixed before the snow started. I also wanted to get the fireplace finished to use. It would be a great source of light and heat. Now if it were only possible to get the plumbing done. I was not looking forward to making the trip to the outhouse in the cold fall mornings.

I didn’t understand it, but I had the feeling I’d be here then. I had the strongest desire to see the seasons change up here; it was beautiful and peaceful.

I had called John Williams yesterday, told him to send out the builders a bit early. He said he’d do it though I could tell he thought I’d lost my mind. I wanted this house looked over thoroughly by the guys who do this everyday. I knew a lot about construction, but I had been out of the house building business for some time, and knew there was a lot I had forgotten.

I looked out over the town, taking a break. I grabbed my bottle of water I’d brought up with me, and took a huge drink. I was getting overheated, but was almost finished with this part. I looked out over the town and the scenery behind the house, a logger’s wet dream.

I thought back to what I had read this morning.

Sarah used to walk these woods everyday. She would take her walking stick, and make her way through the trees and brush, finding her way to a hidden stream far in the mountains. Her friend, Jesse, used to come visit when she was in her teens, and they’d walk the woods together. He was the first to show her the stream.

Sarah talked about her friend often, and spoke about how he had suddenly disappeared when they were around twenty-two. She knew he was doing bad things, and would often come to Liveoak to hide out from the law until things died down. He and his brother.

I chewed on my lower lip as a thought occurred to me that hadn’t when I’d read it. Nah, no way.

She and Jesse did everything together, including hunting. Sarah had only done it once, not liking the feeling of taking an animal’s life when they were so defenseless. I had chuckled when I’d read that. In today’s society, we don’t have to go out there and play Rambo to kill our own food. But in Sarah’s day, heading to the meat section in a store, or the deli was just not an option. I wondered if she ate meat. I had gotten to know her so well through her writing, I almost felt as if I could just ask her.

I sipped from my water again. Why did she stop writing so young? Only twenty-seven was she in her last entry. Did she die?

Shaking my head to clear it, I started working again.

While I had been up on the roof I had cleaned out as much of the chimney as I could, getting the old, dead birds nest out of the top. Now it was time to do what I could inside.

As I entered the house I thought about Sarah here so many years ago. I felt like I was in her house; hell, I was.

"So, Sarah. Like what I’ve been doing to your house?" I said, a grin on my face. Part of me felt really stupid, talking to an empty house. But I had the distinct feeling it wasn’t nearly as empty as I would like to think. I walked over to the fireplace, moving the grate out of the way, and crawling inside with my flashlight. I knew this would not be fun, and certainly not the cleanest work I’ve ever done, but it needed to happen.

My dog sat next to my legs as I looked around, then suddenly he was off somewhere. I heard the sound of his nails as he ran across the floor.

I sat on the floor against the wall and watched. To my delight, Nero ran over to me, his tongue hanging out of a panting mouth and ears perked.

"You’re excited about what she’s doing aren’t you?" He whimpered. "I’m quite pleased with it myself, Nero." I reached out and scratched him between the ears. He pulled away for a moment, my touch cool, I’m sure. Then he looked at me, and took a step closer. My eyes wandered to Cassidy, smiling at the silly picture she made sticking out of the fireplace pit. I worried that she would get stuck that way. Yet another thing I remembered my father doing, becoming a chimney sweep for the day. He had been covered in black soot, and my mother had kicked him out of the house, making him change clothes and clean himself off at the well in the back.

Cassidy pulled herself, and a chunk of dirt, soot and what looked to be tree leaves, out. She stuffed it all into a large black bag of some sort, wiping her hands together. A large pile of dirt sat atop her head, and I wanted so badly to tell her. I laughed as she stood, not even realizing it. I watched as it held fast to her dark hair, bits falling off as she dusted herself off.

Finally she bent over to wipe at her pants, and the whole thing came tumbling off. I laughed again, bringing my hand to my mouth. I envied her ability to wear trousers. I had never owned a pair, nor even dreamed of wearing any. No one said anything to her. Even when delivery men had come and gone, not one had said a word. Was it not inappropriate anymore? That made no sense to me.

Nero laid down next to me, his front paws stretched out and together, almost regal, as he watched on. His master left the room, staring down at her dog, and I wished at me. Her eyes never made it to me. Why would they? I didn’t exist, right?

I stood and walked over to the fireplace to see what had come out. A smile came to my face when I saw a little wooden ball. The last summer two boys, the McClelland boys, had been playing near the house when their ball had been thrown a bit too high and had gone on the roof. I guess it had gone down the chimney. The fireplace hadn’t been used since, so no one knew to look there.

"Okay, Sarah. We’re going to get this thing fixed up like new."

I jumped up and back, Cassidy’s voice scaring me to, well scaring me. I slammed back against the wall, a broom leaning against the wall, and falling to the floor with a loud smack. I brought my hand to my mouth, and looked to her. She was staring at the broom I had knocked over in my haste. She looked around.

"I’m right here, Cassidy. Look at me, look at me." Her eyes traveled around the area, looking from the broom to the wall, then back again. Finally her eyes settled on some space right beside me. No good. She still didn’t know I was there.

"Well, um, if that’s you, Sarah. Hi." I looked around, but had the feeling she was there. Chills ran up and down my spine for just a moment of fear, then were gone. I had had my suspicions before, but I really felt it now. I knew she was watching, if not from this room then from above or something. "I have to admit, I feel very stupid talking to thin air. But, that’s life." I turned to see Nero walking toward the fallen broom, sniffing it and then the area around it. I studied my dog. Did he know something I didn’t?

