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Painfully sweet childhood memories flooded back as she passed the sandstone sculptures. They were a landmark so to speak, the turnoff to the cabin was near. She chanced a quick glimpse at the statues as she slowed to make her turn. Appreciating them for the works of art they were, she spoke to her companion "I'm not afraid of them anymore. I'm not a sleepy little girl caught by surprise in the middle of the night."
Her companion pulled his head into the cab of the pickup truck and looked at her with big soulful brown eyes. Half leaning and half crawling his way across the seat, he barked once and licked her face.
"I knew you would understand." She replied laughing, wiping slobber from her cheek. "So much has changed in my life, it's nice to see something familiar, something that's remained ... constant." Looking up the hill at what was supposed to be her driveway, she was awestruck by the beauty of the sun dappled, red and gold canopy of trees enveloping the drive. Still smiling, she willed her four-wheel drive pickup truck to make it up the very rutted and rocky lane hoping her memory had served her right and this did indeed lead to the cabin. "This will need to be graded before bad weather strikes, and if I don't get it done soon, we may not be able to make it out again," she grumbled to the Great Dane sitting beside her as she maneuvered the vehicle in front of the garage.
Rachel stepped out of her truck, waiting for her four legged friend to jump out and looked at the rundown cabin. In the mid-October sunlight, it looked awful. Unconsciously she began to chew on her lower lip, a nervous habit that surfaced when stressed or worried about something. Athoughtful frown creased her forehead as she stared at her new residence. She recalled it looking a lot bigger and in much better condition when she was a child. Laughing she realized how silly that sounded, even in her own head. Spinning in a circle she whistled for her friend. When he came running towards her, she spoke to him, "Brutus, my dear boy, I haven't been up here in twenty years. The place sure looks a lot different than it did when I was six. I forgot all about this place. I didn't even know it was still in the family."
Together they walked across the graveled drive to stare at their new home. Nestled in amongst the pinion pines and cottonwood trees stood the single story cabin. Made of brick and stone, the house was of very sturdy construction. She noticed the shake roof was in desperate need of repair. The shutters needed to have the old, peeling paint stripped off. The dirt-encrusted window panes were so dingy, they looked opaque. Rachel sighed and patted the dog's head, "We've got a lot of work ahead of us, just to make this place comfortable again. No, scratch that thought. Not comfortable, let's start with livable first." Brutus looked up at her, whined and dashed off into the trees chasing after squirrels.
The flagstone patio, with the short retaining wall winding around two-thirds of the house, was crumbling. The raised flower beds; or what she thought should be flower beds, were full of waist high weeds. Crossing the patio she noticed more weeds poking through every nook and cranny they could possibly find. Once she made her way to the edge of the patio, she gazed down at the creek, enchanted by the babbling song it sang.
"This is what I needed." She was looking forward to the opportunity to get her hands dirty and do something physically constructive. Never afraid of hard work, Rachel was still somewhat intimidated having to take on the daunting task alone. She continued to wander around the yard absorbing every detail along the way. Spinning a freestyle pirouette, she took a deep cleansing breath of fresh mountain air. It was going to be a big change to actually experience seasons. Living in Phoenix her whole life, she was excited by the idea. "What am I going to do without six months of summer?" she said to no one in particular. What she was really thinking was she missed her father and was second-guessing her spontaneous move to the mountains. At twenty-six years old she'd never lived alone. Moving from her parent's house into the dorm for four years had been a fun and exciting experience. After college she'd moved back in with her parents until meeting Jake. Moving in with him was an experience she wished she had missed. Once again she'd moved back to her parent's house. Only this time, Mom was gone. Three years now and the pain was still very sharp.
Shaking her head she frowned again and gave herself a mental chewing out. I couldn't wait to get out of there, now all I think about is running back. I shouldn't be homesick. I just got here! Rummaging through her purse for the keys to unlock the front door she turned when she heard a vehicle pull up the drive. She shielded her eyes from the afternoon sun as it glinted through the trees. A police officer stepped out of his SUV wearing dark sunglasses, shrouding his eyes from her. His physical appearance was the first thing she noticed about him. Big, broad shoulders, sun-kissed golden skin and sandy blonde hair just beginning to curl over the edge of his collar. If she could have imagined Adonis, he was now standing in her driveway. Rachel pasted a friendly smile on her face hoping she didn't appear as nervous as she felt. She appreciated an attractive man as much as the next woman, but was a little disconcerted by the sudden buzzing in her ears. Never a believer in love at first sight, but lust at first sight ... definitely. With his sunglasses still in place she couldn't tell if she was being considered a criminal or mentally undressed. He just stood by his truck staring at her. There was something in the way he scrutinized her that made her feel immediately self-conscious. Did she really look that bad? She lifted her chin in self-defense and stared back.