Mountain laurel bushes drooped a little from the heat, but not so bad that a thunderstorm wouldn’t perk them right up. At a small ridge, Cole looked for Nana but didn’t see her right off the bat. He wasn’t concerned; he knew the area like the back of his hand, and Nana was around somewhere. He turned back to try a different route and stopped abruptly.
Standing five yards away was a girl he’d never seen before. She was scrutinizing him, and Cole almost laughed at her expression. She had hair the same deep black as his. Her eyes were dark blue like he’d see at dusk on a cold winter day. He found her quite pretty. The girl smiled at his reaction, and Cole guessed she was an older teenager.
“Hi,” Cole said. His voice sounded crisp despite the muggy air.
The girl didn’t reply with words, just her smile, which widened a bit more. She took a step up the path. Cole noticed that she was wearing a skirt, which was a weird thing to have on in the mountains. He took a few steps down, almost close enough to touch her. She mouthed the words I love you and raised a hand to her face. Tears sprang to her eyes but they were happy tears—she was still smiling.
The word was spoken in the tiniest of whispers behind Cole. He whirled around. Nana was there on top of the ridge. She held a basket in her hand that contained wild herbs and berries. Nana had the same kind of smile as the girl. And the same kind of tears.
“Nana,” Cole said with his own smile. He returned his attention to the girl.
She was gone.
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