The cold of the night would soon arrive. Frank walked over to the fireplace and threw a log in the pit. He lit the kindling and watched as the small flame billowed and caught the wood. Soon the fire was ablaze and he felt the warmth on his face. He loved the cabin. It was quiet and secluded. His ex-wife hated it for the same reasons. Ava Marie Everett Larson loved flash. She loved to be the center of attention. A cabin on top of a mountain in the Smokies was the very last thing she could care about.
Frank grabbed a poker and pushed the wood around. He wondered if she ever loved him. What did they have in common? He was more of a Grizzly Adams type of guy, where she more an older Paris Hilton. He loved fishing and hunting; she loved shoes and handbags. He was a retired Marine; she was an interior decorator wannabe. She really had no talent for decorating, but that wouldn’t stop her from trying. Though he preferred deer heads on the walls and bear skins on the floor, he knew she didn’t have what it took as a designer. Everything she chose had pink fluff. Who liked that? Picking out clothing was her talent, the higher the price tag, the better. What the hell did she want with him?
Okay, there was the inheritance. He supposed she was attracted to the few million he acquired from his grandfather. Was she ever irate when he bought the cabin rather than buy the boat she so desired and insisted they needed. The mansion on water. He decided to purchase more cabins on the mountain and start a resort for skiers in the winter, and in the summer, kayakers and boaters. Real boats, boats you fish on, not those oversized flashy floating condos.
Frank gave the fire another poke and watched the flames lick the wood. He took a deep breath, the scent of the burning embers calmed him. The thought of Ava brought on a rage at times, but he did love her and never understood why. Maybe it was just the attraction. God, she was desirable. Her milky white complexion had not a single blemish. Or if she had, she flawlessly covered it up. Always at the ready with high-end makeup, he didn’t even remember if he ever saw her without makeup.
Her figure put Marilyn Monroe to shame. Though she complained of being fat, he loved her curves. Her pouty lips, filled with Botox, her stunning green eyes, he thought maybe contacts. He could’ve sworn one evening he noticed brown eyes looking back at him. Her long, thick black hair which cascaded down her back and almost seemed to wrap around her thin waist. Now, looking back, he wondered if it was even real or extensions. What was real on Ava?
Well, at least she was out of his life now. Gone, no longer bitching about money, bitching about sex, bitching about, well everything that didn’t go her way. Bye-bye baby, time to move on.
Frank was looking forward to moving on. He needed someone who actually cared for him, the man, not the wallet. Yup, the next woman in his life would not care about the money.
Frank walked up to the front window overlooking the mountainside. The windows were frosted over, giving the impression of looking through an old-fashioned photo frame onto a beautiful landscape. Down below at the foot of the mountain sat the lake. At this time of year it was frozen over and ready for the daring kids who chose to ice skate on it. It was frozen at least three or four feet deep, so it was safe for skating, even snowmobiles.
He grabbed his jacket, hat and gloves, put them on, and opened the front door. A wind gust nearly knocked him back into the house. Gathering his footing, Frank grabbed the axe leaning on the porch and headed down the steps. When he reached the shed, he hefted up several logs and put them in place. As he raised the axe, he thought about Ava. Chop, chop, chop. Shaking his head, he decided to concentrate on the future than the past.
Think about Katie Ryan. Chop. Now that was a real woman. Not that over pretentious, chop, spoiled bitch, chop, he’d married.
Katie was a photographer from Pennsylvania, who he’d met when he decided to advertise his cabins. She’d visited him last spring, and they hit it off immediately. She enjoyed nature and didn’t care about diamonds and five-hundred dollar handbags. He could imagine the two of them living the simple life right up here in this cabin: renting out the other cabins, working side by side, living his dream. She could photograph all the beauty around the Smokies. And there was a lot of beauty here. Yup, he wanted her.
Katie was not the beauty Ava was, but her simplicity made her even more charming. Short blonde hair, soft blue eyes, which he was sure were the real deal, and a tiny petite but tight body. Of course he preferred more curves, but she was adorable. He couldn’t wait until she came up for the weekend.
“Okay, that should do it,” Katie told the nearly anorexic model she’d spent the last two hours photographing while she packed away her camera.
“Are you sure? I mean like did you get all the best shots?” Anorexic asked. She turned her head, “like this side is my best.”
“Yes, Lisa, I got several shots of your left side and your right side, and every side you possibly have.” She was getting frustrated with the twit’s childish behavior. God how she wished she could make money photographing wildlife and nature than dealing with these skinny spoiled brats.
Of course she tried the wedding, birthday party and charity events which did pay the bills too, and she preferred those to the fashion models, but she really longed for solitude, for just enjoying her natural talent.
She loved taking pictures, capturing the beauty in one shot. Even if it meant waiting for hours for just the right light to hit her natural canvas.
Once she captured a Killer whale off the coast of Maine jumping and catching a fish in mid-air. That shot got her in Natural Geographic. She wore that high for months. But that was a few years ago, and now all she wanted was to capture that again. That was why she answered the ad to do the photographs for the cabin retreat in the Smoky Mountains. She was pleasantly surprised to meet the owner, Frank Larson. Not normally her type of guy. He was a bit bushy, but under it all, she saw a very handsome man. Even though he was covered in flannel, she saw a ruggedness, and muscles pushing through his shirt. As she got to know him a bit better, she found herself attracted to him.
