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Authors: Emily Caro

Lena's River

BOOK: Lena's River
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Lena’s
River

Emily
Caro

 

 

www.emilycaro.com

Copyright © 2013 by Emily
Caro

 

All rights reserved. No
part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any
form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or
mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher,
except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain
other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests,
write [email protected]

2013 Anara Press

 

Chapter One

“I don’t understand why you have to go today. I wish
you wouldn’t – it will be the start of the season soon! Where will I be if
business picks up?” Kaili would have stamped her foot with frustration if she
thought it would do any good. But her older sister seemed deaf to any protests.

“Don’t worry. Tourists won’t start showing up in any
numbers for another three weeks and I’ll be back way before then. Besides, Joe
will be around whether you need him or not.” Lena tried to coax a grin out of
her sister. But Kaili’s expression was stony.

 “You know I need a break. I’ll go nuts if I can’t get
away for a little while. Unless…” Lena let her words linger, “you plan on
visiting in me in the mental ward for the duration of the summer. You choose
Kaili. Everything will be fine. And I’ll check in with you.”

Lena didn’t like to assume the parental voice with her
sister but she had two threads of patience left and they were fraying fast. She
made a fist with her left hand and gave the spare tire a thump.

“Huh, that could use a little air.”

Kaili crossed her arms and bent her head down, pouting.
Lena paused with her inspection of the camper to frown at her sister.
“Honestly, Kaili have a little self confidence! You’ve been doing this since
you were five.”

“I know, but someone has always been here to rely on. It
feels weird without Mom. I miss her. I miss her a lot.”

Lena’s heart grabbed at her throat. She felt guilty all
of a sudden and reached over to put an arm around Kaili’s shoulders. Kaili
leaned into the embrace.

“It will get better, I promise. We just need time. It
won’t always feel like this.” Lena kissed Kaili’s forehead and smoothed back
her sister’s short, curly hair. Kaili’s hair was always out of control but
today it seemed wilder than usual. Lena paused, not sure what else to say:
“It’s really tough right now – on both of us. But we have to deal with her
death in our own way and this is my way. You understand that, right honey?”

Kaili didn’t say much for a few seconds. Then she
muttered, “I understand that you are morbidly obsessed with fishing. The rest
of it I haven’t a clue about. Why would anyone want to be out in the woods
without a shower and eat Gina’s weird food? Besides, your friends are boring.
All they ever do is talk about their silly trailers.” Kaili’s eyes were wide
and her mouth curled in a little smirk as she mocked up an imitation: “Oh, I
found the perfect vintage stove to go with my retro-sixties’ camper. Oh! See my
ugly turquoise curtains to match! Oh!”

“Okay, that’s enough. Gina does not talk like that.”

“But you knew who it was!” Kaili pointed and laughed.

Lena grinned and tightened her hug into a wrestler’s
grip until her sister protested. “Hey!”

 Lena laughed: “Thanks for that. I always knew you had
a soft spot for Gina’s gourmet cooking! I’ll be sure to have her cater your
wedding.”

“Well in that case,
I’ll for sure
never get
married! She’d poison all the guests.” Kaili poked Lena in the ribs. Lena released
her, still smiling and returned to the sixteen foot vintage camper which
accompanied her on all her adventures. Kaili continued to needle Lena: “Are you
sure this bucket of bolts will make it all the way to the Sol Duc River?”

Lena took a deep breath and closed her eyes trying not
to show irritation. “Yes, she’ll make it just fine. Don’t you have a couple
cabins to clean? I’ll come and get you when I’m ready to take off. Now get
outta’ my hair!”

“Man, I hope you come back in a better mood. You’re one
bitchy lady!” Kaili turned heel and started up the small path leading to the
cabins at the end of the drive.

Lena watched her climb the narrow path. Kaili’s slim
form seemed less spindly than a few months ago. She had lost weight during
their mother’s illness but now, Lena observed, she looked less gaunt and
somehow healthier. Meeting Joe had been good. Joe was a godsend. Lena never
would have agreed to take this vacation if it hadn’t been for him.

Lena’s older friend, Mary, had introduced Kaili to her
son Joe who’d been living with his Dad in Eugene. After Joe graduated from high
school he decided to come live with his Mom and the rest was history. He and
Kaili had become fast friends and were pretty much inseparable.

Kaili would be nineteen in July. Lena hoped, for her
sister’s sake, that the joys of youth would soon replace the heavy sadness
which hung over their lives right now.

“Are you sure it’s wise leaving those two little love
birds on their own for a couple weeks?” Gina had queried her yesterday as to
the wisdom of leaving Kaili in charge of the place.

“I know you think I’m crazy but I trust Joe. I mean,
he’s Mary’s son, Gina.”

“Yeah, and he’s a healthy, young male with a sex drive
to match. You’re crazy girl. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for the
consequences. I don’t think Mary is ready to be a grandma yet - I’m just saying.
But she’ll have to speak for herself.

“Kaili isn’t fifteen anymore. And she’s not completely
naïve. I have to start handing her the responsibility for her own life at some
point. She’s learned a lot about the opposite sex.”

“No, I suppose not, after watching you with Trent she
knows exactly what to avoid!”

“Okay, yeah you’re right. Gina, why’d you have to bring
him up?” Lena was exasperated. How did Gina turn this conversation around to focus
on Lena’s lack of intelligent choices in men?

“No reason. Just can’t get enough of telling you: “I told
you so!”

