Daysong Graphics
For Scarlett

Virginia Woolf. Sylvia Plath. Hemmingway.

He wouldn’t be the first writer to slip into insanity. Nor would he be the last. But seeing her in the aisle of his favorite bookstore? Not the crowded one on Main, but the one tucked behind an insurance building along an unnamed alley. It made him feel a little bit more than insane.

She bent over and plucked a used book from the bottom shelf. The way she moved. The slant of her shoulders. Jeff knew her. He’d know her anywhere. Scarlett Waters. In the flesh. He squeezed his eyelids tight. Maybe when he opened them, she’d be gone. Or maybe she’d turn around and show him eyes the wrong shade of blue, or a bottom lip that was too thin, or ears that didn’t stick out just enough to make her self-conscious. He took a deep breath and peeked.

She was still there. Tapping her foot, scrunching her forehead, sucking on the tip of her thumb in that way she did whenever she had a decision to make. Should she purchase the used book or look for another?

Jeff wiped his hands against his jeans, looked over his shoulder then back at the woman. Scarlett. It was her. It had to be. He craned his neck to peek at the title clutched in her long, slender fingers—fingers he’d fashioned just for her. Piano fingers. His Scarlett played the piano. She shifted her weight, blocking the title from view.

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Kathy hitched her shoelaces and double knotted the strings of her boots. She stood, swiped wood chips from her backside, and gazed across the Shining Rock Wilderness. Sunlight reflected off mica and quartzite embedded in mountain peaks, a scene unchanged from her last visit. The only thing missing was Brian.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Air laced with balsam and a hint of rime ice filled her lungs, easing strained muscles. Freeing memories. Cold Mountain had been Brian’s favorite hike long before the book or movie brought the curious to its twisting paths and steep slope. So familiar with the trail, he no longer needed a guide or a compass. He’d convinced her to trek to the overview below the summit for their first date. Three years later, after dragging her back up the 6,000-foot peak to pick blueberries the size of marbles, he proposed.

“Kat, it’s getting late.”

Kathy glanced at the bear of a man stationed near a cluster of Turks Cap lilies bobbing in the stiff breeze. Resting on his new hiking stick, his natural frown emphasizing his natural gruffness, he looked more impatient than he had fifteen minutes earlier.

“I need a few minutes.”

Jason jerked his head in the direction of the sun. “We need to get moving if we want to reach the trailhead before dark.”

“We can make it if we keep a steady pace.”

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