March / REFLECTION POINT
“There’s a new girl in town.”
Sheriff Zach Turner first heard the news from Cam Murphy when he arrived at the man’s outdoor-sports shop, Refresh, on his day off. The fly rod he’d noticed on his previous visit was proving to be quite a temptation. A sports equipment junkie, Zach had been both delighted and dismayed when Murphy’s shop opened this past winter. Having such a great selection of gear within spitting distance of the sheriff’s office was playing hell with his wallet.
Zach lifted the rod from the rack, tested its feel, and replied, “A troublemaker?”
Ah. “And you are compelled to share this information why? Still threatened that Sarah will come to her senses and decide that she can’t live without my superior kisses after all, Murphy?”
Cam flashed the shark’s smile he’d become known for since his return to Eternity Springs from Australia, and his blue eyes gleamed with contentment. “I’m too sexually satisfied to respond to that dig, Sheriff.”
“Ouch.” Zach set the rod on the counter, then wandered over to the bicycles, where a red Enduro EVO caught his eye. He’d been wanting to move up from his Stumpjumper, but he couldn’t justify the cost. Not now, anyway. Maybe this summer . . .
“Actually, I’m giving you a heads-up,” Cam continued. “The quilt group met at my house last night, and your love life—specifically, your lack of a love life—was one of the main topics of conversation.”
Zach glanced up from the bike and fastened a frustrated look upon his friend. “You’re kidding me.”
“Nope. The women have matchmaking on their minds.”
Zach groaned aloud. “Does it never occur to them that they don’t know everything they think they know about my love life?”
Cam folded his arms and arched an inquisitive brow. “You have a fish on the line we don’t know about, Turner?”
Zach’s thoughts went to the ski instructor he’d been seeing over at Wolf Creek. Inga Christiansen was a lovely, tall, talented woman who was as athletic in bed as she was out of it. He’d enjoyed the time they’d spent together, but they’d both gone into the relationship knowing it was seasonal. “Actually, I recently cut one loose.”
“Someone I know?”
Zach gave a slow smile. “Inga.”
“She’s going home to Sweden, and I just didn’t want to move with her.”
“Ah, a Scandinavian! I used to love it when we had snow bunny Scandinavians sign up for dive trips,” he said, referring to the reef diving tour business he’d owned when he lived in Australia. “Nice scenery.”
Zach mentally envisioned Inga the last time he’d seen her naked. “Very.”
“Although I will repeat that the new southern comfort we have to enjoy is pretty scenic.”
“Ms. Savannah Sophia Moore, from Georgia. Wait until you hear her accent. I told Sarah that the way she says ‘sugah’ sorta licks up and down a man’s spine.”
“And your bride didn’t take a knife to you?”
“No. She was too busy trying to figure out a way to set the two of you up.”
Zach snorted and decided it was time to change the subject. “So have you heard how the rainbows are biting on the Taylor River this week?”
The conversation turned to fishing, and Zach forgot about the newcomer to town as he went about his errands. His next stop was the local vet’s office to pick up his whippet, Ace, whom he’d left with Nic Callahan first thing that morning. The tall, blond mother of twin daughters had an appealing girl-next-door beauty and a friendly demeanor, and she gave him a welcoming smile as he opened her office door and strode inside. “Hey, Zach.”
“How’s my dog?”
“Ace is a doll, and I’m happy to say that he’s doing just great. Even better, he seems to have gotten his spirit back. You’ve done a great job with him, Zach. Aren’t you glad we talked you into keeping him?”
Ace had been in pitiful shape when Nic and her friends rescued him from a bad situation the previous summer. Scarred, starved, and scared, he’d required extra doses of TLC to nurture him back to health. Surgery had helped his hip injury, the likely result of being hit by a car, but the speed-demon escape-artist days enjoyed by most whippets were behind him. “He’s a good dog. Good company.”
Nic snapped her fingers. “Speaking of which, have you heard the news? Eternity Springs has a new permanent resident. Savannah Sophia Moore. Isn’t that a lovely name? She’s from Georgia and is a dog person. She adopted the cutest little mutt recently. A mini. Savannah brought her to me for a checkup.”
“Purse pets,” Zach said with a disdainful snort.
“Don’t be snotty.” Nic frowned at him. “The world needs small dogs, too. She’s opening a business in town, and that’s good for Eternity Springs.”
“What does she do?”
“Handmade soaps and lotions. She’s rented Harry Golightly’s old place on Fourth Street. She’s planning to use the first floor as retail space and the carriage house in back as her workshop. She said she mostly sells her stuff at street festivals and craft fairs, as well as online. She plans to open the retail shop only during tourist season.”