I didn’t understand what was going on, but decided to just continue my project and not worry about it. I was beginning to think that this house would definitely be spared, and would become my own little private retreat here in the mountains. I loved this house, and I knew it could be beautiful when I finished with it. And I felt that since this house had been Sarah’s until death took it away from her, it still belonged to her, and she had a right to know what I was up to.

"Alright, Sarah. This is what I’m doing. I fixed the roof this morning, so that should set overnight and be okay. I also cleaned out your chimney." I spotted the small ball that was in the pile of dirt I had removed from the chimney inside. I picked it up, grinned. "I won’t even ask. Anyway, so I’m going to fix the pieces of rock here that are loose, put some fresh mortar on there. It should be fine. The fireplace was actually in excellent condition. You did a great job."

I took a small step toward the fireplace, an instant smile spreading across my face. Really? I had done well? That felt good. I had tried to take painstaking measures to make sure it stayed clean and tidy. No one ever really saw it but me, but I knew this would be all I had, and I had to take care of it. I was pleased she was able to see the house now in my eyes in her sleep. If only she could during the waking hours.

I set the bucket I had in my hand down, and began to scrub the rock on the fireplace down. It had to be clean in order for the mortar to stick. I knew I’d be up late into the night working on this. It saddened me, as I wanted to read more. But, tonight that didn’t look to be an option.

* * *


I stood at the bottom of the stairs, seeing the banister in front of me. Almost as if I’d been thrown into the room, I felt unsteady on my feet. I reached out and grabbed the rail of the stairs until I felt balanced. Turning toward the window next to the front door, I saw the sun was going down, and night was falling on Liveoak. A fire was burning in the fireplace, which put a huge smile to my face. I had slaved over that thing all day, and to see it in working order. Wonderful.

I felt like I was being watched, and turned to my left to look up the stairs. Sitting on the top stair was a woman. She had her legs together, tucked under a long skirt, her arms hugging her shins. She had long, reddish blonde hair, pulled away from her face, which was half in shadows as the light steadily faded. Her eyes were fixed on me, but she said nothing. I studied her more, seeing the intricate detail on her dress, bare toes sticking out the bottom.

"I hope you don’t feel stupid," she said, her voice very soft, quiet. I was surprised to hear it, and for what she said.


"You said you felt stupid today, talking to me." I took a step back, stunned.

"Sarah?" She nodded.

"I made a fire for you. I knew you’d be coming, and it’s beginning to get so cold at night. I can’t wait for the snow." She stopped short, looked down at her knees. "Sorry. I tend to talk when I’m nervous."

"Thank you and why are you nervous?"

"Because I’m talking with you. You’re the first person I’ve talked to in awhile, Cassidy."

All I could do was stare at her. This was the woman who’s journals I’d been reading for a week. The girl who I felt I knew almost as well as myself through her own words and experiences. She was so candid and honest about herself and her life. But somehow it just didn’t feel wrong, or odd or like I shouldn’t be here.

"Um, how am I here?" I asked finally, looking around. Sarah shook her head.

"I don’t know." She stood, catching my eye. Her skin was pale, but looked healthy, soft. Her hands were petite as was the rest of her. She put one on the rail, sliding down the wood as she descended the stairs. I took a step, my back hitting the wall next to the door. She stopped. "Are you frightened, Cassidy?" I could see the worry on her face, almost bordering on pain. Almost like she was waiting for the rejection that she had experienced her entire life. I put a smile on my face, and shook my head. I wasn’t afraid of her, but I was confused. She smiled, and it made her entire face light up. She began to take the steps again.

"Do you like the changes I’ve made?" I found myself asking. She looked at me as she neared the bottom of the staircase. I held my breath, not sure why. It was such a strange sensation, and I couldn’t put my finger on just what it was. I felt like I knew this girl from her journals, but then the thought of who and what she was entered into my mind. She looked like anyone I had ever seen, alive, vibrant. I was speechless as I watched her walk toward the room with the fireplace, the slightest bit of a limp in her step. I knew that was from her many sicknesses as a child. It had affected her on so many levels.

"I like the changes very much," she said as she entered the room, me following. "Especially to my reading room." She smiled at me again. Her eyes reflected the dancing flames of the fire. I could not tell their color in this light, but knew they were blue or green or perhaps even gray. "I was so happy to see my rocking chair restored to me. It had been broken so long ago, and I had missed it." She sat in it, making sure her skirt was properly placed over her legs. "And of course this." She looked into the flames, then at me. "It’s wonderful."

"I’m glad." I walked around the room, seeing everything in its place. The books, all lined up in a neat row on their shelves.

"I love to read," came the soft voice behind me. "Do you? Well, I suppose you do." I looked at her to see her stroking her Journals lovingly, piled neatly where I had left them. "I had missed these most. Thank you for bringing them back to me."

"Well, uh, you’re welcome."

I walked around the room some more, my fingers running along every surface, all the rich woods and fabrics.

"So this is how the place used to look?" I asked, looking at Sarah who was watching me. She nodded. "It’s beautiful. I’d love to make it look like this again."

"Really?" Her entire countenance seemed to lift. "Oh, please! Everyone who has come to my home over the years have done nothing but cause damage and take a little bit more away from me. Oh, Cassidy," she stood, her eyes pleading. "Please fix my house, and my town."

I looked at her, and I could not bring myself to tell her that I planned to demolish Liveoak into the ground. Normally this would not be a problem for me, I tell it like it is, and you can deal from there. But with her, looking at me as if I was her last hope, I didn’t have the heart.

"Okay," I said. She smiled, hugging herself, then looked down as if she didn’t know what to do.

