Jen Beasley was not impressed with her first hour in Alaska. When she had stepped off the plane in Fairbanks, the Golden Heart City, she was ready for a new adventure. After a bad break up, spending the summer in Denali National Park as a forest ranger was exactly what she needed. Fresh air, wildlife, thousands of miles empty wilderness; that was what her heart needed to heal. What it didn’t need was a jammed finger when she picked up her luggage or nearly giving herself a concussion when she tripped over her own feet and landed head first into the stuffed polar bear exhibit next to baggage claim.
It certainly didn’t need a pair a bright blue eye staring down at her as she struggled to stand back up. Nor, did it need those eyes to offer a hand up, which she accepted and then bit back a scream because: jammed finger.
“Danny,” offered blue-eyes as he helped her to her feet, “These red-eye flights are a pain, huh?”
“Red-eye?” Jen looked outside the airport's windows to broad daylight, “Oh, I guess they weren’t kidding about the midnight sun.”
“What brings you to the state?”
Jen frowned a bit as she rubbed her hand, “Escapism, I guess.”
“Sorry for asking,” replied Danny, “I didn’t catch your name.”
“I suppose you didn’t,” Jen responded as she gathered her bags and walked toward the line of yellow cabs lining the curb.
“See you around,” Danny called after her.
Jen woke up to her hand throbbing. Her ring finger was now the size of a deflated sausage.
“Great,” she muttered.
Her disappointment fled as she opened the heavy window curtains of her hotel room to a bright sunny day, full of chirping birds and slow rivers.
She drug a brush through her dark hair and across her teeth, as she hurried to get outside. At the base of the staircase she tripped over her untied shoelace straight into the arms of…
“Well hello again,” said Danny. A grin spread across his face.
Jen let out a breath. Who had time for attractive men when there was a whole new world to
“What are you doing up at this hour,” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s four in the morning.”
“But,” Jen looked outside at the black-headed chickadees bouncing around in front of the exit.
“Midnight sun, remember? Come on, I will show you around. There is a great place to watch the world come alive just a few miles from here.”
“Ok, then. Humor me. Why should I?”
“This not the time for questions.”
He took her by the arm and led to a school bus.
Jen looked at him through the side of her glasses.
“Oh, I’m a tour bus driver in Denali. I drive for the school district in the winter. I was picking up employees last night so they didn’t have to take a cab. Missed one young lady by the name of Jen Beasley. Don’t suppose you know her.”
Jen looked down at her feet, face reddening.
“I thought so,” he laughed, “well come on we don’t have all morning.”
Danny drove the yellow monstrosity through the grey streets of Fairbanks slowly. They crossed several bridges that all went across the same river. The morning fog was settled across the whole city, giving it a dreamy look. They turned left into an empty parking lot that said “Creamer’s Field”. Jen saw walking paths through the tall green grass, but no other people.
“Are you going to murder me,” asked Jen.
“A little late to worry about that now,” Danny laughed.
They wound their way through the labyrinth of trails until a tall platform appeared in front of them. It was pointed south across a lake with Canadian Geese and Trumpeter swans serenely resting on the surface. Jen could hear wood ducks just beyond the reeds and every few moments a handsome blue kingfisher dove into the tepid water.
“Stop being distracted by the waterfowl, look that way.”
Jen followed Danny’s outstretched arm to a grey horizon.
“There is nothing…”
Just then the fog broke and in the distance, across the city and still hundreds of miles away the mountain known as Denali was illuminated by the sun. It was still white with snow and dwarfed everything around it.
“Welcome to Alaska Miss Jen Beasley, I hope you will like it here.”
Yes, this is what her heart needed.