Chapter 1

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She came silently,

...navigating the spaces between Douglas fir, and through our naiveté.

Quiet golden irises set in her almond-shaped face. Deep caramel hair with strands of gray and white. Still a sinewy teen with long legs and thick-padded boots to mid-calf.

She was from Trail, British Columbia. No one saw her cross through the North Cascades then slip south across Washington to Oregon.

This wasn't what you'd expect. Her people kept to themselves. Maybe on occasion a boy, not a man, driven by testosterone would ever wander so far, in search of belonging.

What compelled her was a mystery. Some spirit only she intuited. But the impulse was visceral and inexplicable.

It led across the Willamette and within city limits, where she crossed a parking lot near the Harrison Street Bridge.

Too faint a trail possessed her. So she jumped when a group came giggling out of the adult bookstore.

She looked hard at the 2 girls, the boy, and some blue-eyed creeper in the corner. His smell of bourbon and smoke was downwind. She would've been intimidating if her face was not bent low, sheepish. She stood still, curious.

"Hi," the boy greeted her, drawn to the quiet charisma that seized everyone's attention.

Her mouth parted in a most toothy grin. "Hey."

One of the girls said, "I haven't seen you around campus before," trying to decide what she thought.

She looked around and back. "I just got here."

"You're not a student, then."

She shrugged. "No. Yous are, eh?"

"Ahhh!" Several of us burst out. "You're Canadian!"

She looked back over her shoulder like it had been only a short distance. "Yeah. This place seems pretty cool, though." She smiled.

The others were undergrads, old enough to be confident, young enough to stare danger in the face without realizing. Edwin, Wendy, and Tomomi each introduced themselves in turn. Just because.

"I'm Lou," she greeted. Her natural attention, the breeze moving across her hair. Something about her took everyone in. "So what are yous up to?"

"Squirrel's!" Tomomi took her neck in her arm. There was an absence of any normal tension between them and a new female in the group. "Come with us!"

None of us was afraid of her.

We should have been.

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