Christmas is right around the corner. We’re busy. We need more time. More energy. More peace. I like to post a short story every December. My gift to you.
I wrote this little story a few years back. Some of you may have read it. Some of you haven’t. Our family has camped many times in the Qu’Appelle Valley, which is basically our backyard. We have many fond memories. This story touches on how the valley got it’s name.
WAITING FOR MASON by Karyn Good
In the waning light Willa Harris surveyed her version of the prettiest spot on earth. With its shelter of wolf willows and cottonwoods, the tranquil calm of the lake, it soothed her battered heart. She struck a red-tipped match. Held the tiny flame to the bits of dry grass and twig she’d arranged in the middle of an irregular circle of stones. It whiffed out in a puff of wind.
The second match survived the odds and sparked at the broken bits of branch. She held her breath, delighted when it caught. She needed the heat. Tonight the many miles between the rustic Qu’Appelle Valley and her native Toronto were adding up to doubts. She tossed on a couple of smaller branches. Not about setting down roots here. Or Mason. The dry wood caught and she leaned in closer to catch the flare of heat. She reached for her backpack, the motion jarring her swollen ankle. Could she convince Mason she belonged here, too?
Okay, maybe she could use a crash course in backwoods smarts, on how to survive on ants and tree bark tea, that kind of thing. Hiking without falling victim to a sprained ankle. But she was trying. Hadn’t she’d trekked in alone to their special spot? Set things up? Okay, half set things up, but still it proved she was crazy about Mason Shaw, protector of the wild things. Didn’t it?
The darker the night sky and the brighter the moon, the more she felt like maybe Mason wasn’t coming. What if he hadn’t found her note? What if he didn’t show? What then? It’d be her and the howling coyotes. No. Mason would come looking for her. He was like that, straight up honourable in an old fashioned Camelot style that stretched way beyond appealing. She could count on Mason to do the right thing even when he’d rather not.
Willa massaged her throbbing ankle. In the distance the prairie wolves began their nightly serenade of howls and yips, in front of her the yellow-red flames fluttered and weaved. In back of her a breeze whispered through the fresh-leafed aspens. It wasn’t so bad being out here all alone. To disconnect. Take some time to think.
She never heard a sound, not a footstep, snapping twig, or rustle of clothing. Nothing until he appeared on the other side of the fire blocking her view. She froze at the sight of the bent old man who stared back at her. He lifted a hand in greeting a second before he squatted down across from her and set his rifle on the ground beside him.