There was no fog now so she could see, and the view was breathtakingly gorgeous. The sun poked through the lush growth, dappling the trail. Far below, down in the meadow, the steam rose from the rocks as the sun hit the dew. Making her careful way down the steep incline to the meadow floor, she walked through shoulder-high grass and wildflowers to the wall of thirty-foot prehistoric rocks on the far side. The meadow was a lot longer than it appeared from above, and there was no path, so this took another half hour. Finally she stood before the towering rocks, feeling quite small and insignificant.
Heart pounding, she slowly walked the entire length of them. Names and dates had been carved into the lower stones by countless climbers before her. Not needing to read her grandma’s journal, Amy followed the right curve as far as she could and found the last huge “diamond” rock. There were rows of initials, and she painstakingly read each and every one, looking for the RB and SB that was Rose Barrett and Scott Barrett. It took her another thirty minutes to decide they weren’t there.
Frustrated, she sat in the wild grass and stared at the rock. To give herself some time to think, she pulled out her sketch pad and drew the rocks. She needed to start back soon but she was hesitant to leave without answers. She looked at the rocks again and let out a breath.
Then she reached for her phone and called the one person who could help her.
Amy went still at the sound of her mom’s voice.
Amy cleared her throat, but the emotions couldn’t be swallowed away. Guilt. Hurt. Regret. “How did you know?”
“You’re the only one who ever calls and says nothing. Though it’s been a few years.” Her mom paused. “I suppose you need something.”
Amy closed her eyes. “Yeah.”
Now her mother was quiet.
“I’m in Lucky Harbor,” Amy said. “In Washington State.”
“Following grandma’s journal.”
This got a reaction, a soft gasp. “Whatever for?” her mom asked.
For hope and peace, Amy nearly said. To find myself… But that was all far too revealing, and her mother wouldn’t believe it anyway. “Her journal says they left their initials on the mountain, but there’s no RB and SB for Rose and Scott Barrett anywhere that I can see.”
There was a sigh. “It was all a very long time ago, Amy.”
“You know something.”
Amy wasn’t breathing. “Mom, please tell me.”
“You’re looking for the wrong initials. You should be looking for RS and JS. JS is for Jonathon Stone.” Her mom paused. “Your grandma’s first husband.”
Amy felt her heart stutter. “What?”
“Rose ran away when she was seventeen, you knew that. She eloped.”
She hadn’t known that. “With Jonathon Stone.”
“Yes. Their families didn’t approve. Not that Mom ever cared about what people thought. You’re a lot like her in that regard…” Amy’s mother sighed again, and when she spoke this time, there was heavy irony in her voice. “The women in our family don’t tend to listen to reason.”
Amy ran back to the rock and searched again. It didn’t take but a minute to find it, the small RS and JS together. She pressed a hand to the ache in her chest. “No,” she agreed softly. “We don’t tend to listen to reason.”
There was another awkward pause, and Amy had this ridiculous wish that her mom might ask how she was. She didn’t. Too much water under the bridge. But she hoped there was enough of a tie left to at least get the answers she wanted. Needed. “What happened to Jonathon?”
“It’s a sad story,” her mom said. “Jonathon was sick,” her mom explained. “Lung cancer, and back then it was even more of a death sentence than it is now. Jonathon had a list of things he wanted to do while he could. Rock climb the Grand Canyon. Ski a glacier. See the Pacific Coast from a mountaintop…”
The Olympic Mountains. Where Amy currently sat. “Did he get to do those things in time?”
Her mom was quiet, not answering.
“You haven’t called me in two years. Two years, Amy.”
She sighed. “Yeah.”
“It’d have been nice to know you’re alive.”
The last time Amy had called, her mother had been having marital problems with husband number five—shock—and she’d wanted to play the place-the-blame game. Amy hadn’t wanted to go there. So it’d been easier not to call. “What happened to Jonathon, Mom? And do you know where it was exactly that Grandma Rose ended her journey? Her journal is clear on the first two legs of their trek in the Olympic Mountains, but it’s vague on the last stop.” Where Rose had found heart… “Do you—”
“I’m fine, you know. Thanks for asking.”
Amy grimaced. “Mom—”
“Is this your cell phone? This number you called me from?”
