Chapter 1—An Unprecedented Encounter
Eve stood looking out over the lightening water. The sun was just beneath the horizon, and the mist floated serenely above the lake’s surface. She sighed. It was the last day of her vacation, and she wasn’t in any real hurry to get back. After nothing but sun, sand and water, she felt a real reluctance about saying good-bye to the beach and the summer. It had been a wonderful vacation, though, and she didn’t really understand the feeling of melancholy that was settling deep within her bones. It’s not as if she thought the vacation could last forever. No, that wasn’t it. It was a disappointment of sorts, she assumed, but disappointment about what?
She considered the job she was returning to but waved that away with an imaginary hand. She liked her job—well, most of it anyway. Despite some minor tension with a co-worker, she loved what she was doing and really enjoyed interacting with the customers.
She felt anticipatory strain about getting the kids ready and off to school, but she was grateful that they seemed happy, or at least resigned, about their impending fate. She’d had a wonderful time with her husband, holding hands as they walked along the beach, kids splashing through the waves beside them. They even stole furtive kisses now and then as they sat side by side, soaking up the sun’s glorious rays. She even had a tan, which was nothing short of miraculous, given her very pale skin tone. She had light blonde hair and grey-blue eyes and had always been wary of tarrying too long in the sun. But this week she had thrown caution to the wind—well, as much as could be considered daring while armed with SPF 60—and had managed to acquire a respectably healthy glow.
She shook her head in confusion. No, she was happy with everything in her life, yet she could not deny the downward pull stirring from deep within, though she couldn’t tell from where it was coming or where it was leading.
“You seem troubled,” announced a voice from behind her.
Eve turned around to see an attractive young woman with long blonde hair that cascaded in soft waves down over her shoulders smiling at her from one of the beach chairs on the deck. She had the most striking blue eyes Eve had ever seen. They were a bright cerulean blue, like an icy glacial lake reflecting the brilliance of a noon sky.
“Yes, I suppose I am.” Eve shyly smiled back.
“Hard to leave, isn’t it?” She tilted her head slightly, her eyes gazing out over the calm, peaceful water.
Eve walked over, sat down on the only other chair on the deck and stared meditatively out over the lake. The first rays of sunlight were shining up over the horizon, breaking the mist’s caress on the water’s surface as it rose in feathery wisps.
“Yes,” she said resolutely, “it is.”
They were both silent for some time as they watched the morning sun crest the sandy dunes, its golden rays caressing the treetops as the mist and water shimmered with their beautiful dance.
“Do you come up here often?” Eve asked, reluctantly taking her eyes away from the view.
The woman smiled at her. “No, this is my first time here. It’s absolutely beautiful, isn’t it?”
“I’ve been on several vacations, but this is by far the best one I’ve ever had. It was a real joy just to be a part of these lovely surroundings.” She smiled back. Reaching over the arm of the chair, she extended her hand to the young woman. “My name’s Eve, by the way.”
“I’m Grace. Pleased to meet you.” She smiled and reached across the small void between the chairs, cordially shaking Eve’s hand. “You seemed deep in thought. If you don’t mind my asking, is something bothering you?”
Eve leaned back into her chair and sighed. “No, I don’t mind your asking. But to be honest with you, I’m not exactly sure what’s troubling me.” She looked over at Grace and shrugged her shoulders in defeat. “I had a wonderful week. Perhaps it’s just hard to leave, after all,” she answered.
“Hmm. Could be, I suppose, but you don’t sound terribly convinced,” Grace replied, looking intently at Eve.
Eve laughed. “No, I guess I’m not.” She sat in quiet reflection for a moment. How do I describe a feeling I, myself, don’t even understand? “I’m just down, I guess.” She looked across at Grace. “I can’t really explain it. I just don’t feel … right. I really did have a wonderful vacation. There’s just no rational reason for me to feel the way I do.”
“Being rational, I suspect, has little to do with it,” Grace offered.
Eve smiled politely but quickly dropped back into her silent musing. She felt a deep inner desire to just unload everything, to discharge, to release all her burdens onto this complete stranger. But wouldn’t that be selfish of me? she wondered, to encumber this poor woman with all my issues? Besides, how could this woman possibly relate to all the various intricacies in my life? Does she have kids too? Is she married or working? She doubted it, looking across at Grace. She seemed far too serene to be responsible for children, a husband and a career to boot.
“Are you here by yourself?” Grace interrupted her reverie.
“Oh, no, I’m here with my family. My husband took our two boys out fishing this morning, so I have the day to myself. What about you?”
Grace smiled. “That seems to be a popular hobby around here. My husband got up at a ridiculous hour to take our kids fishing down at the old mill. Perhaps they’ll run into each other in their quests for the prize catch of the day.”
They sat smiling at their shared coincidences for a moment. But when Eve’s eyes travelled back over the water, the veil of melancholy slipped quickly over her features again, and she let the mood pull her back down as she dropped deep into thought. She looked over at Grace and, deciding to throw caution to the wind, she inquired, “Do you ever feel as though you’re not completely fulfilled? That there is really nothing major to worry about or complain about and yet … and yet you just don’t seem happy?” She struggled to clarify. “I mean, I am happy. I’m happy with my life and my situation but …” She paused. “I just don’t know.” She tucked a wayward lock of hair behind her ear, searching for elucidation and feeling utterly lost.
“I used to,” Grace replied honestly, “but I don’t anymore. I found what I was looking for.”
“Really?” Eve’s interest was piqued. “And what was that?”
Grace smiled. “Why, the same thing that you’re searching for, I suppose. I wanted to feel fulfilled and whole, and,” she replied, her smile growing wider, “now I do.”
“And just how did you manage that?” Eve wondered.
“Well …” Grace stretched languorously. “I started looking in the right places.”