"I'm going up north to my cabin this week-end," Abby informed Lisa and Jonathon, "but I want a meeting with you two before I leave." She had spent quite a few nights loosing sleep over this, but she had finally made a decision. The work was winding down now with satisfied customers and the holidays loomed ahead with a welcoming relief.
"I've sold my business," Abby said to her sister and her lover then as they sat in her office. "Along with your paychecks, you'll find I've been more than generous with a severance pay." They gaped at her.
"You can't!" Lisa shrieked. "What will I do?"
"I don't know Lisa, but you'll find a way. The new owners will be here shortly to take over. Goodbye Jonathon," she said finally, "it was nice." And Abby Andrews left them standing in her old digs still with their mouths open in disbelief as she got in her Lincoln and drove out of Birch Lake.
A wonderful exhilarating feeling engulfed her. She had retired, hung it up. No more stress to please other people. No deadlines, no alarms and no more Lisa and Jonathon to contend with.
The drive to Birch was three hours long and the roads were plowed and dry as Abby hummed along with the radio and sipped at her coffee. But maybe, she worried several hours into the trip, had she been too hasty with her blame? Of course, Jonathon had turned out to be untrustworthy with his two-timing, and Lisa, her own sister was in bed with him. For God's sake, the two most important people in her life had betrayed her. Its over, she reminded herself!
She was entering into the serenity of lake country. Snow covered the pines along the highway
and smoke rose in spirals from chimneys of the farmhouses. Soon her turn off came into view and then the short drive through the woods down to her chalet snuggled into a grove of birch trees. The setting never failed to take her breath away. A perfect Christmas card. This was where she planned to make her permanent home now and live the life of a gypsy, she imagined with glee. A thick layer of snow covered the sloping roof of the house and spread over the lawn. Sparkled and untouched. The weathered logs were a velvety gray, and the blue trim around the windows against the frost covered glass gleamed in the sunshine.
Abby grabbed her bags and hurried into the house, anxious to get settled. But she shivered from the cold stillness and turned up the thermostat on the furnace. Tomorrow she would have to call Olaf, her caretaker and ask him to bring some more wood for her fireplace. Tonight though, she just wanted to snuggle in her flannel pj's and go to bed early.
She looked around lovingly at her place. Fur rugs covered the gleaming oak floors, Navaho pillows and afghans scattered over the sofa and easy chairs. She went into the kitchen and started a pot of water for tea, and the furnace began to hum with warmth while she undressed. She got into the old fashioned affair of a bed with the down filled blankets, and sipped her warm brew and felt the sttress and tension leave her body. The solitude was wonderful and in ten minutes she was asleep, with gentle dreams.
At first they were cozy and warm, and she burrowed deeply into their cocoon. Then suddenly a nightmare began, jolting her abruptly and she began falling, falling with increasing speed into an abyss, weightless toward a black hole. A circle of darkness clutched at her, pulled at her, cutting off her breath, smothering her. She was in a tunnel now and then there was only stillness.