"I’m sorry, I’m not real good at entertaining. I don’t often have company, so,"

"Oh, that’s okay. Um, I guess I’m a bit unexpected, huh?" She smiled and nodded.


"Um, would you care to sit?" Sarah asked, looking up at me as she sat in her rocker again. I looked around and saw a comfortable-looking chair that sat against the wall. "Pull that up to the fire." I did, and sat next to her. "Where do you live, Cassidy?"


"Really?" She sat a bit straighter in her chair. I never got to go there, but have heard it’s quite the source of Colorado entertainment." I smiled.

"It has its nice places, sure."

"Oh, I made some tea. Would you like some?"

"Please." She smiled and stood.

"Won’t be but a moment." I watched her leave the room, then turned back to the fire. I couldn’t believe how peaceful it was here. No worries or cares. Everything just seemed right in the world.

I thought about Sarah’s world, and what she sees everyday. Granted, this is not the real world, it’s a dream world. But it seemed so real. I could not reconcile that in my mind. I knew right from wrong, odd from normal, and life from death. This girl had been dead for one hundred and twenty-one years! How was I sitting here in her reading room, seeing her, talking to her. I wondered if I could touch her. I knew somehow that I was asleep, remembered laying down and closing my eyes. But yet here I was, a dream that had continued over four nights. As soon as I closed my eyes, they opened to another world that picked up where I left off the night before.

Was Sarah here all the time, or was I just creating her and this house in my mind? This could very well be, but what would explain the mirror above the fireplace and the outline I’d found? And what about the garden?

I glanced up above the fireplace, and stood to get a closer look at the mirror and its size and shape. It was large, not completely square, but with rounded edges, and curvy sides. I measured it in my mind, and just knew it was the same size.

"That’s the outline you see, Cassidy." I looked and saw Sarah’s reflection in the mirror. She held a tray with two cups and a tea kettle. "It was broken along the way somewhere. I was quite sad. My mother received that as a gift when she married my father."

"I’m sorry." I looked back at the mirror. "But it’s here now?" I looked back at her, confused.

"Well, of course. You’ve stumbled into my world now." She smiled, walked in to set the tray down on a nearby table. "Do you take anything in your tea? Honey, sugar, milk?" she asked, bent over the table as she poured two cups of the steaming brew. It smelled wonderful, minty.


"How many?" She held a sugar cube with tiny tongs. Quite the hostess.

"Two." Plop, plop. She put a spoon in the china cup, and handed it to me. I took it with a smile, inhaling the incredible smells that wafted up.

"I also brought some cookies. I know you like them." She smiled, and I blushed. That had been my primary diet over the last week. Hey, it was easy to eat, not that messy, and no cooking. Though I admit not the most nutritious way to go. Sarah grabbed a plate of them with her as she sat in her rocker. She offered the plate to me. "Chocolate chip?"

"Thanks." I took on, and it went straight to my mouth. I closed my eyes as it seemed to literally melt in my mouth, the chocolate an explosion. I chewed slowly, my eyes still closed. Finally with a small moan, I opened them. Sarah was looking at me expectantly. "This is the most wonderful cookie I have ever eaten in my entire life." I breathed. The smile spread across her face so slowly it was almost as if it was poured.

"Really?" I nodded vigorously. "Thank you." She looked down, bringing her hand up to cover her mouth. Almost as if she was trying to hide her smile, her excitement.

"Did, um, do you bake often?" I took another cookie from the plate, first sipping from my tea. She nodded, bringing her hand down to take her own cup.

"I used to all the time. It’s one of my favorite things to do. There’s just really not much reason to now. When it’s only you," she shrugged. "Mrs. Todd used to come by all the time and have a piece of pie."

"I remember that from volume two of your journals. She’d bring the cider, and you’d make the pie." She smiled, nodding. "Once a week. If not apple,"

"Then it would be chocolate." I finished with a smile.

"Yes! Precisely." She clapped her hands together, and I was absolutely charmed.

* * *


I reached my hand up to push away the source of the wetness. Rolling over, I sat up to see Nero standing with his front paws on my mattress, looking at me with tail wagging frantically.

"What?" I asked, more than a little irritated. Then I stopped, turned to look in the direction of the front door. Silence, there. I heard it again. It sounded like someone was rummaging through the wood piled outside. I looked around the room, suddenly very frightened. This house was not exactly hard to get into. It was still dark, and I waned the element of surprise, so I felt around until I found my flashlight and my gun.

Nero followed as I made my way, carefully and quietly, across the floor and to the window next to the front door. The moon was bright, so I could see the front yard fairly well. A dark figured was kneeling down at the pile of wood. I heard the boards as they bumped into each other. They were trying to take off with my wood. I don’t think so.

"Hey!" I opened the front door, flicking the flashlight on. The figure stood, falling over backwards over some loose boards in his haste and surprise. "What are you doing?"

"What the?" he stood, shielding his eyes from the intense beam of light.

"Why are you on my property? Ever heard of trespassing?

"What do you mean, trespassing? I been on this land for years, now!" I took a look at him; his clothes were shabby and filled with holes. His hair, all that was left anyway, was dirty and sticking up in odd places.

"Well not anymore. And you’re sure as hell not taking any of my wood to burn, mister."

He stared at me, eyes unsure and confused. "Where you come from? You ain’t here last time I was here."

"Well I am now, and I’m the owner of Liveoak, so get your scrawny little ass out of here. Haven’t you done enough damage to this house?" I indicated the building behind me with my thumb as I stood on the porch.

"So you think you’re the new sheriff in town, eh?" he snorted. I cocked the .38.

