Caroline was on the highway before long, heading toward
upstate New York, driving to The Birches, a co-op community of
summer cabins located on twenty-five acres of land in Pine Grove.
It was a tiny town about thirty miles south of Willow Falls. Her
mother and father owned a cabin there and Caroline spent her
summers in the community when she was growing up.
Linda Davis and other teachers escaped to The Birches for its
cooler weather in the summer, leaving behind the hot, stifling, and
claustrophobic city. Caroline inherited the cabin from her mother
when Linda died and along with it, just enough money to continue
paying the maintenance on the property that was run as a
cooperative for several more years. Brad knew nothing about this
place and although Caroline had not been there in ten years, she
had fond memories of her summers, playing with friends,
swimming in Cedar Lake, drawing and painting.
Mid-May was early in the season; Caroline didn’t expect
anyone else to be there. She wouldn’t mind being alone. When she
pulled into the parking lot, she was right, hers was the only car
there. She got out and unfastened Trixie, who immediately jumped
out of the car and raced around in the thick grass, snorting and
“Come on, girl,” Caroline called as she walked down to the
The paint on the outside was peeling signaling the cabin
probably was in disrepair. The once carefully tended shrubs were
overgrown and unruly, like her hair in the morning when her
mother had tried to comb it. Her favorite pine tree for climbing had
been trimmed severely so the low-hanging branch she used to start
her climb had been cut off.
Caroline had a moment of panic when she realized she had
not considered the cabin might be uninhabitable. If so, she had no
place to live because she would not go back to Brad, no matter what.
Trixie followed her down the hill to cabin number fifteen,
her lucky number. She stopped to reach under the front step for the
key always left hanging there. It was still there! She stepped up on
the deck, carefully walking around two holes where rotting boards
had broken through. She opened the screen door, then worked the
old key into the lock on the wooden door and twisted. The door
swung open and while she hesitated a moment, Trixie pushed ahead,
trotting into the cabin, sniffing.
“Okay, I know you’re braver than I am, Trixie,” she said,
following the dog inside.
Stale, damp, musty air greeted Caroline, the same smell that
was always there after the cabin had been closed up for the winter.
She walked in, leaving the inner door open to air the place out and
looked around. The bungalow had not changed at all since she had
last been there. The faded red sofa and the mismatched plaid chairs
were still in the living room. The fine wood coffee table had a thick
layer of dust on it. She walked into the kitchen that also served as a
dining room. The big oak table was still there but there were only
four chairs instead of six. She turned on the sink and found the
water was still working. Next she tried the lights, which also worked.
Her old bedroom was off the kitchen and her parent’s room
was off the living room. She went into her room and immediately
felt transported back to when she was thirteen. On the wall were her sketches and watercolors. One caught her eye right away. It was her favorite, a sketch of Mickey Foster, the eighteen-year-old boy she had a crush on when she was thirteen. Mickey was her protector when he was there. But she never saw him again after he went off to college. She touched the pencil sketch tracing his profile, remembering how handsome and brave he was.
Caroline thought about the last time he “saved” her: when a
stranger trespassing on the community’s property approached her,
Mickey came to her rescue. The man told her he had a puppy that
needed help and would she come to his car to see it. Caroline had
been both afraid and curious, she backed away from him, but he
kept on creeping closer to her. Mickey showed up before the man
could touch her and told him he was her brother. The man left and
Mickey called the police. Who knows what would have happened if
Mickey had not been there. But he was always there bailing her out
of trouble, and she was grateful.
She went into her parents’ bedroom. Her father’s artwork
was all over the walls. He did many sketches of their friends in the
community and wild animals and birds in watercolors and oils plus
local landscapes. He was a talented artist who had never gotten the
recognition he deserved. He became an art teacher and a salesman
trying to support his family in style, but he never made much
money and died in a bus accident on the way to the cabin when she
Caroline missed him, his sense of fun, his guidance and
watching him paint. She learned much from her dad about
technique like light and shadow, how to pick a good landscape to
paint and mixing colors. He had been her hero.
She felt guilty she had so much more fame than her father
had, even though she considered him the better artist. But she knew
he would have been proud of her and admired her success. Trixie
barked at the screen door to go out and brought Caroline back to
reality. She and the pug went to the car. She lugged each heavy
suitcase down to the cabin. Then it was time to clean.
She put music in the old CD player in the living room,
singing along while she dusted, swept, cleaned the kitchen and
changed the linens. The little cabin brightened up under her labor;
singing the old familiar tunes she used to sing with her mother
brought happiness to the old place once again. She had not sung
much in years and was happy she could still sing on key.
As she was taking out garbage, she spied a man on the
grounds. He was driving a small tractor down near the lake. It was a
relief to find she wasn’t totally alone; there was a maintenance man
Before grocery shopping, it was time to scrub the grime of
the old cabin off her body. She got in the shower and when she
twisted the hot water spigot to adjust it, it came off in her hand.
Scalding hot water shot across the shower, trapping Caroline
against the wall. She opened the bathroom window, saw the figure
of a man walking toward the Baron’s cabin across the way and
screamed for help. She saw him stop and turn. She called out again,
and he came toward her cabin. A minute later, he entered the
bathroom where she was naked and confined by the hot water.
“Towel!” she hollered, covering herself as best she could with
her hands and arms. After studying her body briefly, he looked
away then threw her a towel, went over to the water controls and
turned off the hot and cold water. Caroline covered herself with the
skimpy towel and stared at the man. He was in his thirties,
handsome with dark brown hair, light brown eyes, a slightly square
jaw, one day’s growth of beard and over six feet tall with a slim,
“You need a new spigot. There might be one in the shed good
enough to hold for today, but tomorrow you should stop by the
hardware store and pick up a new one,” he told her.
There was something about his voice, something she
recognized. Caroline stared at his face, peering into his eyes…those
eyes seemed familiar. She gasped.
“Mickey, is that you?”
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HAVE KIDS? TRY MY NEW KID'S MYSTERY, ONLY 99 CENTS ON KINDLE:
When two teenage sisters move to the country for the summer, they don’t expect to be saving animals or solving mysteries. As soon as Amanda & Emily Carson arrive at The Birches, their summer community during a driving rain storm, they are pulled into a rescue for a pug swept away by a raging stream.
Sixteen-year-old Amanda reconnects with her old friends while her younger sister, Emily makes a new friend, Ashley. Their friendship heads south when Ashley accuses Amanda of theft!
Tension runs high, splitting the sisters. But when Gus, Ashley’s dog, disappears, Amanda and Emily join forces to find him, risking their own safety. A desperate escape finds the girls locked in a closet in a haunted house. A frantic search by the community turns up nothing until David, the girls’ friend, takes their alert dog, Muffin, out to find them.
All ends happily as the mysteries are solved, Gus is returned and even Ashley’s missing bracelet is recovered. Take this fun adventurous journey through friendship, mystery and sisterly devotion. Best for young readers ages seven and up.