The night progressed with greasy burgers, mountains of fries, and old fashioned chocolate sodas along with a healthy dose of girl talk. Rachel spent most of the evening caught between laughing until she cried, crying until she laughed, and the random urge to smash things.
However Lucy did her due diligence as best friend with the real talk. Reminding Rachel that while yes she had trusted someone with her heart that she knew might break it, it does not wash Seth of the responsibility of his actions. He purposely led her on and filled her head with words he didn’t mean to keep her waiting for something that would never happen.
Lucy further reminded Rachel that even though her heart was in a million pieces right now, her mind & soul still belonged to herself. What Seth did does not give Rachel the ok to bury herself in it. Finishing up with the obvious it will get better with time.
Eventually they ended up at Rachel’s with a half pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream & a bottle of tequila. The ice cream they shared and Lucy indulged in the tequila while Rachel popped another pain pill. Together they decided what Rachel needed most right now was to get away to the place she loved most and her beloved Aunt Maddie. So together they packed.
Rachel sits on the bank of the river wrapped in sunlight, amidst the ageless beauty of the pine & fir trees scattered about. The cool September breeze caresses her face as she frees her fiery red hair from its ponytail, allowing the wind to carry it.
She closes her eyes tapping into the vibrating energy of the living things surrounding her. She can feel it humming inside her and grasps onto the connection which so many times soothed hurts of the past.
This time it's healing power only seems to mute the pain inside. She can feel the tears welling up in her eyes and fights with all her being to push them away. How could things have gone so wrong so quickly?
A series of beeps like a signal from the real world draws her attention to the cell phone in her hand. She had almost forgotten she was holding it.....almost. Damn it! Several missed calls and a voice mail. I bet! Screw youl! She tosses it into the bushes all the frustration from the last few months behind it.
He ponders her from afar, bathed in sunlight, her red hair blowing in the wind. She is a solitary figure with an aura of sadness about her, like someone haunted by ghosts of the past. He wonders if he should approach or leave her be when he sees an object hurtling through the air landing only a few feet from him. He's never been one to ignore a sign so he ambles towards the landing spot. Bending down he sees a rectangular object flashing at him. He picks up the sleek black phone and chuckles when he realizes what it is. Well she definitely has spunk, even if she isn't very cautious......or smart. One of the two.
Smiling to himself he approaches the young girl sitting on the steps leading to the river, noticing she is dressed appropriately for summer in a pair of black shorts and red t-shirt. Although it is obvious she hasn't spent much time outdoors by the creamy paleness of her skin. He tries to make his approach obvious and clears his throat to get her attention so not to scare the bejesus out of her.
Her head whips around in an auburn whirlwind and he finds himself looking into a pair of the most exotic eyes he has ever seen. Big, dark green, almond shaped pools, surrounded by thick black lashes and filled with surprise. Her unexpected beauty gives him pause and takes him a moment to get his bearings back.
"Sorry miss. I didn't mean to scare you, but I think you might have lost something," hand out stretched he tries to hand her the rapidly flashing phone.
"Oh...uh...it's ok," she looks at the phone like one afraid of a snake that might strike at any moment, so he sets it down on the step next her. "Thank you"
"No problem. My name is Sam," he ambles towards the opposite side of the step and sits. It is obvious to Sam by the faint pink stain on the young woman's cheeks she is embarrassed at being caught during such a private moment. So he decides the best strategy is to ignore the fact he saw it. Women can be quite sensitive that way if he remembers anything from his youth.
"Rachel. It's nice to meet you." Rachel can't seem to stop staring at this tall stranger that caught her by surprise. His height, angular shape, black wavy hair, and deep blue eyes were mild in comparison to the smoky voice attached to it. Something about it was like…..coming home.
"I-I'm sorry. I'm not usually so....um...rude. You just surprised me." Rachel stammered, befuddled by her own thoughts. Sultry images of moonlit water with mist skimming the surface danced in her head.
"Sorry about that. It is a very beautiful afternoon we have here isn't it?"
"Yea it’s quite breathtaking actually," Rachel returned her gaze out towards the river, admiring the beautiful horizon. A brilliant blue sky with tall pines reaching up to meet it, their shadow mirrored in the lazy river idling by the two strangers.
"The old Manistee is known for its charm with the ladies," Sam teased trying to break the obvious tension of their meeting. He was relieved when he heard the soft chuckle accompanying Rachel's response.
"Yes the ageless beauty and steadfast strength is a combination hard to resist. And the best part is he doesn't talk back."
The hearty outburst of Sam's laughter had Rachel turning and bestowing him with a radiant smile. He found himself catching his breath again as the two grinned at each other.
"I know a few men who would be more than eager to agree with that point Rachel."
"Yeah I'm sure their wives or girlfriends are more than happy to let them have their fun with Mistress Manistee if it will get them out of their hair for awhile," Rachel winked as she stretched out her legs feeling relaxed for the first time since she arrived.
"Ha, Ha...true, so very true. So may I ask how you know these parts? I don't believe I've seen you around before."
"Well I've had a long standing love affair with this place. Going on almost 25 years now."
"That's a mighty long time for one to be in the whirlwinds of an affair. Seems like it may be a bit more serious than that."
"Longest relationship I've ever had." Sam saw the brief flicker of sadness return to Rachel's eyes. He couldn't help but wonder what could cause such pain to this beautiful and charismatic young woman.
If it was a man, as so often the case, he was a damn fool whoever he is.
The humor that was there only seconds before seemed to be replaced by a somber quietness as Rachel turned her gaze back over the water. Sam was busily trying to figure out a way to bring that light back into her eyes, when a series of beeps interrupted his thoughts.
Rachel jolted and turned towards the phone sitting next to her. She snatched it up again feeling the urge to hurtle it, only into the watery abyss that would cause it to stop forever. Realizing that was not an option at this point & eventually she was going to have to face her life, she stood instead.
"It was a pleasure meeting you Sam, but I really must go."
"So soon? Well I'd love to continue our conversation another time."
"Umm.....maybe. I'll see you around." With that she was half way down the path towards the entrance of the campground before Sam could respond.