"Call me Wyatt." I pointed the gun at his head, no intention whatsoever to shoot, but I wanted him to know I meant business. He threw down the board he had in his hand, and turned to walk away, glancing over his shoulder a couple times before he disappeared through the trees. Off in the distance I heard the engine of a car. "Asshole. " I mumbled as I walked back into the house.

Nero waited for me, tail wagging as he was proud of himself.

"You did real good, boy." I knelt down, hugging him to me as he licked my face and neck. I held onto him to try and get my body to stop shaking. At first I thought it was fear and adrenaline that had me trembling like a leaf, but I began to realize it was anger. That bastard had tried to steal from me and this house, and from Sarah.

I stopped, looking out into the night. Did I say Sarah? I did. I felt like so much of all this belonged to her, too. I was becoming quite protective over this house and town. And it wasn’t just for the monetary value, either. I was changing somehow, starting to see the bigger picture.

I stood and headed back to the "reading room". I smiled as I remember my dream, and Sarah’s face as she lit up the room with her smile. She was so happy to get her home back, and that made me happy.

Looking down at my little make-shift bed, I know I wasn’t going to get back to sleep anytime soon, even though I wanted to return to Sarah and find out more about her, and this house. I was entirely too awake now. I lit the lantern I had restored from the pantry, and turned to the fireplace. As I looked at the room now, empty save for the rocking chair, I remembered all the beautiful furniture that had filled this room. It had been wonderful, comfortable and homey.

I brought my hands to my head. Never in my life had I ever even thought to use the word homey. What the hell was happening to me? This wasn’t me, I didn’t care about any of this shit!

But I did. I wanted to get to know Sarah, understand the person she’d been, and hell, was. I didn’t understand what was happening here, and why two worlds were meeting, but they were.

I smiled as I backed up, allowing Cassidy to pass. I was so impressed with her and the way she had handled that man who would dare try and take anymore from me than he already had over the years. I watched in awe as she had cocked the hammer on her pistol, threatening to harm him if he didn’t leave in peace.

Cassidy was everything I ever wanted to be.

She walked by me and went to the reading room, so I thought I’d give her some time alone, and headed to the kitchen. I looked around it, seeing all the emptiness and sadness that she saw; not my kitchen that I was so proud of. But, she has seen it, and that made me happy. I thought about her visit here. She was interesting, and wonderful company. I wanted her to come back. Perhaps she’d get sleepy again, and come see me. I thought about what I’d make next time for her to eat. She loved my cookies so much, and they had always been Jesse’s favorites, too. He hadn’t come to see me in some time, but then his heart had always been on the road. I knew that’s where he’d stay forever.

I should take Cassidy to the stream. I’m sure she’d like that. Especially before it started to get cold during the days. She still had a good couple of weeks of warmth, certainly warm enough for a dip.

I looked around my kitchen to see what I had to make for her next time.

* * *


I read the labels on the back of the cleaning products until I found one that would work to sanitize and kill every germ known to man.

Armed with my powerful cleaning solution, mattress pad and linens, I headed back out to Liveoak.

Upstairs I looked around the larger of the two bedrooms, where the brass bed was. I figured, if I was planning to stick around, there was no reason for me to kill my back every night on the floor downstairs.

I followed the directions on the bottle of the cleaner, using tall rubber gloves to avoid contact with my skin. I wasn’t sure what I was most afraid of, the mattress or the cleaner. Either way, I was protected.

As I waited for the cleaner to do its stuff, I worked on the brass itself. Using another cleaner I had bought, I rubbed it down, making it shine like it had over a hundred years ago. The tarnish came off with a bit of elbow grease, but within an hour, it looked like new again. Now it was time to check on the mattress.

It also seemed to be in much better shape than before. I let it dry completely, then heaved it back onto the bed frame and put the new sheets and blankets on it. Eventually I’d get a new mattress altogether, but this one would do for now.

The room actually was beginning to look like an actual bedroom again. The walls needed some cleaning and painting, but overall it was looking more alive. Pardon the pun.

Looking at my handwork, I decided I wanted another tour of Liveoak. My work crew would be here in just over a week. I had opened up my blueprints earlier today, and looked over what I intended to do to this poor, unsuspecting town. Somehow now I felt guilty, as if I were digging up someone’s grave, going where I had no business.

I had tucked the plans away in their tubes, and stuck them back into my Jeep. Walking down the hill from the house, I marveled at how differently I saw this town in my dreams.

I first went to Todd’s Grocery, wanting to see it again in the light of day. It was much easier to imagine what once was, now. I looked at the old staircase in the back and could see turning this place into the store it was, perhaps rooms upstairs for guests to stay in.

As I looked around, I had the strangest sensation that I wasn’t alone. I felt Sarah with me, staying back a little, but there all the same.

"So, Sarah. Can you see this opened up again?" I asked the empty space. I knew there would be no answer, but I wanted her to know I knew she was here. I still felt silly, never in my life believing in the probability of an afterlife or ghosts. That was a child’s nightmare, not an adult’s reality. There was that part of me, the total skeptic, that was still not sure I wasn’t just losing my mind. It would take something fairly substantial to make me fully believe.

But for now, it was quite lonely out here; Nero only able to take up so much slack, and another person to talk with would be most acceptable.

* * *


The fire popped next to me, my mug of instant coffee sitting on the hearth to keep warm as I read volume three. I turned the page as I read how Sarah used to paint incessantly. I lowered the book as I thought back to my first visit to the house of my dreams. The easel set up on the front porch, scenic painting, unfinished, on the white canvas. Drawing my brow, I turned back to the story that was unfolding.

