Friday, April 19, 2019

The Storm

Words for Wednesday was begun by Delores and has become a moveable feast of word or picture or music prompts that encourages stories, poems, or whatever strikes the imagination. This month, MessyMimi is providing the prompts.
     She'd been eating at the small restaurant after shopping all morning for Easter gifts for her nieces and nephews when she overheard that there was a blizzard moving in.  It was April, and the robins had even arrived, but local lore said that there was always one more snow storm that followed the robins.  She had lived in the Northwoods for several years now, and it seemed that the locals were abounding with some kind of quirky weather predictions associated with the snow.  "They should know," she thought as she watched the waitress sloppily refill her coffee mug.

     Glancing out the large window at the lake, she watched as storm clouds began rolling in from the Canada border.  She realized if she was going to get home before the snow started, she should leave soon.  Getting up from the table, she went to the ladies room, telling the waitress as she passed that she would pay the bill when she returned.

     Returning to her table a few minutes later, she was surprised to see a scribbled picture of a quince blossom on a napkin near the upside down bill the waitress had left for her on the table.  She glanced around the restaurant, but most of the other patrons had already left ahead of the coming storm and she was alone except for the waitress and cook.

     "Is there a problem?"

     Cierra jumped at the sound of the waitress's voice just behind her.

     "The man said that he was a friend of yours who wanted to surprise you by paying your bill."

     "I'm sorry.  What?"

     "Your bill.  It was paid by the man who left while you were in the ladies room."

     Cierra turned over the bill on the table.  It had a line through the total and was marked 'PAID' in red ink that almost matched the color of pencil used to draw the blossom.

     "Did he leave his name?  Did you see which way he went when he left?  What did he look like?"

     "Whoa, whoa, whoa!  What's with the 20 questions?  No, he didn't tell me his name, he just paid in cash with a hundred dollar bill and told me to keep the change, which I was more than happy to do on a $8.45 ticket.  Everyone was wanting to pay up and head out before the storm, so I really didn't have time to look at him or see where he went.  What's the big deal?  You the kind that looks a gift horse in the mouth?"

     Without answering, Cierra grabbed the napkin and rushed out the door to her car.

     Starting her car, she sat in the parking lot waiting for it to warm up, her mind filled with questions.  There was only one person in the world who would have known the significance of that blossom to her, and she hadn't seen him in almost ten years.  She hadn't thought of him in ... she looked at her watch ... two seconds?  And before that, there hadn't been an hour that passed that he hadn't crossed her mind somehow.  A song on the the radio, an image in a magazine or on television, a scent on the air ... everything reminded her of him.  But he was supposed to be dead.  Or at least, she thought he was.  She had seen him fall into the ravine, and while they had never recovered his body, there hadn't been any doubt in her mind that he must have died in the fall.  If he hadn't, then why hadn't he contacted her before now?  It didn't make any sense.

     If he was alive, and there, he could only be in one place.  The camp where they first met as teenagers.  It held the same significance to her as the blossom had, and was one of the reasons she had never left the area after she thought he had died.  She pulled out of the parking lot and turned down the road leading to the summer camp that they had attended over forty years before.  Cierra had drifted away from her faith after Riku had passed, and no longer knew where her spiritual hope rested, but as she drove she prayed that somehow he had survived the fall and by some miracle had come back to her.
~*~
     Excited teenagers boiled out of the old yellow school buses lined up in the dirt parking lot, and laughter filled the air as friends made the previous summers greeted each other again.  It was Cierra's first summer and she knew exactly one other person at camp ~ her younger brother whom she was loath to admit she was related to.  She wanted to make friends, and if there was anything that would prevent that, it would be him.  

     Dragging her duffle bag, she walked to the board that listed cabin assignments and began looking for her name.

     "Excuse me, please?"

     Cierra turned to look at the slight boy standing next to her with dark hair and eyes.

     "This word.  What does it say?"  he pointed to the name of a cabin that was located right next to the cabin she had just found her name under.

     "Awasajiw?  'Ah-wa-sa-jew'.  It is Ojibwa for beyond the mountain.  I'm in this cabin, Agidajiw.  'Ah-gid-da-jew'.  It means on top of a mountain."

     "You have been here before?"

     "No, this is my first summer here.  But I didn't want to sound stupid so I practiced all the cabin names before I came up."

     There was an awkward silence.

     "Oh my gosh.  I didn't mean to say you were stupid!  I just meant, I always sound stupid when I meet new people and .... Crud.  I'm doing it again.  I'm sorry.  You aren't stupid.  I am.  I'm such an idiot.  Let me start all over again.  Hi.  My name is Cierra Imadork."

