Story by Alanna Rossi, Illustrations by Jaclyn Simon
Saturday morning arrived cold and rainy. Lucy was standing in her kitchen checking the messages on her phone when she heard a car honk from the driveway. She sighed as she put away her phone and grabbed her bag. It was six in the morning and she had been at the pub with Max the night before until midnight. She hadn’t planned on staying out late, but Max insisted on introducing Lucy to what felt like every person in town. Max seemed to know everyone and Lucy still felt dizzy from all the faces she met. It could also be the drinks she had last night that were contributing to the dizziness and dull ache in her temples. Wishing she were still in bed, she grabbed her bag and rain jacket and made her way outside.
Standing in the drizzle and leaning against the driver’s side of his truck was Jake. His curly brown hair was damp, but she couldn’t tell if it was because of the weather or because he had just gotten out of the shower. She tried not to think of Jake in the shower.
“Good morning!” Jake said. “Ready to go?”
“Good morning,” Lucy said with slightly less enthusiasm. “I think so. Where are we going anyways?”
“It’s a surprise,” Jake said with a wink and handed her a thermos, presumably full of coffee.
Lucy buckled herself into the passenger seat of the truck and sipped on the coffee. It was strong, which she was internally grateful for. The inside of Jake’s truck was clean and smelled surprisingly like cinnamon. Peering into the back seat she saw his own gear and some books stacked on one of the seats.
“Seriously though, where are we going?” Lucy asked again. She didn’t appreciate how coy he was being. “I’d like to know so I can familiarize myself with the area. It’s important for my research.”
“Music?” Jake asked, ignoring her question. “I normally don’t like listening to anything this early but if you – ”
“ – Jake!” Lucy said, feeling irritated. “Sorry. I’m…I’m pretty tired this morning. I didn’t mean to snap at you like that.”
Jake chuckled. “Oh right, you were out with Max last night.”
“How did you know that?”
“It’s a small town. So, did Max introduce you to everyone? She’s quite the social butterfly.”
Lucy shook her head “Yes, it felt like I met every single person who lives on this island last night. I doubt I’ll remember any names. Max is very popular.”
Jake laughed. “She was the first person I met when I moved here.”
“Really? I just assumed you grew up here,” said Lucy.
“Nope. I moved here ten years ago from Victoria.”
“Oh. What made you want to move to Salt Spring?”
“Followed a girl.”
“Ah,” Lucy replied. “And is this girl still…?”
“We broke up a few years ago. She decided to move to Tofino. Followed a guy.”
“I’m sorry,” Lucy said genuinely. “That must have been hard.”
“It was at the time, but I’ve moved on from it now.”
They sat in a comfortable silence while Jake drove on. Lucy sipped her coffee and watched the world race by outside her window. The headache she had woken up with was easing off, thanks to the coffee. She thought of the orchid and whether or not she would find it soon. The mystery of Gwendolyn Wileman still nagged at her and she hoped she would find more information soon.
“So … are you going to tell me where we’re going now? Please?” Lucy asked.
Jake smiled. “I’m taking you to a place near Burgoyne Bay.”
“I’ve never been to Burgoyne Bay. Do you think we’ll find the orchid there?”
“Maybe. It was one of the first places I thought of when you first told me what you were looking for, so it’s worth a shot.”
A few minutes later, Jake turned off the main road onto the smaller road that took them into Burgoyne Bay. Lucy looked out the window at large fields and a cluster of old heritage buildings. Jake followed the road until they reached a small gravel parking lot situated at the base of Mt. Maxwell. Based on the signage, there were multiple trailheads and a boat ramp nearby. Once Jake had parked, Lucy got out of the car and looked around. She could see down a small hill that there was a dock.
“Okay, we’re heading in this direction,” said Jake as he walked away from the truck towards the forest behind them.
“Oh, are we not taking one of the trails?” Lucy asked, feeling a little hesitant. She hardly knew Jake and here she was having to trust him and his wilderness skills.
“Nope, no trail for us, but don’t worry. I know this place well and we won’t get lost.”
“That’s reassuring,” mumbled Lucy as she followed Jake into the bush.
It turned out that there was a trail, but it was obscured by the trees. It wasn’t a frequently populated trail based on its condition, but Jake appeared to know where they were going so she followed him without question. Jake told her that a man he used to know showed him the trail a number of years ago.
“I guess he took pity on me. I was the new guy in town. He had a stall at the market and I would talk to him all the time about his mushrooms and when I expressed an interest in foraging he offered to take me out. He showed me all of his places. He died a couple of years ago.”
“That’s sad. It’s nice of him to have shown you his places though. I’m surprised, Max said foragers were territorial.”
“Leave it to Max to dramatize everything, but she’s not entirely wrong. Although we do try to help each other out occasionally. It’s a small community.”
They had been walking for half an hour, when finally Jake came to a stop. Lucy was breathing heavily, it had been a long time since her last proper hike and Jake kept a good pace. It was clear he hiked frequently and she found it difficult to keep up with him. She would never tell him that though.
“Okay, just through here,” Jake said ducking under a large pine tree situated next to a boulder and disappearing from view.
“Come on, Lucy!”
Lucy grumbled and ducked under the tree following Jake through a thicket of pine branches. When she looked up she was at a loss for words. They had emerged into a small meadow. You would have never known it was there unless you knew exactly where to look for it.
“Wow, it’s beautiful,” she said looking around, brushing pine needles off her jacket. The meadow had a magical feeling. Boulders covered in moss and wildflowers growing everywhere. Around the perimeter were old cedars covered in fungus and more moss. Jake had taken a seat nearby on a boulder and was drinking from his water bottle.
“Pretty great, right?” he said. “I love coming here. You can always find the best morels at the right time of the year in this area.”
