When Love ComesBy: J.H. Croix
Diamond Creek, Alaska Series (Book 1)
Hannah stared at the groceries that had tumbled out of her basket. A smashed tomato rested against a jar of olives, red tomato juice pooling on the floor. A can of soup rolled until it bounced against a display sign for orange juice promising, of all things, to make every day great. Hannah wished a great day could be guaranteed with orange juice. She’d buy it in bulk. She knelt down to clean up the mess. A second ago, she’d collided with someone as she came around the corner of the aisle.
“What the hell?”
She started to apologize, only to be cut off.
“Oh, whatever. Look where you’re going, why don’t you?” a man said, the words more of a demand than a question.
Hannah stood up, leaving her spilled groceries on the floor, and found herself looking down into the face of an irate man decked out in gym clothes, a matching top and bottom of shiny red fabric. She opened her mouth to speak, only to have his words trample her thoughts.
“Jesus, you’re a freakin’ giant. Enjoy cleaning up your mess.” He waved a hand toward the groceries on the floor and stalked off, his shoes squeaking with each step.
Hannah watched him walk away. She looked around to catch a few sympathetic glances, but no one said anything or moved to help. She didn’t appreciate being called a giant, but she was tall by most standards at six feet. She went through the motions of shopping, feeling alone in the store. Back in her small apartment, she turned on the TV to fill the quiet. While she ate a solitary dinner, her mind rolled back to a place where she didn’t feel so alone.
Hannah’s memory of the night she first arrived in Alaska was vivid. She was six years old and wide-awake despite having traveled for more than twelve hours from North Carolina with two layovers and three flights. With her forehead pressed against the plane window, glittering lights came into view in the dark sky, their reflections shimmering on the ocean water as the plane descended. Their destination, Diamond Creek, lay along the shores of Kachemak Bay. The lights shaped a town in darkness for her, streets curving up hillsides and winding along the ocean. A few neon signs shone boldly in the darkness.
As they landed, the tiny plane bounced and rumbled. The whir of the motors grew louder. She would forever associate that particular sound with Alaskan nights. It heralded their arrival. Hannah remembered the distinct sound of tires rolling over snow-packed roads, later the feeling of a heavy quilt tucked around her as she was lulled in and out of sleep, and then awakening to bright sun. Twenty-two years later, her first look out the window was still sharp in her memory. Snow-covered peaks stood stark against a bright blue sky. Deep green spruce trees dusted with snow were scattered across the view. Sunlight glinted on the ocean bay with wind whipping waves across the water.
Hannah glanced around her small living room and sighed, thinking that she was sighing a bit much lately. The nightly news rattled on in the background. She was probably four thousand miles, give or take, away from Alaska. Her view here was of a coffee shop across the street in a small town in Massachusetts. The town’s main street was picturesque in its quaint charm, but it lacked the wild sense of Diamond Creek. Her parents remained in Diamond Creek, where she was raised until graduate school led her to Massachusetts.
Just as she was starting classes for her graduate degree in environmental science, the news came that her parents had died in a plane crash in rural Alaska. Their death had ricocheted through her heart. That was two years prior, and she had yet to return to Alaska since the surreal trip for the funeral throughout which she’d been emotionally numb. She thought back to the incident at the grocery store, a small matter really. She lay awake that night, her mind spinning on the wheel of the feeling that had clung to her in the grocery store. Alone. She tried to remember if she’d had anyone to share dinner or drinks with in recent memory, or if anyone had visited her apartment in the last year. The fact that she had to think about it offered the answer. Her encounter with the rude stranger at the store marked a high point in human interaction beyond when she was at work or in classes. Her life was solitary, a marked contrast to her life in Diamond Creek where a day didn’t go by without someone who mattered being woven into its fabric.