"Have you been anywhere up here before?"
"No. I had a friend growing up whose parents had a cottage in Muskoka. Then a few years ago Helene and I took a dinner boat trip on the Segwun out of Orillia."
"Gravenhurst. The Segwun is out of Gravenhurst." I corrected her.
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. Trust me."
"It was fun. It was nice, I loved seeing the cottages."
"Is that the sum total of your Ontario experience? I mean you've lived here practically all of your life."
"I don't ski, I didn't have a reason to come up here. Do you come up here often?"
"All my life. I've always lived in southern Ontario. That's where the work is. But I've always been coming up. My dad was a keen fisherman and the family just got dragged around every year. Then after he passed away, I just kept on fishing."
"I saw fishing rods in the truck."
"Have you ever fished?"
"No," she said meekly.
"Have you ever been in a little boat, like the one we're towing behind us?"
"As a little girl at my friend's cottage. They had a boat with a motor," she said apologetically.
I smiled at her, "Well it looks like you're in for some new experiences then."
She was grinning from ear to ear. She had her hands tucked under her thighs and was bouncing as she said, "I sure am!"
We pulled into an Esso station just south of Sudbury. I jumped out of the cab and scooted around to her side and opened the door for her. I held out my hand, palm up and said "Miss Arslan?"
She unbuckled the safety belt and swung her legs to the side. Taking hold of my hand with her back straightened, "Thank you Mr. Winstanley" and stepped out of the cab. She grabbed her purse and swung it over her shoulder, fluffing her black hair.
I watched her cute ass wiggle as she made her way inside.
After gassing up and peeing we were back on the road. We made a list of the things we still needed to buy. There wasn't much. A dozen eggs, some fresh bread, salad stuff and a couple of bags of ice.
"What did you make for dinner?"
"With a coy smile she answered, "Mmm...I'm not telling."
"Do you drink?"
"Of course. You did bring wine?"
We drove on for a while.
"Do you like martinis?" I asked her.
"I love a martini."
Alright. This was going to be so good.
"Vodka or gin?" I asked innocently. I had both.
"Gin of course," she answered with a bit of a devilish grin and one eyebrow drooped.
"Olive or a twist of lemon?"
"Ah, an Oliver Twist."
We both smiled at each other.
"Put olives on the list."
We stopped in Sudbury at a large mall. We had lunch at Quizno's where we shared a large beef dip sandwich with onions and mushrooms. I was mesmerized as I watched her eat with gusto across the table from me. Her sensuous lips were full of emotion with every bite, every word she spoke to me. It only occurred to me then that she wasn't wearing any make-up. She didn't need to. Her olive skin was perfect. What a beauty she was. And her hair...it was as if she stepped out of a shampoo commercial.
She did the shopping at the Loblaw's Superstore and I went to the dollar store. I bought two martini glasses, two nice wine glasses, a red and white checked tablecloth, a pair of glass candlesticks and three pairs of non-drip candles. White, red and green.
She got back to the truck about two minutes after I did. Clearly she bought more than just what was on the list. As I closed the tonneau cover to the pick-up truck's bed I noticed that one of the extra things she bought was a razor.
Off we went through the delightfully named suburb of Sudbury, Azilda. She was following our progress on the map as we went. Now we were on the flip side of the map. "One of the things you have to understand as you read that map," I said to her, "is that the northern half of that map is at half the scale of the southern half."
We drove on. Eventually we passed a sign that said 'from this point forward all lakes and rivers drain into Hudson's Bay'. Naturally the sign was in English and in French. It was the historic dividing line between two great fur trading companies. The British Hudson's Bay company controlled the Hudson Bay watershed while the French controlled the Great Lakes watershed. Canada was built on beaver pelt.
"Why are you driving down the middle of the road? I've seen other cars and trucks doing it too."
"Because it's safer."
"I would think staying in your lane, instead of being half in the oncoming lane, would be safer."
"If we come across a moose, then I have two means of egress. Left or right. If I stay in my lane, I only have one."
She had kind of a look of disbelief on her face.
"Aya. A moose is a thousand pounds of meat. When it hits a car or a small truck, the car goes under it and the windshield collides with a thousand pounds of meat. At a hundred and ten kilometers an hour the top of the car is simply sheared off, along with anything that is in its way. Namely you and me."