Lucy ditched her bag and began looking around. It was quiet work. She took her time looking around the base of the cedars for any sign of the orchid. It was the right time of the year for it to be flowering so it shouldn’t be too difficult to see if it was there.
An hour later she sat defeated with her back against a boulder. She let out a long sigh.
“I didn’t expect to find it right away. I knew it would take me a while, but I’m still disappointed.”
Jake looked over at her from where he sat. He was sketching in a journal and had been quiet while Lucy wandered around the area.
“Don’t worry, there are plenty of places to look still. You’ll lay eyes on it eventually.”
Lucy tilted her head up towards the sun, which had finally broken through the clouds. It must have been nine in the morning now and she realized that she hadn’t eaten anything yet. Her stomach was starting to growl.
“Do you mind if we head back? I’m actually feeling quite hungry and could really use another coffee.”
“Not at all,” said Jake and closed his journal. He stood up and stretched and headed towards the trail out.
Lucy followed him out of the clearing and back towards the parking lot. They made the hike back in silence, both lost in their own thoughts.
“Thank you for sharing that with me,” Lucy said as they got back to the parking lot. “Even though I didn’t find the orchid, I still enjoyed walking around.”
“You’re welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Do you want to go take a look at the bay before we head back? It’s a great view.”
They walked down the small hill towards the dock and Lucy smiled at the view. The bay was beautiful, surrounded by hills covered in a fine layer of mist that hadn’t burned off yet. Lucy and Jake walked the length of the dock and stood at the end. Lucy rested her arms against the railing and peered into the water below. She remembered being little and obsessed with seeing fish in any body of water. She smiled at the memory.
“What are you thinking about?” asked Jake, who had been watching her with curiosity.
“Oh, nothing. Just a silly memory from when I was a kid. I love the water. I was even more obsessed with it when I was younger.”
She hesitated before asking him the question that had been nagging at her.
“Why didn’t you move back to Victoria after your girlfriend left?”
Lucy was worried that he wouldn’t answer and that maybe it was none of her business but to her surprise, Jake answered.
“I thought about it, but I realized that I love it here. I love what I do. I love my house and I have friends here. It’s a quieter life and a slower pace, which I enjoy. It just felt right to stay, so I did.”
“I see,” said Lucy. “I can’t imagine living here full-time. I’m really enjoying my stay now, but I have a feeling that after my three months are up, I’ll be ready to get back to the city.”
Jake laughed “It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure. So, what about you?”
“What about me?” Lucy looked over at Jake who was watching a kingfisher nearby dive for his breakfast.
“Well, you’ve asked me a bunch of questions, now it’s my turn.”
“Okay, that’s fair … what did you want to know?”
“Why did you move to Salt Spring?”
“I already told you that. I wanted to come here and study the orchid.”
“Right. You didn’t want to take anyone with you for company?”
“There was no one to take. My friends are busy and to be honest I wanted to come alone.”
“I get it,” said Jake. “I work better alone too. ”
“Hm,” said Lucy. “Well, should we head back?”
Jake started to walk back to the truck. Lucy took another look out at the bay just as the kingfisher dove majestically into the water below.
“Are you able to drop me off at the bookstore? I got a text from Max asking me to come by after we wrapped up.”
“Yeah, that’s fine. I haven’t seen Max in a while, maybe I’ll come in and say hello.”
The town of Ganges was fully awake by the time they got back. People were sitting outside of cafés enjoying their coffees and pastries, reading the paper and deciding what to do with their Saturday. Lucy assumed a lot of them were tourists seeing that it was the weekend. They found a parking spot up the street from the bookstore and when they walked in Max greeted them both warmly.
“Friends! Hello! Jake, it’s been a while, how are you?” said Max from behind her counter.
“Hey Max – doing well, yourself?”
“Oh, you know, the same. Keeping busy. So, how’d it go today, Lucy? Find anything?”
Lucy told Max about the meadow and the bay and shared her disappointment at not finding the orchid.
“Oh, bummer. Well, maybe next time. I wanted you to come by because I found something you might be interested in! Just a sec, I put it down around here somewhere …”
Max bounded into the office behind the counter and emerged seconds later holding a very old newspaper.
“Ever since you told me about what you found in my grandad’s journal, I’ve been looking around in his old things to see if I could find anything. You know, more journals, photos … anything that would help … and last night when I got home from the pub, I couldn’t sleep so I was rooting through one of his old boxes of stuff when I came across this! It’s a newspaper from the sixties and you’ll never guess what’s inside.”
Lucy felt her heart rate quicken. Could it be what she hoped it would be? More information about the mysterious Ms. Wileman?
“No … seriously? Let me see,” Lucy said, taking the paper from Max.
“What are you two talking about?” asked Jake.
“Lucy found a name in my grandad’s journal and it’s been bothering her ever since.”
“A name?” asked Jake. “Who’s name?”
“A Gwendolyn Wileman. I found her name written down beside his notes about the orchid and I’m convinced that she has something to do with the orchid but I haven’t been able to find out anything else about her.”
Jake laughed. “That’s funny, that’s my great Aunt’s name.”
Lucy and Max froze and stared at Jake.
“What did you say?” said Lucy.
“My great Aunt’s name was Gwendolyn Wileman. She lived on -“
“-oh my god, she lived in Salt Spring,” interjected Max.
“Yes. For her entire adult life. I don’t know all that much about her but I do know she was the black sheep of the family. Kept to herself, didn’t want any visitors, that sort of thing.”
“Jake, do you know anything about her? What did she do here?” Lucy asked.
“Sorry, not really, no. But my grandma would probably know …”
Lucy and Max looked at each other and knew they were thinking the exact same thing. They needed to speak to Jake’s grandmother. Lucy looked at Jake and smiled nervously.
“Jake, can we meet your Grandma?”