THE SUN HAD not yet peeked over the mountains, but Kara hurried anyway. With her sketchpad tucked securely under her arm, she picked her way along the trail to the lake. Her flashlight shining, she agilely avoided the exposed roots of the massive trees lining the path and she paused, leaning against the trunk of one of those giants to catch her breath. She had come down this same trail the evening before and had sketched the lake at sunset, but she knew the colors of early morning would be more to her liking.

She slowed as she saw the water through the trees. Something caught her eye along the edge and through the mist, she saw the shadows of two deer as they walked slowly along the fringe of the lake. As if sensing her presence, their heads turned her way, and she froze and watched as their ears twitched, listening for her next step. They stared at her as she stared back and for several seconds she barely took in a breath, not wanting to disturb the scene. Finally, with a disinterested toss of their tails, they walked off into the trees and disappeared.

She hurried now as the morning light crept over the hills, and she walked nearly to the edge of the lake, sat again on the same rock as before and waited for the colors of sunrise to strike her. She shivered in the cool of the morning and she rubbed her hands across her bare legs, waiting.

When the first pinks appeared over the water, her fingers moved quickly, nimbly sketching the lake in the dim light of dawn and when the pinks erupted to orange, she added more color as the sound of her chalk on paper echoed through the silent forest. When the full sun peeked through, changing the brilliant orange to dull yellow, she put her pad down and stretched her neck, raising her arms over her head. She looked at her work, then picked up another color and quickly added the shadows of the deer along the rim. She rarely painted animals of any kind, but she wanted to remember the deer, in case she decided to add them when she took this to canvas. As an afterthought, she sketched her trademark in the top corner, a full moon hanging over the lake, and closed her pad. Only then did she hear the footsteps behind her.

"Good morning.”

Startled, she turned. She hadn’t expected hikers this early and was clearly surprised by the older woman standing there watching her. Kara stared at her in silence before finding her voice.

"Hello," she murmured.

"I didn’t want to disturb you earlier. You were so engrossed. I’ve never seen anyone out here this early before."

The woman was clearly nervous and Kara took a moment to compose herself. She replaced the glare on her face with a forced smile and gathered up her sketchpad and chalks, trying to ignore the woman as politely as possible. She had never been good with strangers.

"I’m Louise Harrison, by the way," the woman said, extending her hand.

Kara looked up and, after a brief pause, touched hands with the woman. "Kara. Kara Morgan."

"I don’t believe I’ve seen you before. Tourist?"

"Not exactly."

Kara moved to walk past her, but the woman put her hands on her hips, clearly expecting an explanation.

"I’m renting the Dobson cabin," Kara finally explained.

"The Dobson place? I thought they were only going away for a week or two."

"I wouldn’t know about that," Kara said. "I’ve rented it through October."

"Well, I’ll be. I wonder what happened? " Louise asked, expecting Kara to answer.

Kara shrugged. She had lived in the city her whole life, she wasn’t used to keeping tabs on her neighbors.

"You’re going to be here through October, you say?”

"Yes." Kara again tried to pass, but the woman continued.

"Well, come by the store then. Ginny will be glad to meet you. There’s very few people her own age out here in the mountains."

"Who?" Kara asked.

"My granddaughter. We have the general store over at the end of town," the woman explained, motioning with her hand.

"Oh.” Kara smiled politely, finally walking past the woman. "Actually, I haven’t been into town yet.”

Louise surveyed her sketchpad under her arm. "You’re an artist?"

"Yes. "


"It started out that way, yes."

"Well, you must be good if you can make a living at it."

"Sometimes. " Kara squared her shoulders, raising to her full height. She’d had enough of idle conversation for one day. "Listen, it was nice to meet you, but I’ve got to get back. Louise, was it?"

"Yes. Come by the store," she said again. "We’ve got coffee," she called to Kara’s retreating back.

Kara smiled slightly and made her escape, hurrying back along the path to her truck, anxious to return to her solitude.


GINNY LOOKED UP as the bell over the door jingled and she smiled warmly at her grandmother.

"Good morning, Nana. How was your walk?"