"I often paint portraits of myself, perhaps as I see myself, or simply as I think I look. I’m sure none are accurate, but I can’t seem to paint from a mirror. Staring too long at my visage would surely drive me insane. I don’t often look at myself, though I do have that gorgeous mirror that was my mother’s in my bedroom. I generally choose to ignore it, and walk by as if it isn’t there at all."

Shaking my head in sadness, I turned the page only to stop, stunned. There on the page was one of Sarah’s self-portraits, done in pencil. I stared at it, the unsmiling face, the sad, empty eyes. I knew those eyes. In life they were vibrant, beautiful, and filled with hope. The drawing hardly represented what I had seen, but was obviously the Sarah I had had cookies and tea with the other night. How was this possible? How can this happen? What happened to the idea that when you die, you die. No second chance, nothing. You’ve done your time on earth, and then you go away.

I was confused, but at the same time felt relieved that I wasn’t crazy. This was actually happening.

* * *


I looked around, the scene from the front porch before me. I turned toward the house until I saw Sarah, sitting behind her easel, paintbrush poised just over the expanse of whiteness. I looked into her face, seeing the same woman who had stared at me from the pages of the journal.

"I’ll be with you in a moment, Cassidy. I can’t let this light get away from me." She said, her eyes still focused on the scene before her.

"Take your time." I walked over to the pole of the porch, leaned against it, arms crossed over my chest and watched her work. She was concentrating so much I think she forgot I was there at all. Her fingers, so delicate and thin, held the brush to the canvas, and began to spread color. At first I had no idea what she was working on, but then the image of Liveoak came into full view. With simple strokes Todd’s Grocery, and the town saloon was obvious. Dip the brush into some water, then more color, and the bank came into view. "That’s really good," I said, a smile on my face. She glanced at me, a shy smile on hers.

"Thank you." She dropped her brush into the water, and wiped her hands on a towel then turned to me. "So how are you today? It’s quite lovely out."

"Yes, it is. I would have figured the cold weather would have been here by now."

"Oh, no. Not for a couple weeks, yet. It is coming, though." She smiled, looked out over the valley that was Liveoak. "Care for a walk?"

"I’d love it." I pushed away from the post, and headed down the stairs, followed by Sarah. Her dress, long, hiding most of her skin, flowed out behind her in the warm breeze.

We walked on for a bit in silence before she looked over at me. I could feel her eyes on my face, my hair, my clothes, vastly different than hers.

"Thank you for what you did the other night. I was so afraid when I saw that man, trying to take from me again."

"Are you talking about the guy trying to steal the wood?" She nodded, turning away. "He’s been here before?" Again a nod. "Son of a bitch."

"You certainly don’t talk like a woman." I turned to see Sarah looking at me, a small smile on her face. I grinned.

"No, I guess I must not to you."

"Nor do you dress like one. How do you get away with it? I always wanted to see the world through the eyes of a man. They seem to have so much more power than women. Often as a child I used to dream of being my father’s son instead of his youngest daughter. I’m sure things would have been much different for me"

"I know what you mean. I took my father’s company over from under him. That felt wonderful." I smiled, remembering the victory of a lifetime.

"You did not love your father?" She took us down a path, hidden in my world, but plain as day in hers. I shook my head.

"He didn’t love me. My father wanted a son to carry on his name and take the company over when he retired. Instead he got me."

"Perhaps your time isn’t so different from mine." She smiled, pushing some tree branched out of the way. I chuckled.

"Perhaps not."

"What is the family business you speak of?"

"Cassidy Construction."

"Named after you?"

"Yep." She looked at me, her head cocked to the side.


"Yes. Um, that means yes."

"Oh. So then in your company you build houses?"

"Not anymore. Now we only deal with cities, building and destroying."

"It sounds violent." I laughed outright.

"No, not really. We do more good than bad." I picked up a large branch that had fallen from the tree, and used it as a walking stick.

"So, your experience with building, this is how you’re able to work with those tools, and fix my house?" I nodded. "Yep?" I grinned.

"Yep." She smiled, proud of herself.

"Well, here we are." I turned to look in the direction where her gaze was fixed. To our right was a large stream, rocks littering the banks, the water about twenty feet across. "It’s much deeper than you’d think." She looked at me, looking quite pleased.

"You’re smiling quite large there, Sarah." Her hand quickly shot up to her mouth, covering it. "Hey, now. That was not an invitation for you to hide it from me." I smiled, she looked down before looking up at me again, slowly taking her hand away to reveal a beautiful smile. "There you go. Very nice."

"My sister Mary used to make fun of me when I smiled."

"Why?" I felt immediately protective and pissed at the sister that I already didn’t like for abandoning this poor girl.

"I have a small dimple that appears alongside my nose when I smile. See?" I looked, sure enough. "So, I stopped altogether."

"Such a shame. You have a beautiful smile, and I think the dimple just adds to that. Makes it unique."

"Really? You think so?" I nodded.

"Absolutely." She looked away, my words absorbing, I hoped. "Cassidy?"

"Yes?" I turned to her as I headed toward the stream, itching to skip some rocks.

"May I ask for a rather odd request?" I looked over my shoulder as Sarah made her way to the bank to stand next to me.


"Well, I’ve, I haven’t touched anyone," She looked down, suddenly very embarrassed.

"Sarah? Look at me." She slowly lifted her head, her eyes filled with tears. "Of course you can." Her eyes looked into mine, unsure. "It’s okay." Sarah quickly swiped at her eyes, then turned to me. She looked at me for a moment, her eyes scanning my face and my eyes, then moving down to my button up shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbows. Then down to my legs, jeans with work boots.

