Sara finds new life after the dormancy of loss.
|The air warmed bringing with it the scent of spring's freshness. Along the trail a bit of green was peeking through the rough, patchy ground. Weeds. They were always the most resilient. She kept her pace slow and her eyes scanning for anymore signs of new growth, new awakening. The winter had been long and hard. Her second without Sam. The pain of his death had dulled, but at times it still threatened to take her breath. When the painful memories surged, she would remind herself to slow down, pull the breaths in deeply and let it go... along with the pain and memories. She tired to focus on the happy memories; the ones that would pop up unexpected like a patch of purple violets by a tree. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes not. Today was a better day. Her body moved through the pain, pushing it off like a winter cloak that was no longer needed. It was time. She'd stayed buried too long.
Getting out on the trails was a start. Rawly lolled his tongue at her as he ambled along. He never failed to bring a smile to her face.
"Good boy." she murmured and watched his tail wag a little more enthusiastically.
As she walked she let her mind play with her thoughts. It probably didn't help to live so isolated. It kept her cocooned in her loss. It was time to break that sucker open and learn to live anew. The only thing the isolation had helped was get her writing again. Sam's death had set her back. The kernel of hope that flared at the thought of her novel made her smile. She could do this. Sam had not left her without any hope. He had given her his life and this glorious space. He had given her enough money to be comfortable and that had given her time to heal. Even his family was telling her it was time to get out and live. Sam would want that. He would hate that she had closed herself off. It was time to open herself up and reenter the world. Her novel would help her. Could she handle her book not being accepted? Could she get it sold. Her agent, Kathleen, had been kind and encouraging. She had been understanding in a way Sara needed it, but now that the book was finished, the pressure was on to get it out there.
Sara blew out a nervous breath and smiled when Rawly slowed his pace and moved closer to her instinctively. She dipped down to rub his head. It was a reassurance they both needed. The trails were quiet this time of year. Snow still clung in patches of shadow and it was always possible for a quick blizzard could blow in. The mountains were unpredictable at best, but in the spring anything could happen.
It was then that they heard it. Softly at first. Sara strained her ears. Rawly remained still. She slipped the leash on him, not sure what to expect. Wildlife was a natural normal occurrence around these parts and meeting up with a bear this early in the season was not something she was hoping for, but bears did not stuck to the trail. Whatever it was, was rhythmic... like a runner.
Sara straightened and together with Rawly they moved slowly to the edge of the trail where they could see around the bend. The sound grew steady and louder, coming ever closer. Her heart picked up a rapid beat as she wiped her palm on her faded blue jeans.
Sure enough a jogger came barreling around the far bend heading towards her. When he saw her he began to slow. Rawly gave a bark of greeting. Ever the optimist at meeting new people, Rawly wagged his tail. Sara wasn't sure if he would ever really protect her, but his presence did sooth her a bit.
As the man approached she noticed the leanness of him. Muscles gleamed with sweat. His t-shirt was drenched this sweat and melded to his toned form. Awareness flickered through her like a bolt before she caught herself and forced it into submission. She was a widow, she chastised herself.
But she wasn't dead, a small voice whispered within her. As he neared and slowed, a smile graced is face. No man should be allowed to be that appealing. There was even a twinkle in his deep blue eyes.
By the time he reached her he was walking. "Hi," he said, his voice deep and only slightly winded. She smiled not trusting her voice. "Damon Pike. I just moved into the old Sumner place. They told me there were a few new people living deeper into the mountain..." He offered his hand and she could not help chuckling as she reached to take it.
It seemed odd to be shaking hands out here on the trail, but she went with it. He seemed harmless and Rawly seemed smitten, dancing for his own bit of attention.
"And who's this?" he asked dropping into a squat to give Rawly a good rub down after getting a face wash for his efforts. The rumble of his laugh tripped over Sara's heart making her catch her breath.
Finding her voice, she said, "Rawly... his name's Rawly." Glancing up from the dog, he gave her a lopsided grin and raised his brows as if waiting for more.
"And I'm Sara... Sara Morgan."
He stood again. "Nice to meet you, Sara. You lived out here long?"
"And before that?" "California. LA. " she said simply feeling odd about conversing with someone so much on the trail.
"I spent some time in LA. Thought I'd come back to my roots."
"You're from here originally?"
"Born here. My family moved to Seattle when I was in my teens."
Somewhere along this conversation they had started to walk heading back the way she had come. "That would be some change."
Damon chuckled; the rumble skittering up along her spine making her tremble. She was thankful he had not noticed.
"It was a change alright. Made for a more exciting high school experience."
She gave a soft laugh. There really wasn't much around here. A community too small for its own high school. The kids all had to be bused out.
