Authors: Lauren Shelton
If you purchase this book without a cover you should be aware
that this book may have been stolen property and reported as
“unsold and destroyed” to the publisher. In such case neither
the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and
incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or
persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Lauren Shelton
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the copyright act
of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a
database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This book is dedicated
to my brother, Jake Shelton,
for inspiring me to
never give up on my dreams.
Gertrude sat in the lush green meadow, hidden in the
deep forest, just minutes from the house. The breeze blew
through the soaring pine trees that circled the small paddock. The sun, finally poking through the dark clouds that
had showered down a thunderous rainstorm just moments before, shimmered on the tall blades of moist
green grass beneath her.
She was stationed there
⎯ waiting for something ⎯
but not sure of what exactly, hoping whatever it was
would distract her from her current crummy, and slightly
Her first day at the new school went by like a blur. It
was mid November, junior year, and the rest of the students were already well adjusted. It hadn’t helped that
most of them had been attending school together since
their preschool days. Gertrude, on the other hand, could
hardly remember a single person she had met, students
and teachers alike.
Gertrude never liked being the new kid on campus,
with all the questions, the assumptions, and the people
too afraid to come up and talk to her because they considered her an outsider⎯ something new and very different
Two weeks prior to her first day at school, Gertrude
decided to move out of her mother’s house in sunny and
beautiful San Diego, to live in Woodcrest Hills, Montana
⎯ a dreary, wet, and cold place, that might as well have
been a foreign country to her⎯ with her father’s parents,
where he’d spent the entirety of his childhood, ‘causing a
ruckus,’ as the older generations called it.
The name of her new home made Gertrude shudder as
she remembered the day she had left San Diego. Somehow, she managed to sit through a twenty-minute car ride
with her mother, Gail, completely silent and motionless.
And the days leading up to her departure were hardly any
“Why do you want to leave?” Gail asked, looking at the
newspaper she held in front of her as Gertrude stood in
Gail continued looking at the paper as she spoke again.
“That doesn’t answer the question. I don’t understand
why you have to be so vague all the time.”
Gertrude looked at her mother, angrily. “Are you kidding me right now? You really don’t see that we have absolutely nothing in common? You don’t see that you hardly pay any attention to the things I do around here? I can’t
even talk to you with your full and undivided attention.
Even now, as I’m sitting here trying to explain this to
you!” Tears began to well up in Gertrude’s eyes.
“This is ridiculous, Gertrude. You are always trying to
get sympathy from everyone. You make everything sound
so pathetic. It’s all just a bunch of unneeded drama.” She
flipped the page in her paper, still not looking up at Gertrude as she spoke.
Gertrude ran over to her mother, ripping the paper out
of the woman’s hands. Quickly, she crumpled it into a ball
and through it behind her in an angered manner. “Look at
me, Mom! Look at me!” Gertrude waited for Gail to look
up at her before continuing. “Grandma and Grandpa are
expecting me in two days. And I’m going. You can’t stop
me.” Tears flowed heavily from her eyes now as she stood
over her mother.
“Fine. Go to them. I hope you don’t disrespect them
like you do with me.” Gail stood up from her seat on the
couch and walked over the large ball of crumpled paper
on the hardwood floor. Gertrude watched as she slowly
peeled the crushed paper apart, flattening it out against
her stomach as she continued to walk down the hall and
into her office, quickly shutting the door behind her.
Two days later, when her mother pulled up to the airport, Gertrude exited the car quietly, grabbing her old ⎯
and completely stuffed⎯ duffle bag out of the back seat.
And as she closed the door and watched Gail’s car pull
away quickly, Gertrude couldn’t help but wonder whether
her mother had felt sorry at all.
Woodcrest Hills was small. The next nearest city was
more than one hundred miles away. Everyone in town
had known each other all their lives, and it made Gertrude feel as though making the choice to live here, in the
middle of nowhere⎯ surrounded by an endless forest⎯
had completely exiled her from the rest of the world
Moving to her grandparent’s house was Gertrude’s way
of salvaging what little remained of her relationship with
her mother. Gertrude could tell that Gail was unhappy
when they had their fights ⎯ how couldn’t she be? And
Gertrude was too. It wasn’t right for a mother and daughter to ignore one another for days on end, and then fight
Things would be better for Gail now. She could focus on
work, the house, herself, and whatever else was on her
mind for the moment. And Gertrude wouldn’t have to
worry about saying the wrong thing anymore. She could
finally have a shot at being happy in a world where she
wasn’t walking around on eggshells. But part of her hoped
that her mother would one day wake up and realize how
much she missed her daughter.
Gertrude closed her eyes as she sat in the small meadow, thinking about the tranquility there could be in her
life now. A smile began to curl across her face as she inhaled a long breath of the cool air that surrounded her.
looked around the clearing. It felt peaceful, comfortable,
the way life should be. She could have only dreamt for a
thing like this, for a place of her own where she could just
come and sit, and enjoy the sounds around her, as she
reflected on her day.
