Tall Pines Sanctuary
An excerpt from Chapter one, two different scenes
Faith stared at her grandparents’ portrait, hanging over the huge mantel above the stone fireplace. The elderly couple gazed down at her. Grandmother in a traditional Ute fringed deerskin dress and moccasins. Gramps wearing a buckskin jacket with his old tweed flatcap atop his head. Their smiles revealed the love they had for each other and their life together. Faith remembered the day she’d finished the painting. The love in their eyes had extended to her too.
She poured over her grandmother’s features. The ones she’d inherited. Among them was thick black hair which hung to her waist. She hadn’t an ounce of her mother’s European appearance. Only a bit of her Irish father and grandfather’s traits in her light green eyes.
A year after the picture was painted, Grandmother Adele died. Her death came about so fast, but it wasn’t a mystery why she passed away. Septicemia. A rapid decline in her health.
But this? Two years later, Faith’s beloved grandfather was gone too.
“Why, Gramps? Why now?” Faith had tried to figure out what had happened. Over and over, she’d wrestled with the idea that Gramps’ death couldn’t have been an accident. He’d built those stairs himself and ensured they were the proper depth and height. Strips of anti-slip tape covered them, not slippery carpets. Plus the solid cedar sapling rails he’d installed on both sides to hold on to. He was careful that way. And yet, he’d fallen.
“So what happened, Gramps?”
He always said he’d leave this cabin to her someday, and now he had. Too soon.
The tears she’d held oozed over her bottom lashes onto her cheeks.
When a hand touched her back, Faith jumped. She spun and almost knocked Grace off her feet. “Oh. I’m sorry. I thought you were still outside.” Faith turned to the mantel and wiped away her tears with the soggy handkerchief she’d carried throughout the funeral and afternoon luncheon. She’d endured words of sympathy received from her grandfather’s friends who had come to the log cabin after the burial.
“Everyone is on their way home. Your mom wanted to come back in, but your dad told her to let you grieve. Gal, I’m worried about you.”
Faith took a deep breath and turned to face Grace. “I’m all right.” She swallowed hard. “I’ll… I—”
“You’ll get through this.” Grace pulled Faith into a hug.
As Faith still pondered her grandfather’s death, she and Grace sat on the couch in the huge cabin and watched a movie about a Christmas train trip. Grace told her she might get her thoughts off the sadness for a while with a romantic flick.
Faith’s heart ached. How could she turn feelings off? She couldn’t accept Gramps’ death as an accident. Something was wrong. What caused him to fall down the flight of stairs from the second floor? She twisted to sit sideways. Her eyes drifted from the film to the catwalk under the cathedral ceiling. Had someone else been there that day? If so, why hadn’t they helped her grandfather? Why hadn’t they called emergency instead of leaving him unconscious… to die?
Angry heat filled her chest. She had to figure it out. Her eyes narrowed as she recalled the information her dad had told her. No one had been here when Dad came to check on Gramps after his phone calls went to voicemail the next day. There was no answer when her dad pounded on the door. Everything was locked. He scanned the huge living room through the bay window from the front deck and caught a glimpse of his father’s arm on the floor at the bottom of the staircase.
Faith leaned forward to brace her elbows on her thighs. She lowered her head and pressed her temples with the palms of her hands.
“Are you okay, Faith?” Grace rubbed her friend’s back.
“No. I’m not. This just doesn’t make sense. There must be another explanation for Gramps’ death… other than an accident. I won’t believe or accept it.”