“Here we are,” said Ginny, readjusting the black backpack which rode her shoulders.
Rebecca stood beside her, her own backpack sagging from her bare shoulders. “You didn’t tell me it would be so beautiful.” She took in the pastoral scene, smiling.
“I think I did,” replied Ginny. “Or, at least, I think I tried.”
“Yeah, maybe…” Rebecca agreed dreamily. Taking Ginny’s hand, she stepped into the long grass.
Ginny followed more than willingly. Watching Rebecca, she saw that the mountain (which she called by all its names) was working its magic on the girl. She remembered the first time she had come here as a child. On her tenth birthday her mother brought her to Tanner Mountain for a picnic, not unlike the one she and Rebecca were planning now; she’d only found out later that her mother had planned that trip quite deliberately. At once curious and afraid of the effect the mountain might have on her little girl, she’d prevented Ginny from ascending Tanner Mountain until the child was at least ten years old. Then she’d brought her young daughter to this very clearing with no more intention than to see what might happen.
“The energies of that mountain might be too traumatic for any child,” Ginny remembered her mother explaining, “but I sensed you were ready at 10.”
Feeling angry and more than a little used on behalf of her younger self, Ginny did not speak to her mother for a month after learning these things. But that was her mother, Emma Jason; cautious and careless, loving and emotionally unavailable, usually placing her pursuit of esoteric knowledge above all else, including family.
Ginny smiled despite herself. She loved her mother, after all; and things had turned out well enough, on that occasion at least. It had been a lovely picnic and, her smile brightened, she did see the angel.
In appearance a mixture of her father, as depicted in the few, scattered photos which constituted her only memories of him, and that b-movie character actor she liked but whose name she could never remember, the angel hovered in her memory somewhere over Mt. Tanner and Lake Haven; his enormous and whitely luminous wings, gently fanning the air, not incongruous with the pinstripe suit and shiny black shoes he wore. The halo shining brightly above his head cast him in a golden glow.
As her mother, seemingly oblivious to the presence of the angel, related some obscure fact about Lake Haven, visible from this clearing atop Mt. Tanner to the west, the angel, his arms folded across his chest, met Ginny’s ten year old gaze, smiled mischievously, and winked his eye.
When Ginny winked back, her mother, perceiving only the child, started and believed herself mocked. It took Ginny several minutes, during which time the angel faded from the sky, to convince her mother that she was not making fun of her but communicating with an angel. And it took her several more minutes after she described what the angel had been wearing.
“What time is sunset?”
Rebecca’s question brought Ginny back to the present, where she and Rebecca stood beneath the gray-green canopy of the old black oak in the center of the clearing. She took in the expanse of blue sky and Lake Haven shining to the west. The math, figuring the time of month (mid-July) and day (5ish), was done more or less automatically in her head. “Around 8:30,” she said, gazing now at Rebecca, golden in the sun beside her. “But I doubt it ever gets dark around you.”
Nearly two hours later, they sat at the edge of the gingham blanket they’d spread beneath the old tree, a bottle of wine (mostly empty) and the rest of their picnic supper scattered behind them. The sun, still bright here atop the mountain, descended slowly westward. Lake Haven shone like a blue jewel in the woods below.
“I was lost when I found you,” Rebecca, stroking Ginny’s dark head, mused. “Or did you find me?”
Ginny sighed. “I was lost myself, Rebecca. We found each other.”
“It seems so unlikely, doesn’t it?” Rebecca’s face shone a moment in the rays of the westering sun.
Ginny leaned slightly and kissed Rebecca’s lips.
Somewhere above them an Angel whispered, “I love you”, in a voice, as Ginny later recalled, “Like a million golden bells chiming in a mansion big as the sky.”