*If you haven’t read the beginning of Willow’s story, start here:
Chapter Three – Avery
The next morning Avery awoke to the mournful sound of a violin. He quickly got dressed using the small bathroom to brush his teeth and comb his hair. Then he packed the few items he had brought with him back into his overnight bag and headed down the stairs.
He found Willow in the living room with a violin tucked under her chin a tear tracing its way down her cheek. As soon as she noticed Avery’s presence she stopped playing and began to put the violin away.
“What’s wrong Willow?” Willow turned her tear streaked face to Avery and pointed an accusing finger out the window to the harbor that was in view in the morning light.
“THAT is the problem. This house is sitting at the mouth of a harbor. Boats will be going past here every day! People are going to be talking about that girl out on the point all by herself. This isn’t safe.” Her anger pulsed in the room between them. Avery looked her straight in the eye as he answered.
“Willow, yes, this house is on a point where local fishing boats will pass by on their way home most days. Local fishermen. Not tourists. I chose this place because of it. I THOUGHT that if something WERE wrong, one of them might notice and be able to contact authorities. It would actually ensure a measure of safety.”
Willow looked out the window at him and back again. “Really? You thought of that?”
He stared out at the beautiful scene portrayed outside the living room windows before answering. Yes, Willow, I thought of that. And the fact that this was too gorgeous to pass over.
“Willow, I tried to think of any way to minimize risk to you. I can’t in good conscience leave you out in the middle of nowhere with no way to contact someone should you need it. I have to stand before the Lord some day and give an account for how I handled this situation. And I don’t want the guilt of your death on my hands.”
Willow had the good grace to blush. Then she turned to face the window again. Avery decided to give her some space and turned to head to the kitchen. “I’m going to go make some coffee and see what there is for breakfast.”
He didn’t wait for an answer, and none came.
Avery scanned the kitchen before starting a search for coffee and cups. A coffee maker sat on the butcher-block counter so he knew there should be the fixings to go with it. Cupboards spanned one wall and open shelving the opposite one. A small table and two chairs sat beneath the open shelving. A small cookstove sat to one side. Avery had no clue how it worked and he wasn’t about to start figuring it out now. He headed into the pantry where he had found the generator the night before and fired it up. At least now he could make some toast and coffee. While in the pantry he found the bread and small ice cabinet that contained some cream and a bottle of jam. The lawyer he had been in contact with had done a good job of making sure they had a few essentials. The cream looked fresh, there must be a farm around here somewhere.
Heading back out into the kitchen it didn’t take long for him to get the small repast on the table. The smell of brewing coffee drew Willow in and the two sat down to eat. Avery held out his hand and waited for Willow to take it, then he bowed his head to pray.
Chapter Four – Willow
Willow felt on edge as she joined Avery at the kitchen table, took his hand, and listened to him bless the food and her new life here. She had woken this morning to the glorious sound of the waves on the shore but the realization of how close she still was to people had shaken her, until Avery had explained the intent behind it. She still didn’t know how she felt about it.
She absently answered the questions Avery lobbed at her, and nibbled on the toast in front of her. The reality of what this life meant was beginning to settle in, creating cracks in her heart that she felt would shatter any second.
“Would you like to take a look around outside? The house isn’t that big and I’m sure you’ll enjoy poking around once I’ve gone. That door leads to the pantry. There should be enough food stuffs there to keep you until I come back next weekend. Just give me a call this week and let me know what you’d like in the way of food. The generator is also in there. I should show you how to run it before I leave. Your only other option will be the cookstove. I noticed a load of wood outside last night when we got here.” Avery chattered on and even he could see he was filling in a gap where Willow wasn’t talking.
“Thank you, Avery.” She finally spoke. “I think I can figure out the generator if I feel like using it. I’d love to see what’s outside.” Love. Willow’s heart cracked a bit more. How often do we use this word ‘Love’ outside of it’s true context? Was it a lie in this case? She shrugged inwardly and pushed her chair back. Standing, she gathered the few dishes they had used and carried them to the sink. Instead of a tap there was a hand pump to one side. Pumping the handle a few times produced a trickle of water that Willow rinsed the dishes with then left them in the sink to wash later. Later. When she would be alone. And free.
