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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hope and Glory by Katriena Knights

The town had barely changed, Glory thought, but it was the kind of town that didn’t. Nestled high in the Colorado mountains, its most prominent features were peace and nostalgia. Just what Glory was looking for.

Glory had grown up here in the shadow of the mountains. But the city had beckoned with bright colors and promises, and she had answered. It had been a good life, but it was over now. Time to start again, to move forward by going back.

As she parked her car in front of the tiny convenience store, Glory looked toward the mountains. The blunt, white-tipped peaks of the Continental Divide jutted up as a backdrop to the quaint buildings butted up against the mountains’ flanks. It looked the same as the pencil sketches she’d made fifteen years ago. Glory smiled.

Those sketches that had shown her, finally, where she needed to be. She’d clung too long to memories. When she’d finally found the courage to pack up Addison’s things and take that first step toward letting him go, she’d found the drawings in the back of the closet where he’d kept his sculpting tools. It was as if he’d put them there on purpose, as a message. “Go back,” they’d said. “Let him go, go back, and see what you find.”

So here she was.

She closed her car door, the sound shattering the pristine stillness. There were other cars, there were houses and stores and big satellite dishes, but still the sound of a car door slamming seemed like the intrusion of a strange and unwelcome technology. The place would have seemed more natural if horses had walked the roads.

Glory squinted, picturing it. Her next sketch would show just that.

She went into the store. She’d need a few things before she went to the tiny bed and breakfast. Finding what she needed, she piled it into a shopping basket.

It wasn’t until she approached the counter that she noticed the man behind it. He sat reading a well-worn paperback, and the craggy lines of his face made her wish she had her pencils. Some things just ached to be drawn, like the mountains, a grazing elk, this man’s complicated face.

She knew him.

It didn’t register with her immediately--it had been fifteen years--and even then she wasn’t sure. She set her basket on the counter.

He looked up and smiled, no recognition on his face. Glory smiled back, trying to hide her disappointment. Maybe it wasn’t him after all--but how many people had eyes like that, the clear, dark blue of a mountain stream, with a ring of silver-gray around the pupil?

“Passing through?” he asked as he began to ring up her order. No fancy UPC scanners here--he had to enter each item a digit at a time into the antique cash register.

“No,” Glory answered. “I’m staying at the B&B until I can find a house. I’m moving here.”

He eyed her with some interest, and a flicker in his eyes made Glory think he might finally have recognized her. But he turned back to his work.

“Not many people in the market for a house up here,” he said.

“It’s beautiful country. Perfect for painting.”

“You’re a painter, then?”

“I hope to be.” He totaled her order, and she wrote out a check, her hands trembling. He’d see her name, she thought, and he’d remember.

But he didn’t have to see her name. He caught the check between two fingers without looking at it, then he squinted and smiled.

“Glory. Glory Buchanan. It’s you, isn’t it?”

“Baker,” she answered, pointing tentatively at the check, “but, yes.”

“I’ll be.” He seemed content just to look at her for a moment. “You remember me, don’t you?”

“Of course I do, Michael.”

She said nothing else, but there was so much more inside her, memories and emotions, things she’d tried not to think about for a very long time.

She’d known Michael since kindergarten, when they’d told their parents they’d get married someday. And for a long time it had seemed likely, as they grew older together and changed from playmates to adolescent companions, and finally to steady girl- and boyfriend. But in the end she’d left for college while he’d stayed to run the family business, and apparently still did.

Glory’s study of art had never brought her fame, but it had brought her a husband--Addison, who’d been her instructor and had become her life.

But through all the changes she’d remembered one perfect day, Michael’s mouth on hers and his arms around her, the smell of him and the spread of blue sky above, and what it had been like to believe that love never changed, and that it lasted forever.

“So,” Michael said. “Did you bring your husband with you?”

Glory couldn’t quite read his expression. “No,” she said gently. “He died a few years ago.”

Michael’s face became even more inscrutable. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Glory shook her head a little. “It was cancer. Unexpected, but we had five good years together. What about you? Did you ever get married?”

“No,” he said, and looked at her with those deep, beautiful blue eyes. “I’ve just been here, minding my store and waiting for you to come back.”

It wasn’t the whole truth, and she knew it from the twinkle in his eyes, but behind that roguish twinkle was something else--hope, and the flicker of his own memories.

“Well, here I am,” she said, “and here I’ll stay.”

He handed her the receipt, and as she took it he caught her hand, his fingers long and strong against hers, just as she remembered.

“Good,” he said, and for the first time in a long time, Glory’s future seemed bright and whole.

It was going to be a wonderful summer.

About the Author: I am the author of several contemporary and paranormal romance novels, most recently with Samhain Press. I currently live in the mountains of Colorado with my two children. http://katrienaknights.kabeka.com http://katrienaknights.blogspot.com

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