"So beyond coming back to your roots. Why else would you come back?"
He gave his lopsided grin then glanced all around him a slow sweeping motion. "What is not to like?"
She laughed at that. The beauty was a draw. A mountain fortress surrounding a lake of clear perfection. Strong and proud as the people here. Sam's kind of people. His family still lived down in the valley. A pagne ran over her, though is was not as strong as it once was.
"What brought you here?"
"Marriage..." the word caught, tripping her up. She looked out at the view, but she could feel his eyes focused on her.
"Sam Morgan's wife." He said it like he knew. She nodded unable to speak. After a few beats, he said, "I was really sorry to hear he died. Good guy. An old friend."
"You knew him?"
"Sure," he smiled sadly, "We got into our fair share of trouble before I was hauled out of here."
Sara searched her mind remembering Sam's misadventures as a rambunctious kid. Like any other boy at that age, he traveled in a pack. She remembered a Damon mentioned. She remembered the smiles and laughter that came with those tales.
"So you must be the Damon he mentioned on occasion."
Damon chuckled, "Probably. We did keep things interesting."
This added a new twist; a connection to an old part of Sam. Her curiosity was peeked. Her attraction flickered and with it, a wave of mild guilt. The man was a friend of Sam's. To block her swirling emotions she asked another question.
"So... what kind of work allows you to be here and not in some more urban venue?"
"I got into computers and web design. Lets me work from anywhere..."
She nodded at that. "Good career to have."
"What about you?"
"Oh.... well, I was helping Sam with his business..." Damon gave her a quizzical look, seeming to know there was more, he waited.
"Now... the business is sold and I am writing...."
He nodded impressed, "What do you write?"
A blush crept up her cheeks as she said, "Romance novels."
He smiled. "How long have you been writing?"
"When have I not been..." she murmured. At his curious look, she added, "I've published several." She did not want to say too much. It was something she held close and dear to her heart. It was not something she felt comfortable discussing with just anyone.
They came up over the rise in the trail and her house came into view.
"Your place?" he asked.
She nodded as she looked up at the log wooden structure. It's rounded beams a sweet honey gold colour standing strong among the pine forest that encroached on its domain. She loved the house. Sam had worked hard to build it; making it the perfect home for them. That connection held her, but so did the surroundings. She did not see herself ever moving away.
"Sam built this, didn't he." Damon said his voice a rumbled awe. All she could do was nod. "He always had brilliant ideas."
After a few moments, she felt his eyes shift to her as he added, "The guy always had good taste..." When she glanced at him, the look he gave her had her breath catching. She felt the burn of blush flaring up into her cheeks and she looked away quickly.
Damon chuckled, then said, "I am sorry if I make you uncomfortable... but I really can't help myself."
"You're shameful." she told him keeping her voice light.
"I've been called worse." "I'm sure you have." "Would I be too bold if I asked to take you to dinner?"
"Oh... I'm not... " she wanted to tell him she was not ready, but something deep within her told her to accept. Not close off.
"Could I add the enticement of a reading at the Sierra Nevada College's Writer's In The Woods event this weekend?"
She could not help the laugh that bubbled out. She had thought about going to that on her own. "Are you really interested in the reading or do you think it would sweeten the deal."
He let his own laugh rumble out. His eyes danced with mischief and he nodded as he told her, "A bit of both. I think going with you would be a better experience than going alone."
“You would go alone?” Her voice held an edge of disbelief. Not many men ventured to writer’s readings without a woman dragging them along... and certainly not men as handsome as Damon.
“Sure, why not?”
“I am not sure if I believe you.”
He gave her another lopsided grin that had her heart fluttering. It had been so long since those feelings and though she was feeling a little guilty at Sam’s memory, she was drawn in by something beyond her control.
“If it makes you feel any better, we can go as friends... just to keep things light. Get to know each other without the aspect of a date hanging over our heads.”
“This is a small community, Mr. Pike. People will talk.”
His laugh rumbled over her senses again. “Then we’ll give them something to talk about and know the truth.”
“And that truth would be?"
“That I want to get to know this beautiful woman, but I don’t want to scare her off before I get to know her....” When she just stared wide eyed at him, he added, “Please say yes.”
“Well...” she could feel herself bending. Wanting so much to go... with him.
When she nodded, his smile lit up his whole face. His blue eyes seemed to dance. Looking into those eyes she felt a shift. The guilt diminished and in its place was a warmness of blessing. Sam would want her to be happy. Damon could be a friend or could be something more, either way there was hope. She knew things were beginning to change. Life was moving forward and she finally felt ready.
Word Count = 2060