Before she felt herself lose control she spun on her heel and faced Avery. Summoning every ounce of strength she had, she smiled brightly and said, “All right, Knight in Shining Armor, show me why you thought this would be such a perfect place for me! We’ll call it the first of many adventures!”
Avery was taken aback for just a second by the abrupt change in her demeanor then flashed her a grin. “Why yes, Fair Maiden. Come and see your kingdom.” She laughed a little too gaily, even to her own ears, and then headed out the front door.
The house sat in a clearing, at the end of a point of land surrounded by trees. The clearing was quite large and Willow could see that raised garden beds had already been created on one side of the house. They looked to be a good size and she presumed she should be able to grow most of her own food in them. It would be interesting learning how to garden. She hadn’t played in dirt since she was small girl and had gotten severely scolded for getting her pretty dress dirty.
To one side of the raised beds stood a large shed, or small barn, as the case may be. Willow decided to see what was inside. She thought it might be neat to have a milk cow or even some goats and chickens. They would keep her company. She unlatched the door and stepped in, letting her eyes adjust to the dimmer light before moving farther inside. One side of the shed appeared to house tools: a push lawn mower, a gas-powered one, and an odd assortment of tools she didn’t know how to use. The other side contained small stalls, the floor bare and asking for hay. It smelled earthy and Willow wasn’t sure if she appreciated the scent or not.
Heading back outside she wandered around to the back of the house.
Avery followed behind her, a stream of one-sided conversation that seemed never-ending. She ignored him for the most part, knowing that soon there would be just silence.
The sound of the water was noticeably louder now, but instead of the crashing she had heard the night before, a gentle lapping of small waves against the rocks was all she heard. It was calming. Peaceful almost. A small deck had been built near the water, with a fire pit in the middle of it. Wicker furniture had been placed around the pit making it look inviting. Willow walked over to it and ran her hand along the back of one of the chairs. A small sigh escaped her. This would be her spot. Even if there was no one else to fill the other chairs right now. Maybe someday there would be.
The sun was high overhead by the time they finished their tour of the outside. The warmth had filled her spirit just a bit and she headed to the house to make lunch.
“So what do you think, Willow?” Avery paused on the top step and leaned against the porch railing.
“It’s beautiful, Avery. I’m glad you chose this spot. I can see myself here now.” She stood with the door half open staring out over the yard.
“I can see you here, too. Last night I debated the wisdom of leaving you alone, but now, now I see that you need this. You need the healing this place can bring.”
Willow lifted pain-filled eyes to his, then turned and headed inside, the weight of her situation crashing back down on her. Mechanically she made sandwiches for the two of them. It didn’t take long for them to eat and down another cup of coffee. By the time they had finished Willow could feel her brave façade beginning to crack.
“Is there anything else I can do?” Avery stood and moved their dishes to the sink.
“Avery, I think it’s time for you to go.” Willow stood and moved to the living room. Avery followed her but stopped just inside the doorway. She stared out the window at the water just as she had that morning. “I need time to process and think. So much has happened…” she trailed off.
The sandwich Avery had just eaten sat like a lump in his stomach at the thought of leaving a young, vulnerable woman alone in a town where no one knew her. He had known this moment would come, but maybe he had tricked himself into believing that she would tuck tail and run once she understood the situation of living out in the middle of nowhere.
“Willow,” He waited until she turned to look at him. “I will be praying for you. Praying that God gives you peace here, that He brings you hope. Don’t give up on Him.” Willow nodded and her head and pressed her lips together. Then she watched as Avery turned, grabbed his overnight bag he had left on the floor that morning, and moved to the door. He turned one last time, gave her a sad smile, and then left. The screen door slammed shut behind him. She waited until she heard his car start and the sound disappear up the drive before she allowed herself to break. Then the tears came, like the ocean rushing over the rocks outside her window.