"Oh, it’s a beautiful day out, Ginny." Louise walked around the counter and tossed her purse on the bottom shelf, nudging Ginny out of the way. "I told you I would put these out this morning."

Ginny had been pricing the freeze-dried meals that they kept in stock for the backpackers that swarmed the mountains in summer. She let Nana take over and went to get herself a latte from the espresso machine. She proudly touched the side, rubbing off a smudge with her thumb. It was the first thing she added when she had purchased the general store last fall. Coffee was one of the few things she missed about Seattle.

"Want one?" she asked.

"No, thanks. I just had some juice. Oh, Ginny, I met the most interesting woman this morning," Nana said.

"When?" Ginny asked absently as she pushed the button for steamed milk.

"Out on the trail, by the lake," Nana explained. "An artist. I watched her work, although I’m sure she didn’t know I was spying on her."

"Spying? Why?"

"Well, I didn’t want to disturb her. She had this large pad and a handful of colored chalk things and her hands just flew over the paper." Louise sighed heavily. "I wanted to ask to see it, but once she stood up, I lost my nerve."

"What do you mean?" Ginny took a sip of her coffee and smiled contentedly. Nothing like good coffee.

"Well, she was… imposing. Taller than most women. And her eyes. Oh, Ginny, the most odd color of blue I’ve ever seen. Seemed to look right through you."

"What’s her name?"

Nana looked up and frowned. "Kara Morgan. Ever heard of her?"

"Kara Morgan? I’m not sure. Wasn’t there an article earlier this year about her in Northwest Magazine?"

"I don’t remember. You know I never actually read those articles," she said and smiled sheepishly. "I just enjoy the pictures."

Ginny smiled, too. "You and me both. So, she’s here painting?"

"I suppose. She’s renting the Dobson place until October. I was certain the Dobson’s were only going to be gone a week or so. At least, that’s what I heard. I wonder if they are having problems? " she mused. Then she looked back at Ginny. "But anyway, I told her to come by. She’s a little older than you, but I told her you didn’t have any friends here your own age."


"Well, you don’t. You keep saying you have nothing in common with the people around here."

"I’m sure I would have nothing in common with an artist, either."

"You designed ads. That’s art," Nana said emphatically.

"I hardly think what I did for the marketing firm could be called art, Nana."

"Well, she wasn’t overly friendly anyway. She may not even stop by."

Ginny shook her head and sipped from her coffee. It was true. She had made few friends since she had moved here. Most of the locals were older and those that were close to her own age were married with small children and she certainly didn’t have anything in common with them. So far, she had been content having Nana as her only friend.

The bell jingled again and Mr. Arnold came in carrying his poodle under his arm.

"Good morning, ladies," he said, bowing slightly at his waist.

"Why, Mr. Arnold, how are you today?" Nana greeted him and Ginny was again amazed at how Nana had taken to running the store. But then, Nana had lived most of her adult life here. These people were her people. It had taken several months for them to warm up to Ginny, despite the many summers she had spent here as a child. But now, after nearly a year, she felt almost like a local.

She gave a humorless smile to her reflection in the glass behind the counter. So far removed from Seattle, but hardly a local here. Sometimes, she did miss her fast-paced job in the city. And sometimes, she missed the people there.

Like Phil, she thought, but she didn’t want to think about him right now. He had been calling again, hinting that he was coming for a visit and she had been putting it off. He would want to talk marriage and after being away from him the last eight months, she was fairly certain that she would not marry him. Only she didn’t have the heart to tell him. Or Nana. She had hoped her absence would end things with Phil, but still, he called.


"What?" she asked, pushing her thoughts aside for the moment.

"Would you slice Mr. Arnold some ham? Just a half-pound."

"Of course.”

The day took on its familiar routine. The morning filled with locals and a handful of strangers. The afternoon would be spent catering to the tourists and vacationers who had slept in and were late getting out to enjoy the warm day. Jessica, the high school student who helped during the summer months, came in at noon and Ginny escaped for a quick lunch, taking her sandwich out to the park like she did everyday.