She took another deep breath, closing her eyes once
more, as she listened to the creek hidden just beyond the
tree line. The water bubbled over the small rocks, pooling
up at a small blockade of fallen logs and boulders. She
listened to the skyscraper-like pines swaying back and
forth in rhythm with the wind. She could even hear the
echoes of birds chirping melodically somewhere off in the
But as she opened her eyes and looked around once
more, something caught Gertrude’s attention. She squinted her marble-shaped blue eyes, holding her hand above
her head to block the sun that was poking through the
clouds, trying to get a better look.
Off in the distance, between two trees on the other side
of the field nearly fifty feet away, was a small shimmering
object. At first, it looked like someone was reflecting a
mirror off of the sun that was partially hidden by clouds
as it hung in the sky, shining it directly into Gertrude’s
eyes. Swiftly, and not very gracefully, Gertrude jumped to
her feet, slightly unbalanced and dizzy from the sudden
rush of blood to her head, trying to get a better look. But
to her dismay, the glimmering light disappeared the minute she had moved. So, she hesitantly strode closer,
curiously, keeping her eyes on the spot
where the object had reflected off of the sun and vanished.
“Gertrude!” she could hear her grandmother calling
from off in the distance behind her, but part of her wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened.
After a few seconds, she turned around, looking toward
the direction of the woman’s voice, seeing only trees. The
woman was close by, but Gertrude still wanted to find the
light that glimmered through the trees. So, she turned
back around, and continued walking toward the pines on
the other side of the meadow.
“Gertrude!” her grandmother called again when Gertrude had made it about three feet away from the trees.
This time, the old woman sounded much closer than she
had been before.
“I’m here!” Gertrude called back, craning her head
away from the trees to look over her shoulder toward the
Suddenly, a gust of shockingly cold wind blasted its
way through the field, almost knocking Gertrude off of
her feet. She looked around again, but nothing in the field
had changed. The dancing light between the pines had
not returned. The trees had not moved, except for their
large branches swaying even more furiously in the wind.
They’re trees Gertrude. They aren’t going to get up
and walk away.
“There you are!” She stood on the damp grass just a few
feet away from her granddaughter.
“Yes, Grandma?” Gertrude looked at her, wondering
what she could possibly need.
Gertrude’s face remained expressionless as she slyly
brushed off her loose fitting blue jeans, secretly hoping
she didn’t have any grass stains on them.
“Dinner’s ready, Sweetheart. I’ve been for calling you.
Where were you?” She grabbed both of Gertrude’s shoulders in her fragile, slightly wrinkled hands. “I was worried
that something had happened to you.”
“I’m fine,” Gertrude reassured her, grabbing the hand
that was resting on her right shoulder. “I just wanted to
get away for a minute or two. It was just a walk.” She
shoulder and into the thick forest that was slowly pulling
away behind them.
Her grandmother looked at Gertrude as though she
knew that she wasn’t exactly telling the whole story, but
Gertrude decided not to think much of it as she smiled at
the woman slightly and watched as she returned the favor.
Grandma Maggie was a beautiful woman for being
somewhere in her sixties. She had long greying hair ⎯
you could tell was once a darker shade of brown⎯ that
she constantly wore in a tightly wrapped bun. She hardly
had any wrinkles on her face, except for a few around her
eyes that were hidden behind a pair of grey rimmed,
square glasses. She also had striking almond shaped, steel
blue eyes that could pierce through anything. Her stature
was hunched, but not so bad that she leaned over horribly. Her voice was sweet, and clear, and almost melodic.
Her personality matched her voice almost perfectly. She
wore short sleeve button ups, and khaki capris, and a pair
of crisp white Keds, almost every day. Gertrude looked at
her with a slight smile on her face, admiring her beauty,
reached her grandmother’s age.
“Well, tell me how your first day at school was.” Maggie released Gertrude’s dainty shoulders from her grip
and placed a hand between her shoulder blades as the two
walked to the cemented patio behind the house. Maggie
looked down at the young lady next to her, smiling.
Maggie was a reasonable woman. She kept her opinions to herself, and was well respected among her community. It was safe to say that almost everyone in town
knew who she was, and that they all loved her. She was at
the head of almost every major event in town. She made it
a priority to show how much she cared. And she always
had something nice to say about everyone. But even in all
the good deeds she was doing, she knew something was
She was the first person to welcome Gertrude as she
stepped off of the plane at the small airport just outside of
town. And as she gave her granddaughter the biggest hug
she could possibly conjure up, Maggie took a sigh of relief. She was complete. Her family was complete. Her
trudging along next to her grandmother. Their feet quickly synced pace as the distance between them and the
house grew shorter. “I met some new people, too.” Gertrude really
met some new people. The only problem
was that she couldn’t really remember any of their names.
Their faces seemed to blend together, making it almost
impossible for Gertrude to pull any specific names out of