Zach considered the space. The Golightly place was one of the old Victorian houses in town. The house had good bones, and with a coat of paint and some landscaping, it could be a tourist draw. The location worked since it was cattycorner to Sage Rafferty’s art gallery, Vistas, one of the town’s biggest tourist draws. “What is she like?”
“Honestly, I thought she was a little quiet and reserved at first, but once I got her talking, she opened up. I like her. I think she’s a great new addition to Eternity Springs. I’m excited about the new shop.”
“Me too,” Zach replied in a tone that clearly suggested the opposite.
“Now, Zach,” Nic chided. “It is exciting.”
“You are such a girl, Nic. Having Cam open a sporting goods shop was exciting. A soap shop? I don’t think so.”
Nic’s expression turned knowing. “Want to make a bet you’re singing a different tune after you meet her?”
Zach decided to put a stop to this matchmaking business here and now. Choosing his words carefully—he didn’t like to lie to his friends—he said, “The ski instructor I’ve been seeing wouldn’t be amused to learn that I found a soap shop exciting.”
“You’re seeing someone?” Nic asked, shock in her tone. She folded her arms and scowled. “I didn’t know that. Why don’t we know about this?”
“ ‘We’? Do you mean your coven?”
She sniffed with disdain. “Now, that’s just mean, Zach Turner.”
He reached out and thumped her on the nose. “I adore you, Mrs. Callahan, but I don’t need you and your friends sticking your noses into my love life.”
“We care about you, Zach. We don’t like seeing you alone.”
Zach was accustomed to being alone. An only child whose parents had died almost a decade ago, he’d adjusted to solitude. In fact, he relished it. Solitude was one of the appeals of Eternity Springs, in his opinion. “In that case, rest easy. I’m not alone. I have a dog. And a new fly rod. You and the girls can turn your attentions to somebody else. Now, let’s talk dog food. The Trading Post has begun stocking a new specialty brand.” He named it, then asked, “In your opinion, is it worth the extra money?”
Zach left Nic’s office ten minutes later with Ace on a leash and a spring in his step, telling himself he wasn’t the least bit curious about a soap maker from Georgia. He had more important things than women on his mind—namely, a free afternoon breaking in his new fly rod at his favorite fishing hole up above Lover’s Leap. When he strolled into the Mocha Moose a few minutes later with the intention of getting a boxed lunch to go, he almost pivoted on his heel and marched out. Sarah Murphy, Sage Rafferty, Ali Timberlake, and Cat Davenport sat at one of the tables eating lunch. During his split second of indecision, Sarah spied him, though, and then it was too late.
“Zach!” she said, waving him over to the table. “We were just talking about you. Have you heard the news?”
He swallowed a groan and ordered a sandwich.
On a sun-kissed spring afternoon, Savannah Moore sat atop a picnic bench at an isolated landmark outside Eternity Springs called Lover’s Leap. Lifting her gaze from the rainbow of wildflowers adorning the valley below, she looked toward the mountain range rising beyond, where patches of snow clung stubbornly to shady spots. “It’s a feast for the eyes,” she murmured, speaking to herself as much as to the dog in her lap.
The day was a banquet for all the senses, in fact. Birdsong drifted on air perfumed with the clean, crisp scent of pine, its slight chill offset by the warmth of afternoon sunshine. When Savannah had mentioned she wanted to visit a high, peaceful, isolated place where she could meditate, her new friend Sarah Murphy had directed her here. “It’s one of my favorite places in the entire world,” Sarah had told her, a secret smile playing on her face.
No dummy, Savannah had concluded that Sarah and her husband, Cam, must use the remote spot for trysts, so when she’d asked for directions this morning, she’d made sure Cam and Sarah’s plans for the day didn’t include Lover’s Leap.
Savannah hadn’t confessed the real reason she wanted to visit such a place. What she planned to do here today was private; knowing her luck, she figured it probably broke a law or a regulation or a rule of some sort. All she needed was to get caught doing something illegal; this new life she was building could disappear in a heartbeat. So until she knew her new neighbors better, she didn’t dare let on that she was anything less than a straight-arrow kind of woman.
Snorting, she said, “If they only knew.”
At the sound of her voice her dog, Innocent, Inny for short, lifted her head, her long ears perking up. Inny was a ten-pound, short-haired, white-with-brown-spots bundle of love. Savannah had found her abandoned at a rest area in Oklahoma three months ago, and it had been love at first sight for them both.
“I guess it’s time to get started,” Savannah told her. The dog’s tiny tail thumped against the ground.