     "Hello Cierra Imadork.  My name is Riku.  I am here as an exchange student from Japan."

     Cierra smiled.  "Imadork isn't really my last name.  I was just trying to say I am a dork for being so rude and making it sound like you were stupid for not knowing how to say the names of the cabins."

     "Oh."  Riku laughed, and from that moment on the two of them were best friends.

     One afternoon, Cierra found Riku in line at the small canteen store that the camp had.  His clothes were covered in dirt, and dried blood was still on his face from where his nose had been bleeding.

     "Riku!  What happened to you?!?!?"

     "Some boys they want my toothpaste.  I tell them I didn't have much left so they hit me."

     "Why didn't you throw some karate on them?"

     Riku laughed.  "Not everyone in Japan knows karate.  I wanted to get something to drink to get the taste of sand out of my mouth."

      "Sand?"

      "They still took my toothpaste and made me brush my teeth with water and sand."

      "Where are they?  Who are they?  I will kick their butts!  I will throw some redneck karate on them and make them sorry they ever messed with you!"

     Riku started laughing again, and Cierra joined him, the two of them laughing so hard they could barely speak when it was their turn at the canteen counter.  Cierra pointed at the soda machine and put fifty cents on the counter.
~*~
     Five summers passed with the two of them at the same camp each year.  During the school years, they would write letters about school, parents, siblings, and events in each other's towns. Cierra was fascinated to learn about Riku's life in Japan, just as he was to learn about her life in Illinois.

     When he found out that she had not gotten a date for her senior high school prom and would be going alone, he told her that there would be something special arriving for her to take to the prom and to not leave until it came.  Thirty minutes before prom started, there was a knock at her front door.  Her little brother beat her to it and flung it open.

     Standing on the step with a clear plastic container that held a wrist corsage of quince blossoms he had carefully carried from Japan, Riku looked debonair in a tuxedo that had a bow tie and cummerbund that matched the color of Cierra's dress exactly.

     That night was the first time they kissed.  But not the last.
~*~
     Over the next fifteen years their relationship grew.  They both attended Southern Illinois University, although he at a campus in Japan where he studied Plant Biology, and she at a campus in Carbondale studying Forestry.  Every third semester, they would spend it together, alternating campuses so that Riku could show her Japan, and she could show him parts of the United States he had never seen before.  On the night they graduated with their PhD's, Riku proposed.

     Two years later, after a traditional Japanese wedding with all of Riku's family and friends in Japan, they had a second wedding in Illinois for all of her family and friends.  They spent their month long honeymoon camping, hiking, and mountain climbing in the Denali National Park, Alaska.

     They decided to make their home in Wisconsin near the camp where they first met.  Both worked on the Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest.  Cierra a Silviculturist, and Riku a Botanist.  One month a year they went to Japan to visit family, especially Riku's great grandmother.  She was over 100 years old and blind, but every bit as young and adventurous as she had been when she was 20.  They took her with them to every park, mountain, and forest that they visited when they were there.  Riku was Sōsobo's favorite grandson because he didn't treat her like an infirm old woman, but respected her and honored her wishes to join them. 

     On their 8th anniversary, they had gone camping in the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada.  A week into their trip, the instrument panel on their rental truck had gone dark, and they had been forced to detour into Prince Rupert to rent another.  As they were leaving town, both of them had been startled by a family of mountain goats that suddenly appeared at the edge of the road and slowly crossed it.  Just as they thought the last of them had crossed, a bouncy youngster with just nubs for horns appeared and trotted across with a look on its face that made both of them burst out laughing.

     They had been hiking along the top of a deep whitewater ravine when Riku had made a fateful decision to reach for a wildflower to give to Cierra.  As he turned to step back onto the path, he felt the ground begin to give way under his weight-bearing foot and before he could shift his weight to his forward foot, he began to fall backwards.  For a moment their eyes locked, and Cierra struggled to get to him in time to grab his hands.  

     Then he was gone.

5 comments:

  1. Please continue this one, i want to know what happens. You have a knack for drawing me into your stories!

    ReplyDelete
  2. He was gone, and you leave us dangling.
    Where has he been, and why did he not contact her sooner? What happens next? Is this a delayed happy ever after, a visit from another realm or something more?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, oh, oh a whole week ... or more until we'll know more!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Okay....this is just cruel you know? How are we supposed to sleep tonight?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Bittersweet and done so well. I do hope he has returned to her after all this time.

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Thanks for stopping by and catching my words!