“Thanks. Thanks so much.”

“Anytime, dear; I’m here to serve up a sweet dose of
reality whenever you need it.”

And so Lena left off worrying. Kaili was responsible
for herself and the Sitka RV Park until she got back from her vacation. Lena
had left things in good order and Kaili knew the place like the contents of a
well-loved book. It had been their home for a long time now. They had both
grown up here and learned the ropes of how to run a family business from their
mother. Everything would be fine.

And, if Joe were around to provide a little love and
support on the side, it would help heal her little sister who was devastated
when Mom died.

Lena had a pang of regret. And, perhaps she felt a hint
of jealousy. It would be nice to have someone to love, or just a decent man to
have around as a distraction. But, in all reality, what she needed was to get
away. The kind of get-away where you could see the stars at night and smell the
pine trees as you sipped your cup of coffee in the morning. The fishing was
just an excuse to get outdoors.

“All I need to do is get some gas for the rig and I’m
outta’ here. Meet you at
The Junction
in say, forty minutes. I have to
have the propane tank filled too.”

“Okay, girl. Watch highway fifteen. It’s full of
potholes after the crazy winter we had. It’ll shake your camper loose from its chassis.”

“You got it. See you soon.”

Lena hugged Kaili goodbye. “Bye sweetheart. I’ll call
as soon as I can. I have to go to the top of Hoh hill to get any signal, so it
might be a day or two.”

Kaili didn’t look happy but she held it together for
the sake of Joe who watched from the back door.

“See you, Joe. Take care of each other.” Lena waved to
him.

Joe nodded and smiled. He wasn’t one for many words.
But he was kind and trustworthy and in the end that’s what was important. At
least that’s what she wanted to believe.

Lena hopped in the truck and started the engine. One
more wave and a kiss blown out the window and she was on her way. The camper
bumped behind as she pulled out onto the highway headed towards town.

“Oh, yeah! This girl could use an adventure. Bring it
on.”

****

By the time Lena reached the rendezvous at the Junction,
her friends had arrived before her. This was their usual spot to meet and grab
a quick bite whenever they drove west. Lena found a long, open parking spot for
her truck and camper; put on the emergency break then hopped out to check the
hubs for heat. She bent down and put her hand on the baby moon hubcap.

“Everything alright?” A deep voice at her back made her
spin around on her heels. He added: “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.
Is everything okay with your wheel?”

Lena looked puzzled. Where’d he come from? There hadn’t
been a soul around when she parked here. She frowned a little and glanced back
at the tire. “Yes, I think so. I should have packed the bearings but thought I
could squeak by for this trip.” She looked up at him. He had shades and a Mariner’s
hat, was tall, brown and fit.

“Okay, if you need ‘em packed they might do that over
at the garage – I was over there earlier getting my oil changed. Best to be
safe –are the hubs hot?”

“Huh? No, but they aren’t cool either. I think it will
be okay. I’ve got some goop in the back of the truck and can give the bearings
a shot if I need to.” She stood up and faced him.

Why did guys think she was low functioning when it came
to her rigs? She had some pretty decent mechanical skills. She knew how to
change the air filter. She knew that hot bearings were bad. She knew how to check
her battery. She could change a flat if she had to.

She tried not to sound annoyed but couldn’t help her
tone. “Thanks. I got it covered.”

He nodded and adjusted his hat. She could tell he was
checking her out. Right then Lena wished she would have applied a brush to her
hair before getting out of the truck. Or even thrown on some lipstick – how
hard could that have been? She’d showered before leaving the house but her hair
was always a tangle in this humidity. She could feel her long, wavy strands getting
frizzier by the moment. The more she thought about it the worse it got – huge
curls springing up off her head like tiny pogo sticks.

“Look at me! I have really curly hair and
it’s out of control! Boing, boing. Don’t I look ridiculous and scary?”

Lena looked at the guy with the sunglasses. Man, he was
a tasty morsel as far as she could tell. His tee shirt pretty much was only
there to show off the muscles underneath. His bare arms looked tan which was no
small feat in the rainy northwest. He must spend a lot of time outside. She
looked him over good but then caught herself and felt her cheeks turn red. It
had been awhile since she’d had a guy around and her mind raced with
possibilities. He body began to tingle. Then her eyes began to water because of
the bright sunshine.

“I must look crazy - hungry and insane,
like a she-wolf ready for the full moon. Any moment now I will start drooling.
Stop, geez just stop it.”

He considered her for a long moment, and then said: “Okay,
have a good trip. Great little camper, by the way.” And before she could
respond he’d turned and walked off.

Lena closed her eyes and groaned. “And this is why we
can’t have nice things.”

She found her friends inside having a cup of coffee in
the café.

“Hey Lena, we were wondering if you’d had a flat!” Mary
and Sala gave her big hugs.

“Hi ladies, thanks for waiting – are we ready to roll?”

Two hours later found their little caravan stuck in late
afternoon traffic. It was tough hauling the camper through the jam of cars and
Lena always dreaded this part of the trip, but by six thirty they’d made it to
the ferry and stood on the deck chatting while they waited for it to leave.
Soon the horn blared and there was a stiff lurch. It was about a forty minute
ride to the other side so they had plenty of time to wander around the deck and
stretch their legs. A stiff breeze blew atop the ferry as Puget Sound opened up
before them. It was going to be a gorgeous evening.

BOOK: Lena's River
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