Savannah rose from the bench and glanced around, confirming that their privacy remained intact. The only other sign of life was a lone hawk sailing a thermal high above. Yet despite the secluded nature of the spot—or perhaps because of it—she felt her grandmother’s spirit all around her.
“It’s a beautiful place, Grams. The sky is a lovely blue and the air is crisp and clean. It reminds me of home. It’s the prettiest of all the places we’ve visited since we left Georgia.”
Savannah blinked back tears. Before she died, Rebecca Aldrich had sent her granddaughter a letter containing a request for the disposal of her remains should Savannah decide to leave the state. Previously she’d always intended to be buried at home on Firefly Mountain, but after everything that had happened, she couldn’t bear the thought of being so close to the Vaughns. She’d asked Savannah to take her to . . . and leave her at . . . places that Savannah thought she would enjoy.
Savannah had begun planning her route since receiving news of her grandmother’s death almost three years ago. She’d left Georgia with six different containers filled with her grandmother’s remains. After stops at a beautiful beach, a lake in the Ozarks, a riverboat on the Mississippi, a wheat field in Kansas, and the courtyard of a Mexican food restaurant in Texas, she had arrived here today with a single muslin bag tucked into a button tin.
“This place is called Lover’s Leap. It’s not the highest elevation around, but the canyon floor below us is a long way down. I think it’s a perfect place for an angel to fly, Grams.”
And now the final good-bye was upon her.
Savannah opened the large wicker picnic basket lined in a red bandanna print. She removed a Mason jar of clear liquid, two shot glasses, two Haviland china plates, a dinner knife, a yellow gingham napkin, a homemade pimento cheese sandwich—Grams’ recipe—and an apple. Then she opened her tote bag and withdrew the battered cookie tin that Grams had used as a button box for as long as Savannah could remember.
Setting the tin in the middle of the picnic table, she used the knife to cut both the sandwich and the apple in half, then divided the food onto the two plates. She began to eat her lunch, sharing bites with Inny as she carried on a conversation with her grandmother.
“I think I’ve settled on my initial line of fragrances for the retail shop. I decided to limit the number to five after my visit to the handmade soap store at the upscale mall in Dallas. Their products are fabulous, but the scents assault a customer when she walks in. I want my store to be fresh, inviting, and tempting. Not cloying and not overpowering.”
She munched her apple and pictured the property she’d rented with an option to buy on Fourth Street between Spruce and Pinyon. The house needed some work, but it had personality, and when she imagined it with a coat of paint, windows washed, and red geraniums on the porch, she sensed she would love living and working there. A previous owner had begun the conversion of the downstairs into retail space, and Savannah had hired a local schoolteacher, Jim Brand, who supplemented his income by taking handyman jobs, to complete it. Jim had promised to have the retail shop ready to open by Memorial Day.
“The workshop out back was converted from a carriage house,” she said, speaking aloud as if her grandmother sat with her, sharing lunch. “It’s a great place to work. The window above my workbench has a beautiful view. It’s roomy and well ventilated, and the natural light is lovely. A friend has offered to build me shelves as a housewarming gift.”
A friend? A special friend?
“No, Grams. Not that kind of friend. He’s married. Besides, I don’t want that kind of friend. I’m done with men. I learned my lesson.”
Now, Savannah . . .
She raised her voice to drown out the one in her head. “Everyone in town calls my house the Golightly place, after the man who built it back in the 1800s. I considered keeping the name for the shop, but it just doesn’t feel right. I had intended to call my store Fresh, but believe it or not, Eternity Springs already has a business called Fresh—Sarah Murphy’s bakery. She makes the most spectacular cinnamon rolls. Anyway, what do you think of Heavenly Scents, Grams? Or maybe Heavenscents? Heavenscents, featuring Savannah Soap Company hand-crafted products?”
Her grandmother’s voice whispered on the wind. Why, Savannah Sophia, I think that would be right fine.
Hearing voices in her head wasn’t unusual for Savannah. She’d conversed with an imaginary friend, Melody, when she was a child. When she first arrived at Emmanuel, she’d resurrected Melody, fully aware that doing so was a defense mechanism.
Melody’s voice had morphed into Grams’ in the weeks after her grandmother had passed away. Now, if pressed, Savannah wouldn’t swear that Grams’ spirit wasn’t actually speaking to her from beyond the grave.
Ordinarily they didn’t share meals, but then this was a special event. The final event.
“Will I quit hearing you, Grams, once we do this?”
“On what? Just how crazy those six years at Emmanuel made me?”
Now, Savannah . . .
Savannah sighed and polished off her half of the sandwich. Eyeing the other plate, she said, “Grams, you still eat like a bird. Shall I help?”
