I was naïve in believing that divorce would solve all of my problems. My problems had only just begun. Now where did I get this nugget of wisdom? From the same place I get most of my truly wise insights, school. But not just any school. I learned this from what I jokingly call the school of hard knocks.
Here I sit in this little airplane seat thinking how truly intelligent and wise I am but what I really am, is fucked! My self-esteem is fucked, my health is fucked, my belief in justice is fucked; everything is fucked, fucked, fucked! Oh well, at least the scenery below is awe-inspiring. In another thirty minutes we will land at my temporary refuge from the pain of my life. In a little while we will be at Duke's.
After two days of searching the internet I found Duke's. It sounded like the ideal place to run away to and hide. The description even said it was a good place to hide and why wouldn't I believe it? It was on the internet and we always believe everything we read on the internet, don't we? Here's what I read.
'Duke's lodge is located on the edge of one of Canada's most remote yet picturesque lakes with an abundance of wildlife and some of the best fishing the Northwest Territories has to offer. This is an excellent launching point for day fishing excursions, all day trips, and overnight stays at one of Duke's remote hideaways. And for the less adventuresome, the beauty of nature is everywhere and only a short walk from the lodge. With a little luck you will be able to see Canadian Geese, Black Bear, Beaver, and Moose. Duke's has four furnished rooms in the lodge and six fully furnished cabins on the property. These rustic cabins are ideal for getting away from civilization and the stresses of modern life. Our cabins for 2 people feature one bedroom with one double bed or two single beds. Two rooms in the lodge can sleep 4 people comfortably. Duke's is also ideal for just hiding out from the wife (or husband.) Meal packages are available upon request. Long term rentals are also available upon request. Contact Duke Wayne for reservations and travel arrangements.'
The description sounded so good that I made the call immediately after reading it. Now the little floatplane that left Yellowknife an hour ago is bumping and jumping over the snow capped peaks headed toward that picturesque lake and my haven for the next couple of months. I've never ridden in a floatplane before. It's a bit disconcerting. There are only eight seats and one pilot and most of the space in the back is filled up with boxes. I'm the only passenger. The noise from the props makes doing anything but looking out the postage stamp of a window impossible. I would love to sleep and get a temporary respite from my misery but that's out. What I should do is sit and enjoy the view from fifteen thousand feet but instead I do the worst thing possibly, I start to relive the events leading up to my little floatplane ride.
Up until a month ago I was married to one of the most beautiful women in the little central Pennsylvania town where we both grew up. Her name is Sheila. The town is Henley. Sheila was born on the other side of the tracks, the wealthy, high-society side of the tracks. I however came from the working class side. My father worked in the factory that her father owned. But shit happened that I can't explain and despite the differences in our backgrounds we got married. So I moved from one side of the tracks to the other. That was five years ago. Two years ago we had a baby. Not just any baby, this little girl is the most beautiful and loving child on earth. I'm probably saying the same thing that every father says but I know that it's true. Sarah is a wonder. She's pure joy. She's my reason for living. Whenever I look at her, I thank God for blessing me as He did.
Sheila and I worked for her father's company Bloom Enterprises: I was an accountant and Sheila was the Customer Relations Assistant. Sheila's father is Ezekiel Bloom. He's a stately grey haired, gentleman that nobody in their right mind wanted to cross. He was also the richest man in Pennsylvania so that helped to put everyone on their guard. He's also working on his fourth Ms. Bloom, the lovely trophy wife Jennifer.
Like a lot of married couples Sheila and I had our ups and downs but usually we were able to work through them without bloodshed. Three months ago I discovered something that turned my world upside down. I found out that Sarah is not my daughter. She calls me dada and I call her my little angel but the DNA test showed that she is not my biological daughter. I curse that damn test! Why did I do it anyway? I think I just wanted to protect my little princess. We were in the doctor's office for her annual check-up waiting for our turn when I read an article that said that doing a DNA study on a child and their parents can 'help to provide an accurate medical history for the child, giving the healthcare provider additional insight during diagnosis and managing the child's health'. That sounded reasonable considering that I had a sister that died a week after birth from a congenital genetic abnormality that affected the development of her heart. I wanted to know if I may have passed that trait or any other problem on to Sarah. Maybe it did sound reasonable but now I wished I had stayed ignorant. I didn't tell Sheila I had the DNA test done, I didn't tell anyone.
There was no way I could figure out who Sarah's father really was because of the elder Mr. Bloom. He owned everything and everybody in town so I had nobody in town I could trust. If I went to anybody in town with my worries, the tale would get back to dear old daddy before I could get home. So I asked a buddy that I went to college with who was a private investigator working in Washington D.C. to look into things and find out what he could find out. He found out that my loving wife Sheila had another man in her life. The two had been together since before we were married. It was a major shock to my system when I found out who he was. I had the proof I needed to burn that cheating bitch at the stake so I filed for divorce. That's when all hell broke loose. Sheila denied it. Her father stood by his daughter like a rock. My out of town divorce attorney was out numbered and out classed by Sheila's attorneys. Although I had evidence of her betrayal the judge ruled in her favor screwing me totally in the deal. I guess I should have anticipated what would happen since dear old daddy owned everybody in town, including the presiding judge. I was left with shit. The divorce would go forth. The evidence I showed the judge was ignored and I was forbidden by him to ever show it to anyone. If I did my ass would be in jail 'faster than I could fart.' That was a direct quote from the judge. Dear old daddy just sat and smiled as I had the shaft shoved so far up my ass it came out the top of my head. I had to pay child support for Sarah even though Sheila lived in the luxury of the Bloom family money. Sheila kept our home. I could keep all money that I brought into the marriage, in other words none. My visitation rights for Sarah were limited to one weekend a month supervised by a court appointed guardian. Of course I lost my job. I lost my friends. I lost everything including my trust in the judicial system. I became depressed mostly because I couldn't be with my little girl. That was the worst of it. Sheila's father hit me the hardest by taking away the one thing that I loved the most in this world, Sarah. Sheila didn't say anything because she never showed up at any of the hearings. It was just me and my attorney against Ezekiel Bloom and his team of attorneys. I was fucked, fucked, and fucked again!
So now here I sit in this noisy little floatplane headed for a temporary safe haven. I'm a refugee from everything sane and just. I did manage to remove the shaft from my ass before I left town. The Bloom factory mysteriously burned down. I didn't have anything to do with it but I did bring the marshmallows.
"Wow, this isn't exactly what I expected," I said as I stood on the rickety dock and looked up at the lodge.
"Yeah, a lot of people say that when they arrive. It'll grow on you." This bit of wisdom came from the pilot who was in the process of unloading the boxes from the rear of the plane.
It's true that the lake and the surrounding mountains are beautiful beyond belief but the description of the lodge is, well, a bit of an exaggeration. I had in mind a grand log cabin lodge with decorative stone walkways and ornate native carvings all around. It actually looks like a relatively old, average sized log cabin on a hill with a dirt path leading from the dock to the porch. It looks clean but not as grand as the description. Looking at my luggage on the dock and the winding dirt path up to the lodge I guessed that it would take a couple trips to get everything up the hill. I grabbed the two small bags and started up the winding dirt road to the lodge. "Maybe I should have read the reviews from previous guests first." Stepping into the lobby of the rustic old lodge I hear a deep gravely voice coming from under the counter.
"May I help you?"
"Yes. My name is Leo Baker and I have a reservation for one of your cabins."
"Ah, yeah Mister Baker, I've been expecting you," said the lanky silver haired man as he stands up. "My name is Duke Wayne and I'm the owner of this little piece of heaven. OK, now don't look at me like that, boy. My name really is Duke Wayne. My ma and pa were great fans of cowboy films and they named me after their hero, John Wayne. I don't swagger like him, I just sorta limp around. So tell me Mr. Baker, your registration said that you wanted to negotiate a long term stay. Hiding out from the wife, eh? That's OK by me, but I won't help you if you're hiding out from the law."
"No, it's OK. It's just a little domestic problem. I don't want to be found for a while. I reserved one of your cabins and yes I would like to negotiate a long term rental if that's OK with you."
"Great actually. We close down for the winter in October but you're welcome to stay until then. The cabins are up the road a ways on the other side of the hill. It's a bit of a walk especially if you have a lot of luggage. Oh, and this time of year we don't have a lot of customers so you will only have one other neighbor up there. Breakfast is at eight o'clock and we can talk then about arrangements for dinner. If you need anything and you don't see me around look on the bulletin board over there. If I'm out working as a guide for someone I'll put up a note. If you don't see a note just ring the bell on the front porch and have a seat, I'll be there as soon as I can. Here's your key. It's cabin number two. Cabin two has the best view of any of the cabins. Enjoy!"
"Thanks. Is there a phone here, how about cell phone service?"
"No phone or cell phone service... too remote. But we do have a radio that we use in emergencies or to order supplies. You can make a phone call through the radio most times. We're so remote that everything has to be flown in and out because there are no roads to the lake."
"Great. See you at breakfast."
I walk up the hill with my luggage and realize that that was a long "up the road a ways." Maybe old Duke is a little prone to exaggerating things just a bit. But at least I got to see a lot of pine trees. OK, there's number two. Hummmm, it looks rustic all right, just like the advertisement says. But it didn't say anything about small. Maybe it's bigger on the inside that it looks from here. As I enter I see that it's just a bedroom and a bathroom, hardly enough room to change my mind in. I've been in larger bargain motel rooms in my time. But it has the one thing that I want more than anything else in the world at the moment, privacy. Let's see if Duke was exaggerating about the view.
I step out onto the small front porch and look toward the lake.
Actually, he may have been understating it a bit. From here I can see every bit of the lake. Everything is green and lush and the water sparkles with the reflections of the sunlight and the surrounding mountains. The snow capped mountains go all around the lake and create a giant green bowl with the extreme azure blue water in the bottom! Except for where I'm standing, it looks like civilization passed this place by. "Un-fucking believable," I said out loud.
"Yes it is, isn't it?" The disembodied voice came from the clump of trees at the side of the cabin.
This is the second time in my life I've turned around to see a creature of beauty approaching after I say something foolish out loud: The first time was when I met Sheila and now her, whoever she is. Wow, she is something. She's short and thin with her dark black hair pulled back into a pony tail. She's not frail, just a small woman. The jeans and a red flannel shirt don't show her figure and her boots are way too big for her. Why is she carrying a pail of water? God, I love her skin. It's clean and clear and the color of warm cocoa. Her eyes are so dark and I can't tell what color they are and she has a full, sweet smile and a cute pointed nose. She's obviously of Hispanic origin and looks just like someone on an advertisement poster for tourism in Mexico, except she's missing the cliché sombrero.
"Hi, you must be my new neighbor. I'm Annabella. Annabella Willams. I'm in cabin one just through the trees there. Duke told me someone would be coming today. I've only been here a week so if you have any questions I'm sure I won't know the answer."
"Hi, yes I'm in number two. My name is Leo. Leo Baker. Pleased to meet you."
"It's nice to meet you Leo. Are you staying long?"
"Yes, actually, I think I'm going to be here all summer, how about you?"
"I don't know yet. For a while I guess, I just don't know. What brings you here? I didn't see you bringing up any fishing gear so I guess fishing isn't the reason."
"Actually I'm here to get away from things back at home for a while. It's rough back there right now and I just had to get away to think. What about you? Why are you here?"
"Same reason actually. Problems at home and I needed to get away. Well, it was nice meeting you Leo. I'm sure we'll be seeing one another around. See you at breakfast?"
Boy, she looks great walking away too. Nice and full everywhere I like. Christ, I haven't thought about another woman like that since I met Sheila. I guess I'm allowed to now that I'm almost single again.
As I stood there and watched her disappear into the trees a thought struck me. I was never been a big believer in the 'love at first sight' thing. I know I've had some 'lust at first sight' encounters in college but knowing that you love someone on a first meeting seemed far fetched. But right now, thinking about this lovely woman walking through the woods, I felt something that I couldn't explain. I don't think its lust, although she does look good enough to eat, but I also don't know if it's love. Maybe what I felt was a familiarity about her. Her whole demeanor made me feel relaxed. I hoped I could get to know her better. I wonder if she's what I came here to find.
Breakfast wasn't exactly what I was used to. Duke's breakfast is a very basic meal: Eggs, sausage, toast, orange juice, and coffee. I'll survive quite well just so long as I don't have to cook. The other two lodgers seem nice, obviously fisherman. Anyone that wears a vest with a thousand flies stuck to it is a fisherman. Maybe they knew something I didn't because they were staying at the main house. I haven't seen Annabella anywhere this morning. Maybe I should ask Duke.
"Hey Duke, where is the young lady that has the cabin up near me?"
"Anna? She came down early and ate. Said she had some work to do. Hell, all she does is set on the bench up at the top of the hill past you cabin watching the birds. She doesn't want to be around people much. Something's bothering her big time but she won't talk to me about it. Maybe you can get her to open up, eh?"
"I've got my own problems to worry about. I can't afford to have anybody else's problems mixed in with mine. No room in the old head... might explode."
"Well do what you want but if I were fifty years younger I'd be after her to open up. She's the prettiest woman that's been here in twenty years, since my Louisa died."
"Thanks Duke, I'll take it under advisement. For now I think I'll just go back to my cabin and sleep. See you at dinner."
Yawnnn. Damn I didn't mean to sleep all day. I must have been more exhausted than I thought. I guess getting fucked repeatedly by your former wife and her family took a toll. Fuck em! Fuck em all! Hope I haven't missed dinner.
Knock, knock, knock. Annabella's sweet voice announced through the screen door, "Hello Mr. Baker? Hello?"
"Hi, sorry, I'm just getting up. I was only going to take a short nap. I guess the thin mountain air is making me sleepy. How are you?"
"I'm fine. I was just wondering if you had dinner. I didn't go down to the lodge at dinner time so I just decided to make a pot of soup, would you like to join me. It's quiet up here, except for that bear that comes around every morning, and I would enjoy the company."
"Oh, don't worry. He won't bother you if you don't bother him. He just prowls around outside to see what we left out that he can eat. You'll learn fast enough."
"You know I would enjoy a bit of company too. I guess I missed dinner so your soup is starting to sound good right about now. Let me clean up a bit and I'll come over."
"It's just through that clump of trees. In an hour? See you then."
I watched as she turned and walked away with another pail of water. She walks so nicely. And what a shapely pair of jeans she has. Her pony tail falls down to the middle of her back and swayed from side to side with every step. "Un-fucking believable." This time I didn't say it too loudly.
She did say an hour, so fifty minutes is close enough right? Just think, yesterday I was in nowheresville Pennsylvania and today I'm on the top of a mountain in Canada with one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. For the first time in months I can say "life is good," at least for the moment.
Knock, knock. "Hello neighbor. Anybody home?"
"Mr. Baker, you're early. You should know better than to come to a woman's place early. I'm not ready yet. Give me a few minutes."
"I can go away if you like?"
"No, just sit on the porch and enjoy the view. It's not as nice as yours but it's still pretty spectacular."
"Oh, and call me Leo. Mr. Baker is my father,"
I turned and sat and saw that she was right. The view from this rickety old rocking chair is pretty spectacular. I've never seen anything like it. You can't get a sense of how large the mountains are across the lake from here. They looked almost like you could reach out with your hand and touch them. But I knew that they were probably a day's walk away. The quiet is deafening. The smells floating through the air are a combination of pine and whatever Annabella's cooking. Both smelled heavenly.
"OK Leo, soup's on. I hope you like it."
Oh crap, she's dressed for dinner. I'm sitting here in my jeans and a sports shirt. Maybe I should have put on something nice. I'll bet she looks exquisite in whatever she wears. It's just a simple light blue long sleeved print blouse and dark blue slacks. Her broad, beautiful smile is just as it was this morning, or was that yesterday? The boots are gone and have been replaced by sandals. Her hair now falls straight down over her shoulders. She's absolutely beautiful!
"Hey Leo, wake up! Here's your soup."
"Oops, sorry I was distracted for a moment. Like you said, the view up here is pretty spectacular."
"Flatterer. Here eat! It's not fancy but it is edible. It's my own concoction so I hope you like it. All I can offer you to drink is water. Is that OK?"