We drove on in silence.
"When I was a kid, my dad and I did a dance with a moose on the highway one night just outside La Verendrye park in Quebec."
"What happened?" she asked.
"He missed the moose, obviously, but we landed up in a ditch beside the road, backwards."
She stared at me in wonder.
"I don't want to do a highway dance with a moose ever again."
The last remnants of the hardwood Carolinian forest were long gone. We were totally immersed in the Boreal. The landscape was more severe.
We drove on in silence for a while.
"A bear! I saw a bear!" She was almost jumping out of her seat.
I just smiled at her.
Eventually we pulled off the main highway and onto a secondary highway.
"It's so beautiful here," her eyes were wide with wonderment as she gazed out the window.
We passed a huge yard with stripped down tree trunks, spruce, piled neatly in high rows. They looked like giant matchsticks. Aya's eyes opened wide, "What a shame," she said.
"It's the forest products industry. We do want houses don't we?"
We drove on down the winding gravel road. Eventually the road bisected an area where there had clearly been a fire. Everything around us was a cold cinder wasteland.
"Oh no! Look what happened," her voice was almost trembling. I stopped the truck.
"Fire is a natural part of the forest cycle. Look there and there and there," I said pointing through the windscreen, "pioneer trees and shrubs are coming back already. The cone from a Jack Pine, I'll show you one later, opens after a fire. There are certain birds and animals that rely on the fire to sweep through every once in a while. It may not seem it, but it's a beautiful thing." I put the truck in gear.
Eventually we passed a sign that said Shining Tree, Aya almost leapt out of her seat, "We're here!" She was like a little kid.
I kept on driving, "Not quite, close, but not quite."
A few minutes later we pulled into camp. She asked if I'd been here before.
"Nope," I found the office and stopped. "Come on let's go," I said smiling to her.
The air was crisp, cool and fresh. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was about four o'clock. We had made good time. Thankfully there were no bugs.
An older couple approached us, "Welcome," he said in a French Canadian accent, "I'm Henri, this is my wife Yvette."
I held out my hand, "Rob Winstanley."
"I'm Aya Arslan."
They seemed a very nice couple. He handed us the key to cabin number nine and walked us to it. It was at the far end of the lodge. He showed us where the wood pile was although there are electric baseboards he said, and pointed down to the second dock at our end. We were the only guests at the lodge although they will fill up for the week on Saturday and Sunday.
"Get yourselves sorted out, you can come and sign the book whenever you are ready."
And that's just the way it is up there. Everyone's relaxed. Everything is at half speed.
Aya's eyes sparkled as she took in the surroundings. The only sound aside from a gentle breeze and a few chirping birds was a distant muffled sound of a diesel generator.
"Henri," I said, "until it gets dark, don't leave that generator on just for our sake."
The cabin was bright and clean, two bedrooms with a bathroom in between. The rest of the cabin was a single room with the kitchen on one side separated by a breakfast counter from the rest of the room which held a round table with four chairs, a couch and two wing chairs and a coffee table. In one corner there was a Franklin stove. It had a big picture window looking out to the lake. The entire cabin was paneled in rustic pine. The floors were a matching pine. The pictures on the wall were Group of Seven reproductions. It was perfect.
I pulled the pick-up truck closer to the cabin as Aya wandered off to the lake. She was walking up from the dock as I handed her a can of beer. She had a huge smile on her face, her black hair was gently fluttering in the breeze.
Pppfft. Pppfft. "Cheer's Aya. Here's to a successful bonsai hunt."
"Cheers," she took a deep sip, "this is all so wonderful!" she was walking on a cloud. I guess it was all so new to her.
"Moosehead Beer," she said after taking another sip and looking at the can, "this is good beer. I've never tried it before."
"Head and antlers above the rest," I said smiling. "C'mon we've got some unpacking to do."
Both bedrooms were identical. Both had queen sized beds. I let her have the one that had a view of the lake through a small window. She took control in the kitchen, which was okay with me. Within a few minutes the fridge and freezer were packed up. I stuffed the bottom shelf with white wine. I brought in a boogie box and basically all my CDs. The fishing gear was packed next to the front door. The bonsai collecting backpack, just inside the front door. Boots, raincoats, everything came inside.
