Lisa opened her car door, stood up and tapped the car roof with a polished nail as she looked up and down the road. A sign advertised the Coral Canyon Diner, three miles ahead.
Fox flailed about her legs as snake skin tapped wickedly on the lonely road. Twenty minutes later, her car still visible in the far distance, she came to a single-lane bridge.
A stream bubbled underneath and she heard a voice, soft and earthy, float through the willows lining the mossy banks. She wound her way down a steep path and saw a woman and dog sitting in front of a tent by a campfire.
“Hello? Can you help me?” Lisa called as she stopped on the path.
The woman looked up. “Hello. Come join us.”
“I need help, actually. My car broke down. Do you have a cell I may borrow?”
“I’m Maggie. Would you like to join us? Dallas and I were just going to have a bite.”
“I’m Lisa Templeton. I’d like to call home, if you please.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t have a phone. We come out here to get away from all the noises of the city. I do have fresh biscuits and tea.” Maggie removed turquoise glasses etched in gold from a basket.
Lisa hesitated. “I suppose tea would be nice. I’ve been walking quite a way already and don’t seem to be getting very far.”
“Good. Dallas, meet Lisa.” Dallas, a magnificent silver-blue Great Dane, rose upon hearing her name, walked over to Lisa and sniffed her hand in welcome before returning to Maggie’s side.
With Dallas between them, Lisa settled in the chair opposite Maggie. Her eyes wandered about the campsite. Behind them, an oval tent of burgundy canvas stretched from a tall center pole to eight perimeter support posts. Gold braid and tassels hung on either side of the doorway. Inside the tent, Lisa saw a low, soft bed with plum-colored pillows and deep blue blankets embroidered in silver and gold thread. An aqua and gold Persian rug lay on the floor and candles flickered on an alabaster table by the bed. A crystal chandelier glowed with candlelight from the center support pole.
The camp table and chairs, crafted from fine burl walnut, gleamed in the firelight. Her china was delicate, trimmed in black and gold. Although she didn’t recognize the pattern, Lisa knew it was expensive. Maggie camped in style.
“Thank you. It’s been a hectic day and now this,” Lisa said.
“Life can be like that, can’t it?” Maggie said. “Our calendars become so full, we forget those most important. We begin moving toward our goal then realize, despite our efforts, we’re no closer.”
She poured tea from the smaller of two stacked copper Turkish kettles that had been sitting beside the fire into the glasses. The dark liquid glowed black in the firelight. “Lighter? Sugar?” She added hot water from the larger kettle to her own and lay silver tongs beside a bowl of sugar cubes on the table.
“A bit, thank you.” Lisa added two cubes of sugar as Maggie added water to her glass then placed ham biscuits on small plates. She offered both Lisa and Dallas biscuits, before taking her own. Dallas leaned her large head down nibbling from the china.
Maggie looked comfortable, yet sophisticated, in jeans, black cashmere sweater and leather boots. Thick, black hair fell to her waist. Navajo jewelry of silver and turquoise gleamed in the twilight. Her eyes were crystal gray. She seemed ageless, neither young nor old.
Her plastic surgeon must be excellent.
“I’ve been invited to the DonLevy auction,” Lisa said. “My car had a loud thunk, everything went dead. No electronics. No motor. It all shut down. There was no cell service, but I saw a sign to the diner and began walking.” She finished the last crumbs from her plate. “These are delicious. I’ve not had a ham biscuit since I was a child. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’m impressed. DonLevy’s quite famous.” Maggie placed a second biscuit on Dallas’ plate. “Another?” she asked Lisa.
“No, thank you.”
Maggie set the remaining biscuits aside and looked at Lisa. “What do you want?”
Lisa paused. “I need to call for help. My car broke down. I just need a phone,” she answered patiently. Haven’t you been listening?
Maggie gently repeated, “What do you want? Are you happy?”
Lisa’s patience thinned.
“I guess I wasn’t clear enough. I’ve not been making much progress. If you had a phone, I could call for help.”
Maggie smiled. “I’m sorry I don’t have a phone, but I can show you a path that will take you home.”
“It’s better than the road? Why?”
“It just is,” she said simply. “Come. We’ll show you.” As she stood up, Dallas rose. Maggie rested her hand on the Great Dane’s back as they walked to the far edge of the campsite.
“This is the only path, but you’ll need these.” Maggie handed her four carved brass keys.
“Why?” Lisa hesitated. Who are you?
To be continued . . . .
Until next time. Be sweet.