CHAPTER ONE begins . . .
It was mid-September and the leaves had begun to turn. A few had already fallen to the ground. Looking up, all thirty-two-year-old Leanne Porter could see was a mosaic of gold, red, and stubborn chlorophyll green. Ever since she had been a little girl, she had loved autumn and welcomed the falling leaves that formed a crunchy carpet through which to shuffle. There was something so restful about meandering along, allowing the best clumps of leaves to be her guide.
But as she grew up, Leanne felt a little guilty for the childhood pleasure she’d kept into adulthood. How was it right to look forward to the end of life for all those leaves? Why did she feel joy after they had died?
Then she realized, it wasn’t joy that she felt, but peace. Life was not ending. It was simply carrying on, albeit in mortal cycles.
Since that realization, Leanne had allowed herself to fully enjoy the seasons, trying not to think too hard about what each passing one meant. She may not have been as time limited as a leaf, but each year lived was still another year gone.
She had lost her parents some years earlier, a few years apart. There was nothing like that to drive home the point that all life was too leaf-like.
And while she had been close to them both, Leanne had always been more of a loner. She’d felt isolated from those around her, as if everyone knew some grand secret they were keeping from her.
While she wasn’t exactly awkward or ill-equipped to deal with people, doing so never felt the most natural to her. Given the choice, she usually preferred to be by herself. Sometimes that meant the company of books or TV, and other times, a thoughtful shuffle through the leaves as her mind wandered along with her feet.
Understanding her daughter’s big need for privacy and solitude, her mother, Maggie, had once suggested Leanne keep a diary. That way, she’d still have an outlet to express her deepest, innermost thoughts. But after a month or so of near-daily entries, the diary was cast aside.
“It’s too much like work,” Leanne had said at the time. Having to try to remember the high or low points at the end of each day began to feel like a chore. So what if years down the road it might be fun to read what she did or felt in the past? She’d resent writing it down now.
But Leanne definitely liked to analyze all her feelings. That became yet another way she felt disconnected from other people who seemed content to let things lie without so much questioning. Perhaps she was wrong in ascribing that to strangers, but it was how her insides looked to her compared to other people’s outsides.
And as for documenting the interior view of herself with that diary? Her inward analysis concluded it was like stopping an enjoyable moment to take a photograph, instead of just living it. She discovered she’d rather remember something than capture it. But in trying to be fair and honest with herself, and always doing a complete analysis whenever possible, she did allow for one contributing factor for her diary distaste—laziness.
And today, that attribute had led Leanne to set aside work for the day. One of the big advantages of working from home was that she could determine her own hours. As long as she got her clients’ bookkeeping done, they didn’t much care whether she did it at noon or midnight. Leanne liked the balance that seemed to give her. No two days ever had exactly the same schedule, even if the work itself was on the repetitive side.
When she woke that morning, the world outside had beckoned. The first big leaf drop of the year was waiting for her. Unbeknownst to her, that’s not all she would find as she strolled through Jonathan Park.
Across town was Jay Hanson, a doctor, who, with some settlement money, had just recently retired to Clementine. The slower pace of his new West Coast locale suited him better than big cities ever had. When circumstances led to his premature retirement, he moved his thirty-six-year-old self to the kind of quaint place he’d always imagined. Although he’d only practised medicine a short while, he was weary and more than ready for a calmer existence.
Jay’s mother and father were supportive in their own far-off way, literally. As soon as their only child had gone away to university, they had set off for their own adventures. At eighteen, Jay had lost his family along with his family home, or so he felt.
His parents were in Europe now. Presently in which country? He wasn’t sure. The odd letter, or the even rarer phone call, was the only way he knew it was time to update his address book again. But he had happy memories of his childhood. They had been a close family then. So Jay focused on those times when he felt lonesome for his family.
He had some good friends, but most of them had married and started families, or were at least seriously thinking about it. Jay didn’t fit into that reality anymore. And so he found himself looking forward to the peace and quiet of Clementine, his new home town. This was his home now.
Wanting to get better acquainted with the little burg, Jay had spent the better part of the day on his bike. The people were friendly enough, offering directions as he explored and periodically got lost or, as he preferred to think of it, when he got a mite confused, to paraphrase Daniel Boone.
Although he appreciated their kindness and the warm welcome he received when they learned he was new to the town, it wasn’t the people he most craved. He was in Clementine to more feel like a part of the place itself. It could have been anywhere really, as long as it was filled with trees and mountains, and was near the shore. Yes, it definitely had to be near some water. He’d already spent too much time sequestered in concrete skyscrapers, away from the earth and its oceans.
As Jay rounded the next corner, there was Jonathan Park. It was the perfect blend of wooded trails and wide-open spaces. He could see the Pacific Ocean not far off in the distance. Eager to explore and feel his feet on the ground, he dismounted and locked his bicycle to a nearby tree. He didn’t want to be suspicious of his new neighbours, but old city habits died hard.
Setting off down a secluded trail, he was looking all about. His eyes were everywhere except in front of him. That’s when it happened. That’s when he met her. Well, bumped into, and nearly knocked down, one rather startled Leanne.
Trade Paperback: 318 pages
Publisher: Barbauld Publishing
Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches