It’s the first Friday of July and time for First Friday Fiction. I decided to continue my story from last month. David is a young man with a successful, but highly stressful job. You can read the first part of his story by clicking here. I will continue his story in August.
Morning sunlight filtered through the tall pines and cast long shadows along the path. The air was cool and refreshing—perfect for a hike. After only three days of being away from his demanding job, David felt more relaxed than he had in a number of months. In fact, he found himself dreading the time when his two-week vacation would be over.
However, he didn’t want to think about that. It was July 4 and he wanted to celebrate his independence, although temporary, from the confines of the office. Today there would be no ringing telephones, endless emails, and co-dependent employees.
Here in the vast outdoors, the only sounds came from the waters of the mountain stream and the chirping of birds. On occasion, a chipmunk or squirrel would appear, chattering as if they were chiding him for disturbing their routine.
David decided to hike the Bear Creek trail. It led deep into the woods to Indian Lake. He only brought a small backpack—large enough to carry water, energy bars, and a couple of sandwiches for lunch. He almost wished he had brought equipment to camp overnight. However, he told his parents he would be home in time for the town’s annual Independence Day cookout and fireworks display.
At the head of the trail, he saw a deer standing beside the stream. He carefully removed the lens cap from his camera and took several photos before the deer turned and walked into the woods.
He heard the sound of footsteps and turned to see a young woman walking toward him.
“Good morning,” she said.
“Sarah? Sarah Keller?”
David had known Sarah in high school. Back then, she kept her nose buried in books. Her complexion was always pale, like someone who didn’t get enough sun. She wore glasses and braces and was always the quiet one who sat in the corner and did nothing to attract anyone’s attention. He would have never imagined seeing her dressed in hiking gear, but from her appearance, she spent a lot of time outdoors.
“I didn’t know you liked hiking.”
“I’ve changed a lot since high school. Are you taking the Bear Lake trail?” she asked.
“Yes and from there I plan to walk to Indian Lake.”
“Me too. Want to hike together?”
“Uh, sure,” David said. He suddenly found the idea of spending a few hours hiking with her appealing.
They walked mostly in silence, pausing on occasion to enjoy the scenery or allow David to snap some photos. At mid-day, they arrived at Indian Lake.
Sarah walked to the edge of the lake. “It’s so beautiful here,” she said.
“Yeah, this was always one of my favorite places. Are you hungry? I packed a couple of sandwiches.”
“Thanks, but I came prepared. We can stop here if you’d like.”
“Sounds good,” David removed his backpack and sat down in the short grass beside the lake.
Sarah walked over to join him. “So, are you back in this area to live or here for a visit?”
“Just for a visit. Two-week vacation. I haven’t been back in a while, so I decided to visit my parents. I needed the relaxation.”
“Yeah. I’m an advertising executive. What about you?”
“I’m the lodge director at Ridgecrest Retreat Center. There are stressful moments, but I love my work. In a way, it’s like being on a permanent retreat.”
“Wish I could say that about my job. Pay is good, hours are long and demanding.”
“Is it worth it?”
“Is it worth all the stress? I gave up a job as manager of a five-star hotel. I made good money, but I wasn’t happy. I had headaches every day and my blood pressure was too high. I realized something had to change.”
David recalled the words of the café owner he met a few days earlier. Had my first heart attack at age 42 and another at 45. I decided to leave the corporate world.
Why did the thought of walking away from his job sound so gratifying? He began to believe meeting Sarah was more than a chance encounter.