He should be dead. He knew that. Andrew felt a shiver go through his body, the body that should be in a cold, watery grave. She was the one who saved him...Kate. He should be grateful. He wished things could be different, that his other life did not have to end so quickly. He missed his time at the canyon, it had been a big part of his life...he had such great plans. Now he sat there, a junior at a high school in a future he never knew existed until...guilt washed over him for thinking that way. He reminded himself he’d made a choice on that fateful day, one he did not regret.
* * * *
Arriving by train from New York City, Andrew immediately went to his cabin and unpacked. He was counting the hours until he saw Kate again. He placed the velvet box holding the charm bracelet on his dresser so he wouldn’t forget. It would be placed in his saddle bag as soon as he got to the stable.
He would turn eighteen in January, becoming a man. No one was going to tell him what to do. He would determine his own future. Telling his family he didn’t want to become part of the fashion business back in New York City would be hard, but he planned to do so after the trip. Martin’s Menswear was successful enough without him.
His father, Nicolas, told him he had the talent to design the clothing and run the business, but that didn’t appeal to him. He loved his photography and the study of nature. No matter how hard anyone tried to convince him, he would not give it up. The family didn’t know he was looking at colleges out west and planning to make his final selection soon. No Harvard or Yale for him. As heartbreaking as it might be for the family, he knew he needed to follow his dream and hoped Kate would be part of it, too. He’d ask her to marry him right now if she wasn’t so young. She still had two years of high school to complete, the rest of this year and next. He could wait. Andrew planned to protect and honor her until the time was right for them to marry. And when it was, they could marry at the canyon and live in the cabin.
He gathered his things together and quickly got ready to head over to Grand Canyon Village to meet Kate. Sadly, things went downhill quickly. She told him about dating someone back home. Someone named Tyson. Stunned by the news, he set her free and left the boardinghouse, never looking back. He heard her cries but forced himself to keep going.
Andrew’s anger over the break up haunted him as he readied himself for the hike to the bottom of the canyon the next day. How could she have led him on? This other guy, Tyson, somehow held a place in her life. Otherwise she would not have kissed him. Tyson. The name was a bad taste in his mouth.
The Colorado River was a force to be reckoned with and Andrew knew it was dangerous to go it alone. He was being reckless, but forged on, determined to complete the challenge on his own. Kate’s letters were in his bag and he had no idea why he’d brought them along. As he walked, they felt like a thorn digging into his side, or a small stone in his shoe that he couldn’t seem to find.
As the day wore on, he thought less of his upcoming ride down the Colorado rapids and more of those letters. After he reached bottom and checked in at base camp, Andrew found a quiet spot by the river to read the letters. Condors quietly soared above his head and the blue sky was his blanket. It was calming to lie there and contemplate all that had happened in such a short time. He had returned to the canyon just days ago. It felt like an eternity now.
Staring out at the river, Andrew recalled the day Kate had given him the letters and his heart began to flutter. The anger subsided for a moment. He wanted to pore over her every word. It took his breath away...not out of happiness but from pain. Still, he reached for his bag and took them out, shuffling through them. There seemed to be one for every day they were apart. The words were written in beautiful, flowing handwriting and seemed to jump off the page.
Kate never said, “I love you,” although he told her countless times. He now realized Tyson was the reason. She probably couldn’t make up her mind between the two of them. Andrew sighed and threw the letters down. It was useless to read. She had made her choice.
So much time passed while he was daydreaming, the sun was lower in the sky, too late to get started. He’d set off tomorrow instead. He headed to the bunk house and settled in for the night.