It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling.
Fate loves the fearless.
James Russell Lowell
Love to Run: A Story of Two Sisters
Chapter 2 ~ You’re Something Special
Lisa lied in bed staring at her iPhone. She swiped through images of Nicole and she running together. She wanted time to stand still. It didn’t. The family was driving Nicole to the university on Sunday. It was only two days away. It bothered Lisa that Nicole was excited. Lisa didn’t understand why Nicole could be so happy leaving to go to college and she wasn’t. Lisa refused to go with Nicole and their mom to buy clothes and other essentials for college.
When Nicole and her mom returned from shopping, Nicole couldn’t wait to show Lisa all the things she bought to take to the university. Lisa felt like rolling her eyes, but made a half-hearted attempt to appear interested. She didn’t understand why Nicole needed so many clothes. Then there was the makeup bag, a rain jacket, new jeans, a casual and formal dress. To Lisa, it looked Nicole was packing to leave forever. The worse part was all Nicole talked about was going to college and running cross-country for one of the best women teams in the country. She even had a countdown calendar on her wall.
Sunday happened. Lisa couldn’t do anything to stop it from happening. Lisa, Nicole and their mom and dad piled into the SUV with all Nicole’s gear stuffed in the back. Lisa stared out the window as they pulled out of the driveway. She watched as they turned off their street. She looked out the back window and saw their house disappear. She watched as they passed by Lincoln park where Nicole and she ran wind sprints. She watched as they rode up Mason’s Hill where they did their hill work on the way to the Interstate. The more she thought about Nicole going away, the more her stomach hurt.
Lisa wished she took earplugs to block Nicole’s voice. Nicole couldn’t stop talking. All through the ride she talked about her dorm. She talked about the cross-country schedule. She talked about her classes. She read the schedule three times to them. She read the training rules to them. She read the recommended foods runners were supposed to eat. Lisa wanted to stick her finger down her throat.
A mile from the university, Nicole reached over and grabbed Lisa around the shoulders and hugged her, “Come on Lisa. You wouldn’t want me to pass up a great chance now would you? What do you think I’d say if you had a chance to go to an Olympic training camp and train with the best runners in the country in the Colorado mountains. What would you say?”
Lisa wiggled her head free, she gave Nicole a hint of a smile, “You’re that good Nicole. I’m not that good.”
Nicole went to grab Lisa again. Lisa ducked out of the way and squeezed next to the window.
Nicole said, “Your time in the mile last spring was better than I did in grade nine and you were only in grade eight. When we ran the cross country course for time last week, you set a PR and that was as good as I did in grade ten. Yah, I think you’re something special. I really do.”
“You really think I’m pretty good? You’re not trying to make me feel good, right?” Lisa eased herself away from the window.
“Let me show you something I never showed you before.” She opened her wallet, pulled out a translucent plastic case. She handed it to Lisa. “Take a look. I’ve been carrying it since last spring,” said Nicole.
Lisa took the case and looked at a photo, her blue eyes grew wider, “Where’d you get this?”
“I took this picture of you crossing the finish line in the county middle school meet against Logan last fall. Do you remember the race? You were tripped at the start and fell down. You got up and gave it all you had. When the finish line was in sight, you sprinted and caught the leaders five yards from the finish. You fell across the finish line. I took the picture as you fell across the line. I had it printed at the drug store so I could carry it in my wallet,” said Nicole.
“Why do you carry it?” Lisa asked, still staring at the picture.
“Whenever I get down. I pull it out and look at it. It reminds me to try harder. I make myself get up and never quit. That’s why I carry it Lisa. You’re something special,” said Nicole. The sisters hugged.
Lisa turned away and looked out the window. She didn’t want Nicole to see the tears in her eyes.
Chapter 24 ~ I’ll Be Strong
Brad and Grace stood in front of the rustic, log building in front of them. a sign post n front said, Ranger Station. An olive colored four wheel drive was parked on the side of the building. A symbol on the side read, “US Forestry Service. Brad assumed the four-wheel drive belonged to the Ranger. He walked up to the door and didn’t bother knocking He twisted the nob and walked in. Grace followed, a half-step behind.
Brad noticed a long counter with a desk behind it. On top of the counter was a map of Big Elk State Park covered with a glass top. A series of photographs of wildlife in the park hung on the station walls. There were photos of mountain lions, coyotes, feral pigs, black bears, eagles, red tale hawks, and a variety of poisonous snakes. Off to their right stood a large rack filled with brochures and maps.
Brad called, “Hello?”
A door behind the desk opened. A thin man, a head shorter than Brad, dressed in khaki colored pants and shirts, wearing a khaki colored ball cap stepped out. On the right front pocket of his shirt was a name plate that read, Todd Stone. On the left side of his shirt in cursive were the words US Forestry Ranger. “Can I help you,” said the Ranger.
