Eagle Bay was the sort of town you could pass by in the amount of time it took to blink. Route 28 ran straight through it, and was home to a small convenience store, a souvenir shop, a library, seven or so houses, and an old burned-down church. In the wintertime the souvenir shop closed, the library hours were cut in half, and the convenience store ran almost exclusively off a generator.
In fact, most places in Eagle Bay ran almost exclusively off generators during the winter, because the number of hours residents were without power were often longer than those they were with it. And once the snow started to fall, Eagle Bay folk had to rely on old Mitch Baker and his '59 Chevy pickup to plow the roads, because the highway department never made it up that far. It was rough, but it was a way of life, and one that I, even being only nineteen at the time, had waited years for the chance to experience.
When I'd first started my web design business at the age of seventeen, I'd only expected a mediocre income, enough to land me in a cramped, under-furnished apartment in downtown Amsterdam. What I'd found though, were a whole lot of clients and a whole lot more money than I'd anticipated. By the time I turned nineteen, I'd built up some credit and, with the help of my parents to get me started, found myself shopping for rentable cabins smack in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York.
"Let's hope you put these things on right, eh? The last thing you need is to have those tires falling off in the middle of the mountains. Are you sure you're gonna be okay to make this trip alone? It's an awful long way to haul that trailer."
I sighed, swinging the rear hatch closed on the Jeep and then double checking the pin on the hitch one final time.
"Will you stop worrying Mason? I towed this thing through Schroon Lake during a thunderstorm, and you know how much it sucks up there when storms hit."
"I guess. I just think it's stupid for you to move so far away, and into the middle of the mountains for God's sake. Have you ever even been up there during the winter?"
This time I stood up and faced him with my hands on my hips.
"Look, Mason, I know you don't want me living up there, but you're going to have to deal with it. I'll call you every couple of days, and the internet's already hooked up, so I'll pretty much never be out of reach. Would you believe they have Time Warner up there? So it won't even go down during the snowstorms."
"Just don't forget what the Crofts said about the move Natalie. They're giving you three months to decide whether you want to stay there permanently or not." He looked hopeful.
"You know I'm not giving that place up. It's got a gorgeous view of the lake, a garage, and a fenced in backyard for the dog."
I watched as Mason shook his head, but then at last broke into a smile.
"I'd come with you if I could, but I have to finish up this semester before I do anything."
Standing up on my tip-toes to kiss him swiftly on the cheek, I opened the driver's door of my Jeep Liberty and climbed inside, chasing the big tri-colored collie off my seat in the process. I felt for Mason, and for the uncertainty he faced regarding his future. I knew he'd been having difficulty in college, and I knew it was hard for him to be seeing someone who had dropped out of college and into a well-paying career. But because I couldn't offer him much in the way of elder wisdom, I focused on supporting him in whatever he chose to pursue. I smiled at him, closed the door, and started the engine, but before I could pull out of the driveway he tapped on the window.
"Call me when you get there, okay?"
At a gas station in Blue Mountain Lake, where Route 30 connected to Route 28, I pulled off to refuel. After Blue Mountain Lake there was only one gas station before Eagle Bay, and I still had a good hour and a half left to drive. If I was lucky I made twenty miles per gallon without a trailer in my blocky little SUV, but with the trailer I had run down half a tank in a little over an hour. I cursed inwardly, but knew I'd only have to make the trip once. Andy, my collie, lay contentedly on the passenger seat I'd laid down for him, and hardly seemed to notice we'd stopped moving. I got out and pulled open the cover on the gas tank, realizing I'd have to use my card inside to pay for the fuel. I'd forgotten how outdated the pumps in the mountains were.
A few minutes and thirty dollars later, I placed the nozzle back on the hook and locked the doors, jogging into the office to pay the bill. I half debated buying a bag of chips for the remainder of the trip, but finally decided against it, for the trailer was old and didn't have any sway bars, requiring that I keep both hands on the wheel at all possible moments. Besides, the Crofts had promised to stock the refrigerator before I arrived.
"You're headin' up here awful late in the season to be staying for the summer Missy."
I glanced up and realized the clerk was talking to me as he swiped my Mastercard through the machine. He was a little man, standing maybe five-foot-six, and he was dressed in an oil-stained tee-shirt and ratty blue jeans. His nose was crooked and his glasses were cracked and incredibly dirty. I wondered how he could see anything through them, but evidently he could, because he was nodding in the direction of my Jeep and the trailer loaded down with furniture.
"Oh, I'm not just staying for the summer, sir. I'm going to be living in the area year round."
"Well now, is that so?" His eyebrows had nearly disappeared into his scruffy black hairline. "Say, you wouldn't be the girl that folks is been saying rented the old Wellington place would ya? The one the Crofts is renting out?"
I scrunched my eyebrows together and frowned slightly.
"I don't know about the Wellington place, but I'm renting a cabin from the Crofts on a trial basis, and if I like it, I'm going to buy it."
"So you're not gonna be near here at all then. That Eagle Bay is a lonely place in the winter you know. And folks say that lately there's been some strange things happenin' at the Wellington cabin. You gonna be livin' there all by your lonesome?"
I was growing tired of the man's prying questions, but I couldn't make myself snap at him, and so my annoyance remained hidden, for the most part.
"I'll have my dog, and the Crofts aren't too far away sir. I'm sure I'll be just fine. Can I have a receipt?"
"Well you just be careful now, y'hear? That Wellington cabin...it can get mighty spooky. You're not the first they've tried to rent it to. Most of them don't even last a week."
He handed me my receipt.
"Thank you sir, but I'm sure I'll manage."
I turned to leave, but he called out one final time.
"If you ever need anything up there Missy, you just give ol' Stan Redler a call, and I'll be sure to help you out!"
I forced one last wry smile onto my face and then hurried out the door, the dinging bells above it announcing my departure. I unlocked the Jeep and climbed in, eager to get away from Stan Redler and settled into the old Wellington cabin.