“Yes,” Amy said.
“You have enough minutes in your phone plan to make a few extra calls?”
“Good. Call me again sometime, and you can ask me another question. I’ll answer a question with each call. How’s that sound?”
Amy blinked. “You want me to call you?”
“You always were a quick study.”
Amy stared at the phone. This was almost too much information for her brain to process. Her Grandma Rose had made this journey when she’d been seventeen years old. Seventeen. And she’d been a newlywed, in love with someone who’d died young and tragically.
How had that brought her hope? Or peace? Or her own heart…?
Amy pulled out the journal. She’d read it a hundred times. She knew that there was no mention of Jonathon.
Just the elusive and misleading “we.”
It’s been a rough week. The roughest of the summer so far.
Well, that made sense now. Jonathon had been sick. Dying. Amy flipped to the next entry.
Lucky Harbor’s small and quirky, and the people are friendly. We’ve been here all week resting, but today was a good day so we went back up the mountain. To a place called Four Lakes this time. All around us the forest vibrated with life and energy, especially the water.
I never realized how much weight the water can remove from one’s shoulders. Swimming in the water was joy. Sheer joy.
I could hear the call of gulls, and caught the occasional bald eagle in our peripheral. The sheer, vast beauty was staggering.
Afterward, we lay beneath a two-hundred-foot-tall old spruce and stared up through the tangle of branches to the sky beyond. I’d always been a city girl through and through, but this… out here… it was magic. Healing.
I carved our initials on the tree trunk. It felt like a promise. I had my hope, but now I had something else, too, peace. Four Lakes had given me peace.
A little shocked to find her eyes stinging, her knees weak with emotion, Amy sank to the grass, emotion churning through her. As odd as it seemed, she’d found the teeniest, tiniest bit of hope for herself after all. Maybe her own peace was next…
“Phone’s for you!” Jan yelled to Amy across the diner. “You need to let people know that I’m not you’re damn answering service!”
Amy had gotten to work on time, and though she was still reeling from the afternoon and all she’d learned, she managed to set it aside for now. That was a particularly defined talent of hers. Setting things aside. Living in Denial City.
For now, she had to work; that’s what kept a roof over her head and food in her belly. She had no idea who’d possibly be calling her here at the diner, but she finished serving a customer his dinner and then picked up the phone in the kitchen. “Hello?”
Nothing but a dial tone. She turned to Jan. “Who was it?”
“Some guy.” Jan shrugged. “He wanted to talk to the waitress who’d been seen with the runaway teen.”
Amy went still. “And you didn’t think that was odd?”
Jan shrugged again. Not her problem.
Amy had a bad feeling about this, very bad. To save money, she’d never gotten a landline at her apartment. This meant she couldn’t check on Riley, which she felt a sudden real need to do. “Going on break,” she said.
Jan sputtered. “Oh, no. You just got here an hour ago.”
Amy grabbed her keys. “I’ll be back.”
“I said no.” Steam was coming out of Jan’s ears. “You’ve got a room full of hungry people.”
Amy understood, but there was a sinking feeling in her gut that Riley needed her more. “Sorry.” She headed out the back door as Jan let out a furious oath.
There was no Riley waiting at home.
And no note.
No nothing, though the clothes Amy had set out for Riley were gone. Unhappy, Amy left Riley a sticky note in case she came back, then returned to work, eyeing the door every time someone came in.
But Riley never showed.
At the end of Amy’s shift, Mallory and Grace arrived. Amy waved them to a booth, grabbed the plate of brownies she’d been saving as well as the charity jar from the counter, and joined them. She plopped down, put her feet up, head back, and sighed out a very long breath.
“Long day?” Mallory asked sympathetically.
Amy looked at Mallory. “You, I’m not talking to.”
Mallory winced, guilt all over her face, clearly knowing Amy was referring to the Matt-to-the-rescue episode.
Amy popped the lid off the money jar and pulled out a wad of cash, 100 percent of which would go directly to the teen center at the local health services clinic that Mallory ran. “Two hundred and fifty bucks. Even if I am mad at you.”
“Luckily you’re not the type to hold a grudge,” Mallory said sweetly, taking the money.