"You keep your hair down even though it’s long?" she asked, eyes moving back up to my hair. I nodded. "It’s so dark, like midnight." I smiled. "Your eyes are beautiful, like the sky. I would love to paint you." Now it was my turn to be shy. I looked down, my feet shuffling.

"Well, uh, sure. Okay." She smiled, taking a step toward me, her hand coming up, fingers extended, but not quite touching my skin. Sarah’s eyes moved down to my arms, her hand reaching out toward my right forearm. "Can you touch me?" She looked up at me.

"I think so, but I’m not sure. Guess we’re about to find out." Pale, but strong-looking fingers inched nearer to my tanned skin until finally I felt it. Her skin was warm, soft, which made me jump. I was expecting, and had myself set up for, cold, clammy. "I’m sorry," Sarah pulled her hand away.

"No! No, I’m sorry. Come back. It just startled me. Here," I grabbed her hand, putting it back on my arm. Sarah looked up into my eyes, then back down to her hand. She ran her fingertips up and down my arm, a smile spreading across her face.

"I’d nearly forgotten what it felt like to touch someone, or to be touched." I smiled, happy to be the one able to help her.

"Is it what you remembered?" I grinned. She looked at me, and glared playfully.

"Be nice."

"I’m sorry."

Sarah walked to the edge of the stream, and knelt down, gathering her skirt in one hand. She searched through of the rocks, looking for that perfect one.

"I love to skip them across the water. Reminds me of Jesus walking on water." She grinned, I smiled back.

"I love to skip rocks. My grandfather used to take me to Carter Lake all the time up near Denver. We’d go out on the lake in his boat, fish, talk. Whatever."

"He sounds like a nice man. I never knew my grandparents."

"That’s too bad." I picked up a rock, and threw it with all my might. "Woohoo! That sucker skipped six times." Proud of myself, I clapped my hands together to get the dirt off them from the rock, and crossed my arms over my chest. "My grandfather, nice? Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far. He was good to me, at least."

"I didn’t spend a great deal of time with my father. He was often gone, working. My mother and I," A soft smile spread across her lips. It was wistful. "I miss her. Even though she left when I was six years old, I still have kept enough of her alive within me to miss her."

"I’m sorry, Sarah," I said quietly. She smiled at me.

"It’s quite alright. There is nothing I can do about it. You know, when I went so long ago, I so hoped to be with my mother again. I can’t begin to tell you how surprised and upset I was to find myself still here. I don’t know why I am, and what my purpose is. I haven’t one, is my guess." She skipped another rock, the rock sinking fast and quick.

Feeling suddenly very sad, I walked over to her, and put my hand on her arm. She looked up at me, her eyes filled with despair.

"Sarah, I don’t know if this will help, but everything happens for a reason. I believe that. Though I have no idea why you’re still here, I mean, hell this time last week I didn’t even believe in this sort of thing!" She smiled, nodding her understanding. "But now I know it has happened, and is happening. I guess, well," I bit my lip, trying to figure out just exactly what I was trying to say to her. "I really want to try and help you, um, to try and find the purpose, or reason why you’re still here." I looked her in the eye, wanting her to know I was serious. I really was beginning to care about this woman. Through her journals, meetings, and the special way we were crossing time, there had to be a reason. God, I was falling for a woman who’d been dead for one hundred and twenty-one years.

Sarah looked down for a moment, then looked back at me, a smile firmly in place.

"I believe you."

* * *


Towel, that was entirely too small for what I planned to use it for, over my shoulder, and bar of soap in my hand, I made my way down the overgrown path to the stream.

For the last two weeks this typically anal retentive about hygiene person has had to deal with sponge baths. I did well for the first couple of days, in fact it was almost liberating. Liberation over, I need a bath!

I looked around the bank, seeing Sarah and I there just last night, er, yesterday. I don’t know. At some point.

The stream looked the same, save for a small amount of litter to my left. An old beer bottle. Lovely. I picked it up, meaning to take it back to the house with me when I finished. Taking my shoes off, I dipped my toe into the water. Quite chilly, but the air was unseasonably warm, so I figured I’d be fine.

I walked down the stairs, awake from my nap on the new bed, and went straight to the reading room. I saw Nero there, asleep on the rug in front of the fireplace, but no Cassidy. Drawing my brows, I looked throughout the rest of the house, but did not find her. An idea coming to mind, I headed outside.

It was a lovely day, quite warm than what it usually was in late August. I used to get sick mostly during this time of year; it was warm during the day and cold at night. It was not a pleasant memory for me. I suppose that was one positive of my current position- I never got sick.

I took the path I knew by heart, wondering if Cassidy had decided to see the stream again. It had been so lovely last night. We had spent hours at the stream, taking and laughing, then had gone back to the house where I had fresh banana bread waiting for her. She gobbled that up like she’d never had it before. Absolutely charming. Cassidy was in my thoughts often, now. I wondered why she had come here, but have yet to ask. I think she would answer my questions, anything I asked. But I don’t dare. I don’t want to push her away, and cause her to stop coming.

I had studied her face last night, her beautiful features. I had never seen eyes that color that weren’t in a portrait painted by some master. Her entire face was a masterpiece, the most wonderful combination of features. The high cheekbones, full mouth with narrow nose. Dark, arched eyebrows. It was incredible-

"Oh my," I threw myself behind a tree as fast as my lame leg would allow. What I had just seen flashed before my mind’s eye again. Cassidy, naked, half submerged in the water. The water level was at her waist, her upper half free for all of nature to observe.

I bit my lower lip, trying to decide what to do, when I found myself peeking around the trunk of the tree that hid me. She was nowhere to be seen, but then she shot out of the water like a mythic creature in all her glory. Long, dark hair flipped back, water flying through the air like diamonds in the sunlight. I watched as Cassidy ran her hands through her hair, then my eyes traveled down. I had never seen another naked woman before.

