River & Sky

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03: River & Sky

River and Sky, her German shorthair, lead the family of four back out to the trailhead at the bottom of the Teton foothills. River stood 5'8" and her body was slim, muscular, and strong from the years of outdoor activity and adventure sporting. Her dark hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail; her soft blue eyes were filled with joy and satisfaction. River looked at the sisters Nora and Hannah, 10 and 8 who followed closely. "You girls did awesome!" They beamed with pride. "There aren't a lot of kids your age that can keep up with Sky."

The girls' parents Jason and Karen smiled gratefully at River. She had been so good with them over the last 4 days encouraging them to try new things; ultimately empowering them and pushing them within the natural context. The family hailed from New York, both parents found precious little time to immerse themselves in an activity with their daughters. Karen was particularly grateful. She was the COO of a financial firm in New York that specialized in real estate holdings. She knew the mindset young women would need to have a shot at success in the world of men. "River, " Karen grinned teasing her, "we are going to miss you! Are you sure you don't want to become our Au Pair? You can bring Sky!"

"Oh no!" River's eyes sparkled with devotion, "You couldn't drag me away from these night skies. And I'm not sure I'm cut out for the 'big city.'"

Nora giggled with delight, "You could live in my room River! Sky can sleep on my bed!"

"How about I take you to lunch and we'll talk about it after we're not all delirious from hunger?" River loaded up the Gilmour family into the van and they headed back toward town. "We'll stop off at Elk Run; then back to the Summit."

River spent her summers during college and the last 2 years full time, guiding and helping to run the family business. Late spring into the early summer months were always booked solid and this May was no different. Summit Excursions were covered up with various outings. Over the years Summit cultivated important relationships with local businesses sharing in the "wealth" of the tourist dollars. River settled into the driver's side and called Elk Run before pulling away, knowing that they could be busy. "Hi, Bea! It's River Foss, I've got the Gilmour family with me, and they just conquered the mountain so we're ready for cinnamon rolls as big as our heads and some strong coffee or cold milk."

Bea smiled into the phone. She could hear the girls squealing in the background. "You bet! We'll be ready for you."

Once River pulled in the lot she sent the Gilmour family in knowing Bea would get them seated while she let Sky out and took him over to drink from the pet-friendly watering station at the side of the building. Sky and River were nearly inseparable. The 3-year-old dog was a true constant in River's life; he enjoyed a charmed life as the official mascot of Summit Excursions. By the time River got Sky settled and back in the van the Gilmours had ordered drinks and were looking over menus at one end of a long table. River walked in and sat down with them.

"Okay girls order anything you want. The Summit and Elk Run have an agreement. Anyone who can tame the mountain gets to eat to their heart's content." River grinned at the family as they poured over the menu with intensity and excitement. She didn't need to look at a menu. She had brought clients by Elk Run on several occasions. There were a handful of good choices to eat locally, but this one was one of her favorites. She liked Ed and Bea very much and found that hearing about Andy and Alice from time to time was comforting.

River scanned the restaurant looking to find Bea or one of the handful of staff and get a cup of coffee. Elk Run was busy for lunch, it felt like fun and food coma all at once. River smiled softly as she took in the people in the space. When her eyes moved to the counter, River froze. She stopped breathing for just a second and her chest tightened. She blinked, uncertain, then her eyes widened with recognition; her throat closed with a distantly familiar discomfort as she continued to stare. Alice was almost the same as River had remembered. Her hair was longer. It still looked soft and was dappled with highlights. She was smiling at a customer as she refilled his coffee cup and River saw that her hazel eyes were still beautiful, filled with confidence, and her smile genuine. River felt like she was 16 again except she was looking at a woman now, not at a high school crush.

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