Another time, she would have been embarrassed by her playacting, but not today. She’d been on her way home to have lunch with her grandmother the day her world fell apart. During the awful weeks and months and years that followed, she’d promised herself that someday she would pick up her life where she’d left off. This was the best she could do.
With her meal over, she moved to the next item on the agenda by opening the Mason jar. She sniffed its contents and her eyes watered. “Whoa.”
Savannah poured a splash of moonshine into each shot glass. Lifting one of them, she repeated the line her father had always said as he loaded filled jars into the wooden cases he’d built to transport his product to his customers: “Making family proud, one Mason jar at a time.”
Saying it made her smile. Her grief for her father had eased in the nine years since his death, but she would always miss him. Despite his faults, the man had loved her.
The liquor burned like fire going down, causing Savannah to shudder. “Grams, I cannot believe you drank this every day and lived to see eighty-five.”
All natural ingredients, my dear. And your father had a talent for making it.
Savannah laughed, then secured Inny’s leash to the picnic table so that the dog wouldn’t wander too close to the edge while Savannah was busy. Picking up the button box, she carried it and the second shot of moonshine toward the overlook, where a large flat rock stretched out over the valley like a plank on a pirate ship. She stood at the protective railing for a long time, her thoughts spinning back through the years, and she mourned.
When the time felt right, she held her glass high. “Here’s to you, Grams.”
She quoted the Irish blessing that her grandmother had cross-stitched in green thread against a cream linen background and hung in her parlor:
“May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”
She tossed back the drink, swallowed, shuddered, then drew back her arm and sent the empty glass flying. She watched it until it dropped out of sight, listening for the crash of glass against rock, but heard only the wind.
And the sound of her smothered sob.
Not good. Savannah didn’t cry. She’d sworn off tears the day she entered Emmanuel, and she’d only suffered a backslide once.
Get this done, child. It’s time.
“Yes. Okay.” She blew out a heavy breath. Closing her eyes, she recited a prayer and swallowed the lump of emotion that had lodged in her throat. Tears welled, overflowing to trail down her cheeks as she removed the lid from the tin and stepped closer to the guardrail.
She wasn’t a fan of heights. Gazing out over the valley was fine, but when she leaned forward and looked straight down, her knees went a little weak. The ’shine hadn’t helped.
She tested the rail. It seemed sturdy enough. Good. She needed to be able to fling Grams out beyond the rock shelf so that the ashes sailed, soared, and flew on the breeze before falling back to earth. However, she didn’t want to join her grandmother.
Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe she should forget the plan entirely, put the lid back on the tin, take Grams home, and put her on the mantel. Hadn’t her grade school friend Annie Hartsford kept her cat’s ashes in a shoe box beneath her bed? Hadn’t Eloise Rankin left her husband’s ashes on a shelf in the garage for almost a year before her children convinced her to put him in the vault? She could—
“Okay. You’re right. It’s time.” Inside the button tin lay the muslin bag containing the portion of her grandmother’s remains that she had saved for this last dispersal in accordance with her grandmother’s wishes. Grams had sewn these bags herself, filling them with soaps or salts for sale at retail shops in town. Savannah knew her grandmother would approve of her use of the bags rather than the funeral urn the mortuary had wanted to sell her. Rebecca Rose Aldrich hadn’t liked waste.
Savannah removed the bag from the button box and set the tin on the ground. She untied the bag’s blue ribbon and watched it flutter in the soft breeze, and in that moment a wave of grief struck her so hard that she swayed, then broke. Tears fell, and she released the sobs she’d held back for so long. She cried for her grandmother, for herself, for the cruel acts committed by “friends” against her family. She wept for the losses she’d endured.
It was a fierce storm, but also a fast one. Cleansed of the dark emotion, she felt a calm, warm sense of peace spread through her and strengthen her. She lifted the open bag up in front of her like an offering at an altar and said, “Rest in peace, Grams. You were my teacher, my nurturer, my family. You were my rock. I will miss you until the day I die.”
Leaning over the railing, she shook the bag, waving it back and forth like a flag, and the contents spilled from the bag and sailed away on the breeze. With a bittersweet smile upon her face, Savannah watched ashes float and dance and dissolve against the blue springtime sky. “Good-bye, Grams.”
Once the bag felt empty, she checked inside it and frowned to see a significant amount of ash clinging to the inner seam. She turned the bag inside out and, holding it by one corner, leaned over the railing once again and shook it hard.
Once. Twice. On the third shake, she lost her grip.
The muslin bag floated to the surface of the rock just beyond her reach.