KAYAK AND FORGOTTEN DREAMS
ALLIE WOKE early the next morning. She’d slept in the shirt he’d given her, and she smelt him once again while thinking about the evening they’d spent together.
She looked out of the window and watched the singing birds. Noah, she knew, had always been a morning person. She knew he liked to kayak or canoe, and she remembered one morning she’d spent with him in his canoe, watching the sun come up. She’d had to sneak out of her window to do it because her parents wouldn’t allow it, but she hadn’t been caught and she remembered how Noah had slipped his arm around her and pulled her close as dawn began to unfold. «Look there,» he’d whispered, and she’d watched her first sunrise with her head on his shoulder, wondering if anything could be better than that moment.
As she got out of bed to take her bath, feeling the cold floor beneath her feet, she wondered if he’d been on the water this morning watching another day begin, and thought that he probably had.
SHE WAS RIGHT. Noah was up before the sun and dressed quickly, walked to the dock where his kayak was stored. He liked to let the river work its magic, loosening up his muscles, warming his body, clearing his mind.
Questions danced in his mind. He wondered about Lon and what type of man he was, wondered about their relationship. Most of all, though, he wondered about Allie and why she had come.
By the time he reached home, he felt renewed. Checking his watch, he was surprised to find that it had taken two hours. Time always played tricks out there.
In the western sky he saw storm clouds, thick and heavy, far off but definitely present. The winds weren’t blowing hard but they were bringing the clouds closer. From the look of them, he didn’t want to be outside when they got here. Damn. How much time did he have? A few hours, maybe more.
He showered, put on new jeans, a red shirt and black cowboy boots, brushed his hair and went downstairs to the kitchen. He did the dishes from the night before, made himself some coffee and went to the porch. The sky was darker now and he checked the barometer. Steady, but it would start dropping soon.
ALLIE SPENT the morning downtown. The park looked exactly the same as it had fourteen years ago, and the kids who played on the swings after school probably looked the same as well. She smiled at the memory then, thinking back to when things were simpler. Or at least had seemed to be.
Now, nothing was simple. She wondered what she would be doing now, had she never seen the article in the paper. It wasn’t very difficult to imagine, because her routines seldom changed. It was Wednesday, which meant bridge at the country club, then on to the Junior Women’s League, where they would probably arrange another fund-raiser for the private school or hospital. After that, a visit to her mother, then home to get ready for dinner with Lon, because he left work by seven. It was the one night a week she saw him regularly.
She suppressed a feeling of sadness about that, hoping that one day he would change.
She came to an art gallery. She paused at the door for a second, surprised at how long it had been since she’d been in one. At least three years, maybe longer.
She went inside and walked among the paintings. Many of the artists didn’t seem to be very talented.
On one wall, though, there were a few paintings more suited to her tastes, by an artist she’d never heard of. In the painting, she liked the best, she noted the artist had purposely exaggerated the scene with smaller-than-life figures, wide lines and heavy sweeps of vivid colour. It was dynamic, dramatic. Suddenly she realized that she liked it because it reminded her of her own work. She examined it more closely and thought to herself that maybe Noah was right. Maybe she should start painting again.
At nine thirty, Allie left the gallery and went to a department store. It took a few minutes to find what she was looking for. Paper, drawing chalk and pencils, not high quality but good enough. It was a start, and she was excited by the time she got back to her room.
She sat at the desk and started working: nothing specific, just getting the feel of it again, letting shapes and colours flow from the memory of her youth. After a few minutes, she did a rough sketch of the street scene as seen from her room, amazed at how easily it came. It was almost as if she’d never stopped.
She examined it when she was finished, pleased with the effort. She wondered what to try next and finally decided. Since she didn’t have a model, she visualized it in her head before starting. And though it was harder than the street scene, it began to take form.
Minutes passed quickly. She worked steadily, checking the time frequently so she wouldn’t be late, and finished it a little before noon. It had taken almost two hours, but the result surprised her. It looked as though it had taken a great deal longer. After rolling it up, she put it in a bag and collected the rest of her things. On her way out of the door, she looked at herself in the mirror, feeling oddly relaxed, not exactly sure why.
Down the stairs and out of the door. As she left, she heard a voice behind her. «Miss?»
She turned. The manager. The same man as yesterday, with a curious look on his face.
«You had some calls last night.»
She was shocked. «I did?»
«Yes. All from Mr. Hammond.»
Oh, God. «Lon called?»
«Yes, ma’am, four times. He was concerned about you. He said he was your fiance.»
She smiled weakly, trying to hide what she was thinking. Four times? Four? What could that mean? What if something had happened back home? «Did he say anything? Is it an emergency?»
He shook his head quickly. «He really didn’t say, miss. Actually, he sounded more concerned about you.»
Good, she thought. That’s good. And then, suddenly, she felt a pang in her chest. Why so many calls? Had she said anything yesterday? Why would he be so persistent? It was completely unlike him.
She had to call him now: there was no way to get around it. But she didn’t want to. This was her time, and she wanted to spend it doing what she wanted. She hadn’t planned on speaking to him until later, and she felt that talking to him now could spoil the day. Besides, what was she going to say?
Almost noon, she thought. Where would he be? His office, probably… no. In court, she suddenly realized, and immediately felt fine. There was no way she could talk to him, even if she wanted to. She was surprised by her feelings. She shouldn’t feel this way, she knew, and yet it didn’t bother her. She looked at her watch, acting now.
«Is it really almost twelve?»
The manager looked at the clock. «Yes, a quarter to.»
«Unfortunately,» she started, «he’s in court right now and I can’t reach him. If he calls again, could you tell him I’m shopping and that I’ll try to call him later?»
«Of course,» he answered.
«Thank you,» she said, smiling. «I’d appreciate it.»
Two minutes later, she was in her car, driving to Noah’s, anticipating the day, largely unconcerned about the phone calls.
As she was driving over the bridge, less than four minutes after she’d left the inn, Lon called from the courthouse.