I covered my eyes with my hands, knowing I should not be watching this. I spread my fingers, peeking through them, my curiosity taking over my judgment. Cassidy was beautiful. I had never seen a body like that before. Mary was healthy, mother called it. She had a healthy glow, and a healthy fullness to her. I was always sick, and could rarely keep anything down to be considered "healthy," though I tried. Cassidy, while thin like me, was built, well, almost like a man. She had muscles like Mary’s husband had. But she was most definitely a woman.

I hid behind the tree again when I saw her private parts. I, mine, my breasts had never seen the light of day. Yet her entire body was a healthy color. How was that?

When Cassidy had allowed me to touch her yesterday, it had felt wonderful. Then before she left last night she hugged me, and it had felt like Heaven on earth. Was that my Heaven, Cassidy? I didn’t understand this, what I was feeling. I thought of what I had felt for Jesse. I had loved Jesse, like the brother I never had. He and I had laughed and talked, discussed our dreams and wishes. But I had never wanted Jesse to touch me, never wanted him to stay with me all night, know that he would be there when I awoke. Jesse didn’t make me feel safe like Cassidy does. Perhaps this was because the law was always after him, but I didn’t think so.

What would my family think of Cassidy? My father? She was rather more manly than they were used to. She did work with tools, and knew what to do with them. Would they approve? Approve of what? I was so confused.

I quickly turned around and headed for the house.

I rubbed the soap between my palms, then suddenly felt an odd sensation, the hairs on my body standing on end. I turned to look toward the bank, seeing on my pile of clothed, undisturbed. Looking around in the dense foliage, I spotted a tree. There was no one, or nothing there, but a smile spread across my face, anyway.

"Sarah." I sighed, and began to wash my body.

* * *


"I hope you like chicken?" Sarah looked at me expectantly. I nodded, taking the napkin from the table and spreading it on my lap.

"I love chicken."

"Good." She sighed with a nervous smile as she set the covered dish on the table. We were surrounded by incredible smelling foods, my mouth watering as I looked at the bowl of fresh carrots and corn, covered loaf of still warm bread, and of course the main dish of chicken.

"This smells so good, Sarah. You really didn’t have to go to all this." She sat and looked at me.

"Yes I did. You’ve been so wonderful, fixing up the house, a wonderful friend to me. I wanted to do this for you."

"Well thank you. You look beautiful tonight, too." I looked at Sarah’s dress, satin and lace, handmade with a beautiful scarf around her shoulders.

"Oh," she looked down at herself, nervously running her hands down the skirt, smoothing non-existent wrinkles out. "Well, this is a special dinner, and, well, I wanted to look special."

"You do." I looked into her eyes, the beautiful green muted by the solitary light of two lit candles. "That scarf is amazing, too." I reached out to touch the silk, running through my fingers like water.

"It was my great grandmother’s. She brought it over with her from England so long ago. I only wore it once, and that was for Mary and The Beast’s wedding."

"Well, then I’m honored." I said with a smile. I leaned back in my seat, and sighed. "I feel so at peace with you, Sarah." She looked at me, then down at her empty plate.

"As do I. When you go, even though I can follow you around like a puppy dog if I like, I miss you desperately." She looked at me. "I already miss you as I know you’ll be gone soon."

"If only there was some way, some way we could stay together." I said, my voice quiet, sad. She nodded.

"If only." She swallowed, seemingly to swallow her emotions. "I don’t understand this, Cassidy. I was not taught this sort of thing, and I don’t know what to make of it. I feel so open and honest with you, and more myself than ever before. In my greatest triumph, greatest writings or paintings, I don’t get half the feeling of satisfaction and contentment I do when I’m with you. It makes no sense to me, and I really don’t know where to start to try and understand." She lowered her head, and brought a hand up to wipe at a tear.

Scooting off my chair, I went to one knee, bringing my napkin up to her face, and gently wiping the tears away. She looked down at me, and I could see the pain in her eyes. I was just as confused, and hurting just as badly, but at least I knew what I was feeling. It made no sense, but I knew.

I took hold of Sarah’s shoulders, and pulled her towards me, tightening my arms around her petite frame. She felt so small in my arms, yet fit so well. Sarah laid her head on my shoulder, the wetness of her tears against my neck. I ran my hands over her back and her hair, doing all I could to soothe her pain, to give her the peace she so badly needed and deserved.

I felt Sarah pull away, and so did I, looking into her face, trying to see what was there. She looked so lost, her eyes traveling all over my face, always settling at my mouth. Deciding to take a huge chance, I leaned up, my hands on either side of her face, and brought my lips to hers. At first she hesitated, startled. I pulled away just a bit, but sensed that she wanted more. I leaned in again, my fingers caressing her cheeks, forehead, neck. I brushed my lips across hers again, soft and gentle. Sarah responded on my second pass, her lips puckering out just a bit. I smiled as I moved in again, putting a bit of pressure behind my lips this time. Sarah sucked in a breath, her hands moving up to my shoulders, fingers digging into the material of my shirt.

I stood, bringing her up with me, moving so my body was pressed to hers, needing to feel her warmth, just to feel her. I tilted my head just a bit, enough to give our lips a nice fit, my bottom lip between hers. Sarah’s breathing was shaky and uneven, and I could almost hear her heart beating erratically. As her breathing quickened, her fingers dug harder, almost painfully, the desperate nature amazing.