The more Katie thought about him, the more she looked forward to the weekend. They had made plans for her to come back up to the mountains, only more as a date, and not a photo shoot. Of course she would bring her camera anyway. You never knew if you would catch that perfect moment, much like the whale.
Katie pulled up to the cabin. Driving up a mountain in snow was scary. She was glad she chose the jeep rather than the Camry at the airport. It still was daunting, but she wouldn’t make it up the steep mountain in the Toyota.
Finally, she pulled into the driveway. As she got out, she realized how quiet and secluded the mountain was. Looking over the ridge, its magnificence astounded her. It was breath-taking. No wonder Frank chose to live here. She could see herself doing the same. Though she only knew him a few months, Katie could almost see herself moving there and living with him. She loved how he wasn’t pretentious or snotty. He was a man’s man. He’d told her about his ex-wife, and she couldn’t see it. Why would someone like Frank be married to a woman like that? Oh, well, she herself married a lawyer, so who was she to judge. You can’t choose who you fall in love with.
“Welcome to my mountain.”
Katie snapped out of her reverie and turned toward Frank, who stood solidly on his porch, rubbing his hands together.
“Come inside.” He stepped down and headed toward her. He gave her a quick awkward hug, and said, “Let me get your bags. I have a fire going. You must be freezing.”
She handed him her overnight bag, and followed him inside. “I want you to know I don’t usually take up men on staying overnight at their cabins.”
“Yes, but, we’ve known each other for a while now.”
He put her bag down by the side of the sofa. “Can I get you something to drink?”
“Sure, that would be great. Do you have red wine?”
That weekend they talked into the late hours, laughed over everything and played on the snowmobiles getting to know each other better. One weekend led to another and another. By the following Spring, Katie and Frank married.
“May I ask you, Frank, whatever happened to Ava?”
“Didn’t I ever tell you?”
“No, I mean you never hear from her. She never calls. What ex doesn’t call to bitch about something? I just assume you got divorced.”
“Ava left me for someone else. She found herself a nice rich old man. Someone she can manipulate into spending all his money on her. He’s so rich, she never even bothered to get anything out of me.” He rolled over and put his arm around her. “Lucky for me, originally she wanted me to sell the cabins. It caused so much tension between us.”
“I guess that is lucky. You love the cabins.”
“Not as much as I love you.”
She turned toward him. “Really, so if I asked, you would sell them for me?”
She thought she saw a hint of terror and anger in his eyes, but then it disappeared.
“Of course, but why, don’t you love living here?”
She relaxed. “Yes, I do.” She kissed him and they spent the evening making love and eventually falling asleep in each other’s arms.
“Don’t you feel secluded up there, Katie?” her sister asked her over the phone.
“Sometimes, Sheila, but he’s so sweet and I can take the photos I love.”
“I know, but none of us ever met him. I mean you kinda just eloped and never gave your family and friends a second thought.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry for that, but it just happened.” Katie tapped her foot, and started doodling on the pad on the desk.
“Listen little sis, as long as you’re happy, I’m happy. Hey what ever happened to his first wife?”
“Don’t really know the details, but she ran off with some rich old man.”
“Well, I’m looking forward to summer and visiting you down there.”
“Me too, Love you.” Katie hung up the phone. She got up and looked out the window and down at the lake. It glistened from the early morning sunshine. So much nicer than photographing those skinny ass models, she thought. But sometimes she did feel rather secluded. She missed going out with her friends. She missed shopping at the shops downtown. Finding the perfect bargain.
“You seem miles away.”
Katie jumped. “What? Jeez, you startled me.”
“Sorry, what are you thinking about?”
“Just thinking about going downtown and doing some shopping.”
“What for, don’t you have what you need right here?” his voice rose.
“Yeah, but I need to get out a while.” She noticed something unfamiliar in his eyes, was it fear? Hate? Whatever it was it was making her uncomfortable.
“Why don’t we go fishing?” His mood changed.
“Really Frank, I need to get away from the mountain for a while. I need to be around people.”
“I thought you loved being here. You’re not going to leave and find some rich asshole down there!”
“Frank, what are you saying? I just want to do a little shopping. I haven’t even bought new underwear in a year. I need to get out.”
“I’ll get you underwear.”
“What, are you kidding, Frank. I can get my own clothes.”
“I said no!” His fist hit the table. Her coffee cup jumped off and smashed onto the hardwood floors.”
“What’s the matter with you?” She backed up, fear bubbling inside her.
“You are not leaving me, bitch!” Katie never saw the fist smash into her face. It was so quick, all she saw was darkness.
When she woke, her entire body ached. What happened? What was Frank thinking. He hit her. What the hell. Did she make the biggest mistake of her life? Where was she?
It was cold, damp and it smelled of rancid meat. Where was she? She heard a strange hum. She tried to stretch, but her hand hit a wall, then she straightened her legs, but they would only go so far before they too hit a wall. What the hell. God it’s so fucking cold. Where am I? She felt around and touched something icy. As she ran her fingers around the object, Katie screamed a blood curdling scream as she realized she was holding a frozen face in her hand, undoubtedly the face of Ava Marie Everett Larson. She screamed but her voice could not be heard. She was alone, in a meat locker, in a cellar, in a cabin, on top of a secluded mountain, with no one around for miles except for the man who put her in it. The man she loved.