Aya looked at the stack of booze. "I see forty eight cans of beer."
"Forty six" I corrected her.
"And three cases of wine...booze. You expect us to drink all that? We're only here four nights."
"Don't be silly Aya. It's our booze cabinet. Mmm, a little rustic maybe, but I didn't know what you drink, or if you drank at all. There's different types of beer, red wine, white wine, vodka, gin, scotch, bourbon, various liqueurs, single malt. We just take back what we don't drink. What's the big deal? I just wanted to be a good host."
She had a huge grin on her face as she stood in front of me with her hands in the back pockets of her jeans, bouncing on her toes with her chest pressed forward. "So, what do you want to do now?" she said biting her bottom lip, her eyes glistening again.
I had a couple of ideas.
"How about we put the boat in the water?"
"Oh. Okay," she said, clearly not seeing that coming. "Then can we have martinis?" she added.
A girl after my own heart.
The boat launch was next to the other dock. "I need you to get in the boat Aya," I said as I backed the boat and trailer towards the ramp. I helped her into the boat. She seemed a little unsure of herself as she climbed in and sat down. I unbuckled the boat. With the door open I backed the trailer into the water and watched as the back tire of the pick-up truck reached the water's edge, then eased back just a few more inches. I popped the pick-up truck into park and hopped out. Aya had a puzzled look on her face as I unclasped the winch line and gave the little boat a solid push.
With the good incline and the fact that Aya was seated near the back of the boat, she launched perfectly. There was hardly a ripple in the water.
I parked the pick-up and empty trailer back next to the cabin. I must have been gone all of three minutes.
"This is great Rob. Now what am I supposed to do?" She was drifting, but not more than fifteen feet from the other dock.
"Well you can just sit there and look pretty." I pulled out my cell-phone camera and started taking pictures. Aya got into it. Posing. Pushing her chest out. Giving me the come hither look. Fluffing her hair up. Batting her eyelashes at me.
I was in lust.
"Grab the paddle and just bring the boat in." The paddle was near the front of the boat.
Aya stood up and stepped forward in the boat. "Aayyggh!" She nearly fell in the water as she lost her balance. The boat rocked from side to side as she clung on for dear life.
"Are you okay!?" I was ready to jump into the water.
"I'm okay. I'm okay" she managed as she sat herself back onto the seat.
"Lesson number one. When you move in the boat put your weight into the centre as much as you can and hold on to the sides." She glared at me with suspicion. I added, "Just move slowly and gently, don't be thrashing about."
"Stand up and get yourself into the centre of the boat. Seriously Aya, you need to get yourself sorted out in this boat. Trust me. Do what I ask." Gingerly she stood up and stepped over the seat in front of her and stood up.
"Spread your legs a bit." She did. "Now gently rock the boat from side to side with your weight." She did that too. "Now turn around and do it from the other side." She did that too. "Turn around again and grab the paddle." She did, still unsure of herself. "Now paddle yourself in."
It was all of twelve feet, but she managed. After a few strokes she was able to get the side of the boat in a gentle collision course with the dock.
"Lesson number two. Keep your fingers inside the boat." I lifted her hand off the gunwale as the boat was about to collide with the dock. "Either on the dock or in the boat. Not wrapped around the gunwale." I'm pretty sure she got my point. She missed getting her slim fingers munched by only an inch or two.
Still holding her hand and now holding the boat with the other I said, "Lesson number three, when you step out of the boat, it will move backwards as you try to step out. Stand up on the seat." She did. "Put one foot on the dock, but not your weight." She did. "Now step out." She managed to transfer her weight as the boat moved back.
"Whew," she said.
"Very well done Aya. You're going to be an expert in no time. Bonsai hunting is all about jumping in an out of a boat."
"Okay," she said with a brave smile. I was still holding her hand. My foot was holding the boat to the dock.
"Now get back in the boat."
I held her hand as she stepped back into the boat eyeing me with uncertainty. I jumped in and climbed to the stern. "We have to get it to the other dock."
On the second pull my trusty little Evinrude started for the first time that season in a cloud of smoke. I put her into reverse and backed off the dock, jammed the throttle tiller into my belly, switched to forward and opened her up.