I opened my lips, just brushing mine over hers, giving her the idea, and she followed quickly, again sucking in a breath of surprise. As the kiss deepened, it came to me that I had somehow fallen in love with Sarah, but even so, I had to leave her. I could not stay, and this broke my heart. I suddenly became the desperate one, holding Sarah close to me, breaking the kiss and grabbing her in a crushing hug. She clung to me, her breathing still wild.

"I love you, Sarah. I don’t know how, but I do," I said into her ear, my eyes closed as I breathed the words. I heard her swallow, her body shaking a bit.

"I love you, too, Cassidy. God help me, but I do."

* * *


I rolled over, my hand reaching out for … what? My eyes opened when I felt nothing, and I saw the empty bed, the pillow unused. My eyes immediately filled as I remembered last night, Sarah’s words coming to me just as I felt myself drifting to sleep.

"Goodbye, Cassidy. I love you, and will always love you."

I had been too tired to give it another thought other than telling her I loved her, too. Now I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I knew somehow it was over, she was gone.

I sat up, bringing the sheet up to my naked chest, and finally let the tears fall, my head in my hands. I was crying for what Sarah had missed, and for what we could never have or be. I cried for me, I even cried for my father. What sort of hell would he be in when he died?

Self-pity never a strong point, I wiped my eyes, blew my nose, and pulled myself together. Pushing the sheet and blanket aside, I swung my legs over the side of the bed, and grabbed for my clothes when I saw something. I turned to see the mirror in the corner, and something hanging on it. Walking over to it, my steps slowed until I reached out, feeling the silkiness on my skin. I held the scarf to my face, inhaling the smell that was her.

"Oh, Sarah. Thank you."

* * *



The blue prints were spread across the table. I leaned over the plans, my finger pointing to a building.

"This one will be the first. Don’t want to renovate it, just rebuild it. It’s far too gone to fix."

"Cass-" I glared, making John Williams cut himself off.

"Okay. Well. Now I think we’re all on the same page?" I stood, looked around the room, the seven men surrounding me nodding. "I should hope so. After going over this for nearly two days. Alright. Everyone head out." My site supervisors and foremen knew that was their cue, and left the room, all except for my right hand man. He waited patiently for everyone to clear out, then turned to his boss. I was rolling the blue prints up, and putting them back in their tube.

"Cass, can I talk to you for a moment?" he asked, his voice quiet.

"Sure." I sat in the rocker, and looked at him. He stared at me for a moment, almost as if he weren’t sure if I was setting him up for a trap. "Come on, what’s on your mind?"

"Well, um, what are you doing?" He indicated the house we were in, and the town just down the hill. "A month ago you wanted all this gone, demolished, finis. Now," he raised a brow in question. "What happened to you? There’s a change in you somehow."

I stared at my long-time friend and employee, not real sure how to answer him. It had been four days since Sarah and had spent that incredible night together, and I felt her absence acutely. In that time I had a chance to think about what I was doing, and why I was doing it. To try and get back at a man who would never know the difference, what was the point? I didn’t gain from it, and he sure as hell didn’t hurt from it.

Sarah is the one who would hurt from it, and after what she had shown me and taught me, she deserved more than that.

"I can’t really talk about it, John. Just know that it was good." He looked at me, sizing me up then finally smiled.

"Your grandfather would be proud." He patted me on the shoulder, and left the house.

I thought about that for a moment, and it brought a smile to my face. I stood and walked over to the bookshelves on the far wall, and pulled a volume from it, turning to a page I knew by heart.


I can’t begin to tell you what last night meant to me, and what this time has meant to me. You have made me see what it’s like to be not only human, but also a woman. Never before you, have I been loved or cared about. You’ve taught me about myself, and what I have to offer.

I find it interesting and odd that the most profound time in my life had to happen after my death. But you brought me back to the world of the living again, if even for just a moment. I now understand my purpose for staying on here in Liveoak. It was to wait for you, to allow you to see me for all that I am and could ever have been. You saw me, Cassidy. Even through a ghostly image.

Thank you. You made me whole, given me the one thing I prayed for, love.

I will always love you, and I hope you won’t forget me.



I ran my fingertip over her signature, a smile on my face. I would never forget about her.

* * *


"Hey, boss?"

"Yeah?" I said, very distracted as I looked over some plans for the new post office that was to be started next week. My site foreman, Stan opened my office door. I looked up at him.

"That chick from the newspaper is here. Want her now, or?"

"Yeah." I sighed, irritated at the interruption. The only reason I was seeing this woman at all was it would provide some excellent publicity for the new Liveoak Ghost Town Resort.

Stan left, and within a couple minutes I heard footfalls and a small knock on the open door. I looked up, my public smile planted firmly on my face. When I saw her, the smile slid right off my face.

"Hello, Ms. Billings. Nice to meet you."

"Uh, yeah. Nice to meet you, too." I reached out to shake the hand that was extended to me. My eyes were glued to her face, drinking it in like water to a dehydrated man.

"My name is Elizabeth, and I’m quite pleased to be here." I looked into her smiling green eyes, the blonde hair bound in a loose bun. I took in her skirt suit, and the notebook she carried under her arm. "I’ve always been interested in this sort of thing, and I just think it’s wonderful what you’re doing."

"Thank you. Please, sit." I was still in a state of shock as I sat behind the desk I’d had brought down from my offices in Denver.

"Are you taking any volunteers? I, for one, would love to help out in Liveoak."

"Really?" She nodded vigorously.

"Oh, yes. I’ve always had a passion for anything dealing with the Nineteenth century, and their way of life. Ever since I was a child." She smiled winningly, and I felt my heart skip a beat.

"Well, Elizabeth, would you like a tour?"

"Oh, yes!" Her entire face lit up. "I’d love that."

The End

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