Sunday, April 27, 2014

An Extra Week

"Hi there!" a masculine voice called from behind me.
Startled, I swung my head around to see a tall man dressed in a T-shirt jeans, and work boots watching me.
"Didn't mean to scare you, but a storm's blowing in."
I perched on a canvas folding stool on a lonely, narrow dock, easel in front of me, painting a picture of Thunder Lake.
The early evening sun flooded the sky with purple and scarlet, and a bald eagle soared over the blue water.
The man strolled out onto the dock and peered over my shoulder. "Love the way you're capturing the scene. You must be a professional artist."
"An amateur. Are you sure about the storm?"
"Positive. It'll be blowing in over those pine trees across the lake at anytime. Thought I'd help you gather your stuff."
"I'm sorry," I said. "I don't think we've met."
"Ben Harrison. Owner of Thunder Lake Resort. We get sudden storms all the time."
"Leslie Cartwright," I said.
A handsome man with wonderful blue eyes and longish auburn hair, Ben helped me gather my things. He said he was glad he spotted me on this abandoned dock. All the other guests had retreated to their cabins.
At my cabin door he asked, "You're vacationing alone?"
I nodded, feeling a bit sheepish—a forty-year-old woman alone at a north woods resort in Wisconsin, no husband, kids, or other family around. "I do this every year," I said. "Get away from my job for a week. I relax and do something I really enjoy. Paint. Last year I was in Colorado."
His smile warming my heart he said, "Well, I hope you have a great week."
Then he was gone, and for a moment I felt lonely. I wondered if he was married. We appeared to be the same age. But I told myself, Stop that!" Successful in business—the CEO of my own T-shirt company—I had fit several romantic relationships into my workaholic life but none of them had lasted. Romance was nice, but who had time?
While I was painting the next day on the same dock, handsome Ben Harrison strolled onto the dock at noontime, the sun high above us in a cloudless sky. "See you survived the storm. Lots of thunder, lightning, and pounding rain." He carried what appeared to be a picnic basket.
"I'm so glad you got me off this dock before it hit."
"You've been here since sunrise—I saw you setting up." He held up the basket. "Lunch?"
My heart flip-flopped. I can't remember when it last did that. Was Ben Harrison hitting on me? Glancing at his ringless left hand, I flushed and said, "I'm starved."
We sat on the dock cross-legged, devoured chicken sandwiches, drank homemade lemon aid, and snacked on brownies. We chatted like old friends. "You make all this food yourself?" I asked, and held his gaze.
"All by myself," he said, offering a lazy smile, I think realizing he was answering my real question: Are you married?  "Except for the store-bought brownies," he added.
Then he told me his mom and dad founded Thunder Lake Resort years ago. He'd gone off to college, earned a degree in accounting, had his own firm, and took over the lodge, running it during the summer, after his folks retired and moved to the city. Like me, he'd never married.
"You must love it here," I said.
"I do." Then, "I also love the picture you're painting. think I could purchase it when you're finished. I'd like to hang it in the lodge."
My jaw dropped. "You're kidding? I mean, I've never sold a piece. I do this for fun. For relaxation."
"I know. And you said you have only a week. But I could show you some really awesome sights around here. A waterfall. A gorge—spectacularly steep rocky walls, a stream running through it. If you'd like to stay longer."
The thought of staying an extra week—maybe longer­­—roaming these woods with Ben—left me breathless. I could do this. My home base was Chicago. Not that far away. I had competent people who could take over for a time. I could commute when necessary. Always too busy, I'd never, ever done anything like this.
"You're a wonderful artist," Ben said. "You ought to see what you can really do."
I gulped in a deep breath. Dare I? I looked across the beautiful lake and then at the handsome man. "All right," I said, and gulped another breath. "Maybe an extra week... We'll see what happens."
"Great!" he said, his awesome smile lighting up my soul. "You won't be disappointed. Believe me."
I smiled back, tried to nod nonchalantly, but my heart was doing that flip-flop thing again.

The End
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