Aya nearly fell off her seat again, but she steadied herself. She was facing me, her thick black hair was fluttering around her pretty face. She was trying to control it. With the index finger on my right hand I motioned to her to spin around. She did. I wanted to do a lap around the little island that was not more than two hundred yards away.
Aya huddled herself together and drew her jacket tight. Her hair flowed off of her head like a wild horse's mane. Her ass on the aluminium seat was perfect. Fuck, I was in lust.
I slowed the boat down to a crawl as we approached our dock. I could see the apprehension in Aya's face as she turned to face me, she wanted to help land the boat but wasn't quite sure what she had to do.
"What was lesson number two Aya?"
"Fingers," she smiled.
The little craft gently eased up to the dock landing perfectly parallel along the entire length. I simply put my hand on the dock and killed the engine. "Okay Aya, out you get."
This time she stepped out on her own with much more assurance in her step. The boat pushed back as she transferred her weight onto the dock. I held it steady.
As I tied the boat to the dock I could see the wide grin on Aya's face. "Martini's?"
I pulled her hand into mine and we walked up to the cabin hand in hand. I could feel my heart was beating, I was so thrilled to just be with Aya.
Aya washed the new martini glasses as I fished out the Bombay Sapphire, white vermouth and my little stainless steel shaker.
With a few ice cubes in the shaker I added the ingredients.
"Shaken not stirred."
We sat on the steps to the little deck in front of the cabin enjoying the last warm rays of sunshine sipping our martinis. Aya rested her head on my shoulder and looked into my eyes. "Thank you," she said smiling.
"For what?" I asked. "We haven't done anything."
"For bringing me here. It's so beautiful, so peaceful." Aya appeared very relaxed as she spoke. There was a languor to her voice that I'd not noticed before.
"And wild too," I added. We just gazed out onto lake. The sun glistened off the still water in vast sheets of red as it slid behind the tree line.
A wolf howled in the distance.
Aya's back shot up. Her eyes widened and fired a questioning glance at me as she asked, "Did you bring a gun?"
"We're going bonsai hunting Aya, not bear hunting." I chuckled at her. "We're not going to shoot the bonsai."
Her eyes twinkled back at me, somewhat relieved but still concerned, "There's bears and wolves and moose and God only knows what other scary animals."
She whacked my playfully. "Come on Rob, I'm not kidding."
"Aaaghhhhh!" I held my arms out to the side, martini glass in one hand.
"Stop it Rob," whacking me again.
"You forgot the sasquatch." I said menacingly.
"Stop it Rob," she whacked me again, "there's no such thing as sasquatch."
"Oh?" I fired right back, draining the last of my martini. "C'mon Aya, let's get started on dinner."
As we made our way to the kitchen I said to Aya, "Seriously, do you know what the most dangerous thing is in those woods?"
"No. What?" She was all attentive for my answer.
"Yup, bees. If you get stung by a hundred bees because you stepped on a nest, way the hell out there somewhere," I pointed to the lake, "your life is in serious danger, and you're miles from help. Bees."
Aya just gazed at me with her mouth open.
"I have an EpiPen, just in case," I added, "a glass of white wine?"
Aya just stared at me, not quite sure of what to make of what I'd just said.
I popped the cork to a bottle of Pinot Grigot.
"Sure." I poured us a couple of glasses.
"How about putting some music on for us? I'll get the barbeque going and collect some firewood for the wood stove."
She surprised me with her music selection, one of my favourites. Graceland by Paul Simon.
As I came back to the deck I could see Aya busy in the kitchen, her hips swaying to the music as she slowly danced around the kitchen island with lettuce in one hand and a glass of white wine in the other.
These are the days of miracle and wonder
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
The way we look to a distant constellation
I looked up and could see the night sky panorama starting to shine through. I smiled.
There's dying in the corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don't cry baby, don't cry
Aya was far from crying. She's was in her element and clearly enjoying herself. I silently watched as she quietly sang along to the CD, seductively swaying her hips. What a sexy woman I couldn't help but think. I doubted that she would ever see something in me that would interest her, in spite of her sweet outward affections.
I kept watching Aya as I brushed the heated grill.
"Caesar salad?" she asked as I swept into the cabin with an arm-full of split logs.
"Sure," I answered, "what can I do to help?" Her hips were still swaying to the music.
"You can set the table," she answered smiling at me.