The Summer Before Boys

The Summer Before Boys by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Book: The Summer Before Boys by Nora Raleigh Baskin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nora Raleigh Baskin
already sitting in his special armchair in front of the television with a beer. Aunt Louisa was cooking dinner, chicken cutlets.
    Nobody was worried until they saw me standing in the doorway, alone.
    â€œWhere is she, Julia?” Aunt Louisa asked me. She held a spatula in one hand, her other cupping the oil that might drip off the end. “Isn’t she with you?”
    I had a sudden image of Eliza on the hiking trail heading off in the opposite direction. Her skinny shoulders set firmly, her feet carrying her forward, up the rocky path. But we had been still very far from the sky tower. We hadn’t even gotten to the Lemon Squeeze yet or crossed the Dueling Dam Bridge.
    And she was alone.
    Every measure of joy and excitement that had carried me all the way here drained from my face in an instant and Aunt Louisa saw it.
    â€œWhat, Julia? What is it? What’s wrong?”
    I had never heard her sound that way and even though I was the one who knew that Eliza might be lost, Aunt Louisa’s voice scared me.
    My mouth opened but no words came out. I saw Uncle Bruce get up from his chair. By the time he walked into the kitchen he had his truck keys in his hand. “I’ll go up to the hotel and get her, Louisa. Stay here in case Eliza gets back and I don’t pass her on the way up.”
    â€œCan I go with you?” I asked Uncle Bruce.
    He looked at me as if he knew there was something I was too afraid to say, as if he knew something was serious.
    â€œOkay, let’s go.”
    My heart was thumping by the time I slipped into the front seat of the truck. I was calculating the time that had passed. Imust have left Eliza around eleven, maybe ten thirty. I met Michael at the Lily Pond around eleven fifteen, but that suddenly seemed like another life, another movie. Eliza couldn’t still be on the trail. It couldn’t have taken her more than an hour and half to get up there and another hour to get down even if she were walking backward!
    Then even if she hung out at the hotel, maybe visited with Pam or went to the tea, she’d still be back already. Eliza hated to be alone. She wouldn’t have gone swimming by herself. She wouldn’t have gone to the game room or the shuffleboard court. I didn’t even think she’d really go through with it and finish the hike. I guess I figured she’d just turn around like I did.
    But the truth was I hadn’t thought about Eliza at all. Not until right now. I could feel my fingers going a little numb as Uncle Bruce and I rode the road up to the hotel. Where could she be?
    Uncle Bruce didn’t say a word until we got to the fork and road changed to two-way traffic. “Tell me what happened, Julia,” Uncle Bruce said quietly. “Did you two have another argument?”
    I think I must have nodded. “We were on the hiking trail,” I began.
    I looked out the window. The end of summer was creeping across the sky and taking away the day just that much earlierthan it had the night before. It would be dark in couple of hours. I knew then that Eliza was lost on the trail, and my eyes stung with tears.
    â€œI turned around and came back,” I continued. “Eliza didn’t.”
    Uncle Bruce didn’t talk at all. He kept his eyes on the road as we pulled into the staff parking lot behind the stables and he shut off the ignition. When Uncle Bruce got out of the car, I followed.
    â€œOkay, I’ve got to let Mrs. Smith know. And I’ve got to alert the staff.”
    â€œYou do?”
    I had an image of how angry Mrs. Smith would be. I could just see her face.
    â€œAnd the night manager. He’ll have the two-way radios.”
    â€œWhat?” I asked, but Uncle Bruce was already heading into the hotel. I had to break into a run to keep just behind him and near enough. He didn’t answer me. It was as if every step he took he got more and more anxious. I could feel it, like a string tightening

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