Kate Evans pushed open the screen door and stepped onto the broad front porch of her parents’ farmhouse. This was supposed to be her wedding day. Instead, her lace, floor-length gown hung in her closet.
Shifting her pack over one shoulder, she moved to the railing. Closing her eyes, she savored the feel of a cool breeze on her skin and breathed in the subtle fragrance of sun-heated grass. Richard’s image stormed against her peace. She could see his blond curls spilling onto his brow, his wounded eyes. He’d always been steady, but her announcement had staggered him. She wanted to love him enough to stay, but the turmoil she’d been feeling had escalated until she felt she had no choice—she just couldn’t go through with it.
She gripped the porch railing, anxiety sweeping over her like a summer squall. Had she made a terrible mistake? It was one thing to postpone the wedding and quite another to call it off altogether.
They’d been friends since childhood and were comfortable with each other. But did that mean they belonged together? If she stayed, she’d be forced to give up her longtime dream and would have to settle for a commonplace life. She’d end up resenting Richard, and she couldn’t bear the thought.
Shaking off her doubts, she turned her gaze to her mother’s flower gardens. The well-tended yard was bordered by patches of rich soil embracing velvety pansies and roses that hummed their splendor. In contrast, a flower bed on one side was congested with brightly colored dahlias that shouted at the sun. Beyond were the apple orchards. The flowers were off the trees now, which were loaded with small green apples.
Kate folded her arms across her chest. She couldn’t have picked a worse time to set out on a venture. It was 1935 and much of the country was in the midst of a crushing drought, and despite President Roosevelt’s New Deal, the economy was in shambles.
She heard the screen door creak open and turned to see her mother step onto the porch. “Hi, Mom,” she said as cheerily as she could manage.
Joan Evans lifted a picnic basket. “Here’s some food to take along.” She managed a smile.
Kate took the basket. “Thanks.”
Joan picked fading leaves off a hanging basket of red lobelia, then turned kind eyes on her daughter. “We spent a lot of summer evenings on this porch.” She pressed her fingertips to her lips. “I remember you and Alison, sleeping out here and gabbing until all hours.”
Kate took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to release the rising ache in her chest. “Those were good days.” Memories, like a slide show, flitted across her mind until she purposely pushed them aside.
“Kate, you explained why you’re going, but I know there’s more.”
“I told you, I want to do something with my life.”
“You don’t think being a wife and raising a family is doing something?”
“It is . . . but it’s not right for me, not now. I have to . . .” There was no way to describe how she felt—as if her heart would shatter if she didn’t get away. She had to do something that mattered, something better than just being what people expected, a farm girl who got married and had babies. And better than the girl who larked about with planes.
Joan settled into a wicker chair.
Kate knew what was coming, and she didn’t want to discuss any of it. She sat on the edge of a chair and set her pack on the ground. She held the basket in her lap. Clasping her hands around it, she pulled it against her stomach, hanging onto it as if it were an anchor.
Joan began gently. “I know a day doesn’t go by that you don’t remember and feel the burden of . . . of Alison’s death.” She studied the dead leaves she cradled in her hands, then looked at her daughter.” It was a long time ago. It’s over. You can’t get that day back. You have to go on with your life.”
Kate pursed her lips. She’d decided not to speak, but no matter how she tried to hold back the words, they spilled out anyway. “You don’t know what it’s like—every day knowing she’s dead and that it’s my fault. If I hadn’t been so full of myself, so careless, Alison would still be alive. She’d be married and have babies and her mom and dad would still be happy—and they wouldn’t hate me.”
“Not living your life won’t bring her back, it won’t make anything better.”
“I’m trying to live my life. But I can’t do it here. Every time I go into town I’m afraid I’ll see her mother or father . . . . or her brother or—“
“Kate, you can’t let the past rule the present.”
“That’s just it. As long as I stay here, everything is about the past. I need to start over in a place where I can prove myself, a place where I’m free to live without shadows of that horrible day dogging me.” She shook her head, squeezing back tears. “After the accident, I was too afraid to even go up in a plane. I thought I’d never fly again, but Dad helped me and I did. I’m a good pilot because of him. Now, well . . . I’m twenty-five years old, and I’ve got to do something with that ability while I still have time. And I want you to be proud of me.”
“We are. You know that.”
Kate chewed on her lower lip. “Okay, but I’ve got to be proud of me too.”
“Alaska’s a dangerous place, especially for pilots.”
The front door opened and Kate’s father stepped out. “So, Katie, you ready?”
She grabbed her pack and stood. “All set.”
Bill Evans slung an arm around his daughter’s shoulders. “Well, let’s go then.”
Bonnie is giving away a copy of her book Touching the Clouds. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!