The next few days were the best Iíd had in a long time. We went into Lexington and stocked up on food, and wine. We went to an outfitters and got hooked up with some new hiking boots, and water bottles. Most of the time we stayed around the cabin. Weíd go hiking up in the mountain. It was really fun to show her the things Iíd grown up doing. I found the tree me and the first girlfriend had carved our initials in. She chastised me for harming the tree and how as an environmentally conscience man I should have known better. She had read Backstreet lore and wanted to know where Iíd lost my virginity that I felt so guilty about. Cow pasture south side of town. We went to the high school and hung out with the football coaches, my old team mates, watching them run the guys in drills.

"Damn, now I get it!"

"Get what?" I asked, very naively.

"Train! Estill County Engineers! Thereís even a fucking caboose on field. Jesus, why didnít you people say that?" She was laughing.

"You thought it had to do with sex." I said dryly.

My friends were laughing, "That would be Florida Kevin, Kentucky Kevin was a good boy."

Kevin glared at them, "Some would say Florida Kevin is good."

Tracie pretended to throw up on the sidelines.

We drove into Lexington one night and went to a movie. On the way back I was reminded of something sheíd said to my mom, "You said you donít have any family anymore. You never talk about that. I know your parents died, what happened?"

"Big fiery car crash. Probably never knew what hit them. It was a semi that crossed the median. Driver fell asleep."

"Shit, Tracie. How old were you?" I didnít expect that.

"Sixteen. Lived in a foster home until I was eighteen. There wasnít any family left. Used my inheritance to get out of Colorado, went to college in New York. Stayed there." She wiped away a tear.

I reached over and took her hand, "Iím sorry, I didnít mean to upset you."

She shook her head, "Itís ok. It was a long time ago. My foster parents were ok, no horror stories. Not tons of love, but ok."

"Who was there for you . . . dealing with both your parents dying?"

She looked at me, "My best friendís family. I was with them a lot in the beginning. I stayed with them the first few months, before they found me a permanent foster home. I wasnít much trouble, so I was pretty easy to place."

"Do you still talk to her, your best friend?"

"Not really, I moved to another town, they eventually moved. We kept in touch for a while, but we grew up, grew apart. Now thereís an occasional email or phone call. She always calls on the anniversary of their death."

I thought losing my dad was bad, I at least had a mom, brothers, and other family to grieve with. "I donít know what to say, besides Iím sorry. I had no idea."

She laughed a little, "Itís really ok, Kevlyn. I was a good kid, they were good parents, and we all got along so I didnít have guilt to deal with. I miss them sometimes, not so much anymore. I guess I got used to them not being here."

"I miss my dad all the time. Still think about picking up the phone and calling him. I miss him most when something big happens in my life. Wish he could see me."

"I do that too, when I graduated from high school, college, grad school."

"I do have guilt though. I didnít get to finish things. And I went pretty ballistic when I found out everyone in the family knew but me. Mom didnít tell me until a few months before he died. I was very mad for a very long time."

"I can understand that."

"I felt kept out of my own family, and made sure everyone knew it. I should have used that time with dad better, and I put mom through hell. Weíve moved on, but I canít get that time with dad back."

Silence overcame the truck. The guilt soup that I swam in wasnít as thick as it used to be, and my curiousness had sent her into a thoughtful place. I went over the conversation in my mind, "Hey, Colorado! Do you ski?"

"They issue us skiís in daycare on our third birthday."

"Youíll go skiing . . . with me?"

She put her hands together beside her face, batted her eyelashes, and faked an excellent southern accent, "Why I thought youíd never ask?"

I squeezed her hand and we drove back to the cabin.

We spent the next day in the woods again. A thunderstorm blew in and we ran back to the cabin, dripping wet and freezing. We met back on the porch after changing into dry clothes, and watched the storm with a bottle of wine. We spent the night talking. More memories and laughter. We were ready to go home.


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Let me know what you think!!   Lisa