August 27, 2016: The Day that Stupid Vampire Went and Ruined Everything (Part 2)

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I climbed the steep trail, my leg muscles straining. I stopped to let my lungs catch up with the rest of me, closing my eyes and gulping down the warm pine-scented air.

Central Oregon is different from the west side of the state in many ways: the weather, the politics, the fashions. You're not likely to spot anyone in Portland wearing a cowboy hat unironically.

But one thing we have in common is the trees. The city of Bend is half buried in junipers, aspens, and firs. On my first morning back from New York City, disoriented from jet lag, I strolled outside and looked around at the greenery in bewilderment. A neighbor walked by with her dog and asked, "How are you?" I exclaimed, "I'm surrounded by plants!"

Down the road from my parents' house is an entrance to a network of hiking trails that wind through the many plants, up to the top of the butte. Unlike your stereotypical Bendite, I'm not an outdoorsy type. I flounder for excuses when people say I must visit such-and-such beautiful lake or national forest or really big rock. These trails are the one exception.

In the early '00s I wore down many a pair of Sketchers on these trails. If I was bored and felt like playing Harriet the Spy, I headed for the route overlooking the park for an afternoon of people-watching. If I was feeling romantic and wanted to emulate Anne Shirley skipping through the White Way of Delight, I bounded along the paths with the most breathtaking views. If I was upset and wanted to sulk in the wild hills, despising mankind like the vengeful Heathcliff, I crept into the secret shady nooks where no one would find me.

I can no longer remember which path was which, but even if I could they're all different now. New housing developments have popped up on the butte over the last ten years, and with them came pristine asphalt paths that displaced the wild dirt ones. Builders put in shiny new parks to lure in families. Gated mansions and golf courses obscured the natural views. None of the paths are secret anymore because they're all on Google Maps.

I railed at the forward march of progress, because at that moment I was very upset. I would have liked to make a beeline for the darkest, most secret corner in which I could seethe murderously at mankind...and at one man in particular.

"Will told him to," Jane had said. And that made no sense whatsoever.

First, Will and Charles are as thick as two highly educated, expensively dressed white-collar thieves. Why would Will shoo his best friend eight hundred miles away? And second, even if Will did suggest renting out the house, why would Charles listen? He's thirty-four years old! His friends can't "tell him" to do anything he doesn't want to.

Then again...we are talking about the guy who bought a million-dollar house because his sister said he should.

I asked, "What do you mean, Will 'told him to'? Did they have a fight? He doesn't want to see Charles anymore?"

"Nothing like that. Will just thought it was a waste of money for Charles and Caroline to fly up here every weekend. He said it would make more sense to plan longer visits once or twice a year, and to rent out the house the rest of the time. Caroline thought that was a reasonable idea, and Charles agreed."

"Oh yes," I said. "Very reasonable. Perfectly and unassailably level-headed. But what about you?"

Jane stood up and stretched gracefully. "I...have a craving for Abby's Legendary Pizza. Hawaiian or vegetarian? What do you think?"

What do I think? I think Will doesn't give a fig about the tiny dent a few plane tickets make on Charles' and Caroline's massive trust funds. I think...I know...that Will campaigned to send Charles away from Bend for one reason only: to separate him from my sister.

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