Grace spoke up, ” Matt is missing. He’s my son. You’ve got to help. I’m afraid something terrible has happened to him.”
The Ranger looked at both Brad and Grace. He said, “You’re Matt’s parents?”
Grace said, “I’m his mother, Brad’s a friend. We went to town for coffee. We invited Matt. He wanted to stay home. Brad thinks he went hiking.”
“How long has he been gone?” said the Ranger.
“I don’t know. I don’t know when he left. We were gone about two and half hours.”
The Ranger gave half a smile, “Two and a half hours isn’t much time, Ma’am. It’s not unusual for folks to be gone on hikes for six hours or more. I can’t count the number of moms who’ve come in here worrying about their teenagers who went off hiking. We’ve never lost one.”
“He’s not a teenager. He’s eleven years old,” said Grace with an edge to her voice.
Brad eyes could have burned a hole in the ranger’s skull. The ranger averted Brad’s gaze and looked directly at Grace, and said, “Could he have gone swimming? I don’t want to think something happened to him in the lake, but you never know. We have to think of all possibilities.”
“We all swam this morning. Matt is an accomplished swimmer. He would never have a problem in the water. We checked with Jane and Larry in the cabin next to mine. They came with us. They didn’t see Matt either. Can you do something, anything? Can you call a helicopter search, call for a search party, use search dogs. Do something, please,” Grace pleaded.
The ranger shrugged, gestured with his hands and give her his best hangdog expression and said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry. I can’t help you. It’s against regulations to start a search unless someone is missing for at least 12 hours. I’m required to follow policy. I understand your anxiety. I’d feel the same way if it were my son, but I can’t help you until the morning. Do you have any idea which trail he may have taken? We have four trailheads. All of them are closed right now, but it’s really easy to slip under the bar and hike the trail. Lots of folks do it.” The ranger gestures to the four trails on the map that lie on the counter.
Brad knew the ranger’s gestures were as empty as his words. He tugged on Grace’s arm and said, “Grace, let’s go. We’re not going to get anything done here. We’ll be back at dawn if Matt hasn’t returned.” Brad turned away from the ranger and headed for the door. Grace followed Brad out the door.
As soon as the door closed behind them, Grace placed her hand on Brad’s arm, “Brad, what are we going to do? I don’t want to wait until morning.”
Brad turned around. He put both of his hands on Grace’s shoulders and looked into her eyes, “I am not waiting. I’m going after him. I want you to stay here in case Matt shows up. If he doesn’t show up and I haven’t come back, go to the Ranger station at dawn and refuse to leave until they put out a search team. Take a piece of Matt’s clothes for them to give to the search dogs. I also want you to call the Sheriff’s office.”
“Do you think you’ll find him before dark, Brad?” Grace’s eyes were filled with tears.
“The only thing I’ll promise you Grace is that I won’t come back until I find Matt or you call me and tell me Matt returned safely. Please don’t leave the cabin area. I don’t want to worry about two people. I’ll give you cell number to my extension cell phone. If you can’t reach me, I’m out of cell service. I think I’ll be okay. I’ll text you number before I leave.”
Grace put her arms around Bard, and said, “Please, Brad. Please find Matt. I can’t lose him.”
Brad stepped back and placed a hand on each of her upper arms, and looked into her brown eyes, and said, “Grace, it’s time for strength. Together we can deal with whatever we have to face. Don’t allow yourself to think about what ifs, they’ll only take you down a road that is counterproductive to helping Matt. Let’s only think about what we can do right now. What I can do is to use my training to search for Matt. You can check with all the other people who are staying here. Maybe they saw Matt. If you get any information, text it to me. Don’t get into a fight with the ranger or anyone else. We have one concern only, to find Matt.”
Grace looked into Brad’s eyes, “I’ll be strong. Thank you, Brad.”
Brad, nodded, smiled, and said, “I’m making a quick stop in my cabin. I have to change. There are a few things in my truck I’ll want to take along and then I’ll be gone.”
Brad turned and ran toward his cabin. Grace stood there watching him and wondered what she would have done without him helping her. Grace closed her eyes and repeated prayers she learned as a child. Each prayer ended with a petition for Matt’s safe return.
Fearful Of Trying Something New? Take heart from a young girls courage to conquer her fears.
Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back
Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.
– Pope John Paul II
I am an Easter person. My hopes rise with the risen Lord. My heart sings out in a joyful song joining all who rejoice with me. I am an Easter person. Hope fills me to overflowing, flooding the street in front of me. I am Easter person. Fears and doubts evaporate with the dew. I set my course. My eyes on my destination. I am an Easter person.