Hunter's father was the executer of Uncle Joe's estate but he didn't want to sell Joe's cabin in the woods of Mt. Griffin, figuring the property would increase in value as time went by.
Hunter's Dad offered Hunter an enticing deal and even though the cabin was located in the middle of nowhere, Hunter liked the idea of moving out of his parents' house and having his own place away from the hustle and bustle of life. He accepted his father's proposition and made the forty-mile round trip to his full time job at Hillsboro Plastics in addition to taking a couple of classes at Blue County Community College in Greenville.
The cabin was in a sorry state but it was habitable and Hunter settled into his new digs with satisfaction and a sense of independence with the goal of slowly making the cabin an attractive home. It was an effort to even find the place: Take a left off Mt. Griffin Road onto Mountain Trail a half mile north of the junk yard, look for the dirt road off of Mountain Trail (with a small 'Taylor's Pass' road sign nailed to a tree), follow Taylor's Pass – a dirt road that could be torturous in the winter – for exactly 4.5 miles – past Old Man Swanson's trailer and the abandoned and ruined Griffin Inn until the small logged cabin appears on the left just after the high wire extension stanchion. There was a turn out off of the road but the only access to the cabin was a walking bridge over a babbling creek.
The cabin was miles removed from the nearest neighbor but Hunter liked the privacy and individuality that living at Uncle Joe's cabin brought. There was only one other house above him on the Pass – an expensive summer home owned by a New York doctor at the top of the hill.
Hunter quickly adjusted to his new living situation although the isolation wasn't going to help his social/romantic life which had pretty much been on hold since he and Button broke up at the end of high school. Hunter focused on his job and his community college classes while spending every free moment working on rehabbing the cabin which took time, money and talent.
Once Hunter secured a home improvement loan, the repairs were a constant work in progress. His kid brother Sam enlisted some of his tech school buddies to help out whenever possible, replacing window frames and panes, rewiring the electricity, patching the crumbling chimney, updating the plumbing, fixing or replacing broken cupboards and cabinets, re-shingling the roof, and re-packing insulation. There were endless trips to Greenville's Home Depot for materials and supplies and a contact to use savaged materials and used pieces. The wood stove needed to be replaced and Hunter got a great deal on a larger used stove. The entire interior was weather stripped. There was also bookcases to be built and new furniture to be bought.
Hunter's mother helped with the interior decorating and when the project – nearly a year in the making – was finally completed, Hunter couldn't have been more satisfied with the end results. The cabin had a large open living area with a wall-less kitchen in the back. A master bedroom was to the right with a smaller room next to it, separated by the bathroom. There was a half-loft above with a roof window, a nice place for reading and relaxing although Hunter didn't go up there much. Instead of stairs, there was a ladder to reach the loft area. There was now a washer and dryer in the expanded bathroom too.
Hunter was proud of the place and he embraced his mother's suggestion to have an open house for family and friends. Invites included a detailed map to find the place(!) and Hunter's mom helped with the refreshments. The afternoon gathering was a happy success and Hunter enjoyed showing off "his" place to people who were important to him, including pals from work and of course all those who helped work on the rehab.
Hunter was surprised when Button showed up with his sister Kathy. Hunter had only seen Button a few times since high school graduation. She was still living at home while attending Green College in nearby Greenville but Hunter heard about Button's new boyfriend from mutual friends so he had no illusions about a possible reconciliation, especially since he was the one who broke up with her.
Hunter thought Button looked great and she was friendly throughout the open house visit. She was Kathy's friend first as one of the neighborhood kids and that's how Hunter got to know her. Her real name was Barbara but she earned the nickname Button early on because she was "as cute as a button". And she still was – dimples in her cheeks, yellow blonde silky hair, a wonderful smile, deep penetrating eyes and a bubbly personality.
Hunter and Button were pals for most of their childhood and adolescence. They shared many of the same interests and they had a similar sense of humor. Then one night at Colleen Watterman's Freshman Party, Button – who had been drinking – kissed Hunter in the back hall and things changed between them. They were "going out" now – hand holding at school, hanging out together at various social activities, sitting together in the cafeteria, and making out whenever they could although they never really got beyond second base together.
Hunter truly adored Button and he would have been happy to be her boyfriend forever but things became complicated as high school progressed. Button was well liked and popular and Hunter was never threatened by her status but her drinking habits started to change and that became an issue for him.
Hunter avoided parties and drinking because of his sports commitments, not wanting to risk getting kicked off the team or benched but Button enjoyed the social status high school presented, including parties and drinking. She didn't have a problem with beer pong or other drunken activities and she was happy to be part of the in-crowd scene.
Button began attending parties nearly every weekend, getting drunk with her friends. Each party was a competition to see who was going to get the most hosed up and Button often won the title. She became consumed with her social life and she was part of a group of girls well known for their partying image. She was also involved in school activities including student council that made her a social butterfly, especially at the weekend parties. Hunter became increasingly annoyed, bothered and concerned about Button's drinking They argued and fought about it and their relationship started to suffer, becoming more distant. Hunter didn't drink and he didn't like to be around Button when she was drinking so that dynamic created additional conflict and resentment.
When Button got totally bombed at the after-Prom party to a point that she was incoherent and out of control, Hunter decided he had enough and they broke up as a couple a few days later.
Now Button was all smiles as she hung out with Hunter and his family and friends at his cabin warming party. She was sober of course (there wasn't any booze at the open house) and that made for a friendly and personable visit, reminiscing about old times and updating each other on their current lives. Hunter missed her smile, her company, her laugh, her humor, her beauty, and of course her kisses, but he didn't miss the chaos, drama, angst and confrontation her drinking often brought. He didn't miss cleaning up her puke or listening to her drunken sobs and hysteria when some of her inner-most insecurities, hurts, bitterness and anger came out in ugly and dark drunken ways. She would often have no memory the next day of the things she said or the way she behaved, including throwing herself at other guys or turning into an embarrassing bitch.
It was easy to forget about all those miserable drunken times seeing Button so pretty and perfect now. Hunter longed to kiss her and hold her but sadly those days were gone and all he could do now was admire her and be glad for this moment of healing and happy reminiscing.
Kathy was getting ready to leave and although Hunter had a fantasy of inviting Button to stay longer – he'd drive her home – he knew better than to try to fantasize about the past. Instead, he walked Button to Kathy's car while his sister walked ahead with their cousin Amy.
"It was really great seeing you again," Hunter smiled as he wrapped his arm around Button's waist.
"Yes it was," Button happily agreed.
"I'm glad school is going well for you."
"And I'm glad things have turned out so great for you too," Button smiled, looking back at the cabin. "You have a great place here. I love it."
"Thanks," Hunter grinned.
He decided not to ask about the boyfriend or to make any other overture. This was one of those moments that wasn't meant to be extended.
"I miss you," he confessed.
"Yeah," Button sighed with a sense of regret. "I think about you a lot."
Hunter nodded his head in appreciation. They were almost at Kathy's car now, Taylor's Pass nearly impassable with all the cars parked in front of the cabin. Hunter leaned in and gave her a kiss once she was in the car and Button gladly kissed him back with affection and warmth.
"Take care of yourself," she urged.
"You too," Hunter replied giving her hand one last squeeze before breaking the hold.
Button smiled and all three women waved as Kathy drove the car off – she had to drive nearly a half mile up the road before finding an open spot to be able to turn around and come back the other way. Hunter stood on the side of the road and waited for them to return. Kathy tooted the horn and all three women waved and laughed as they passed Hunter, Button blowing him a kiss.
He smiled with a mixture of emotion before returning to the open house still going on strong in his cabin.