• Grace A. Johnson

Beyond the Inner Storm

(This post was originally published on June 31st, 2020. Therefore, I have complied this with four other separate blog posts. From Chapter 6 and on, I will continue posting on chapter a week. Also, for the German phrases in Chapter 5, I never checked my translations, so half of it may not be correct. Bear with me, eh? Enjoy!)


So...I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to share my first ever completed manuscript with the world (a.k.a, you, who is likely the only person who reads my blog 😉).

This novel was titled "As The Light Shines" to begin with, before I came up with Beyond the Inner Storm, which definitely fits the story much better. I began writing it in a notebook when I was 11/12, and came up with many more stories to follow. (I nearly finished the sequel, actually.) Believe it or not, the first line was born in the middle of Kroger. (Seriously. It just popped into my mind out of nowhere and I had to put it down.) Now, I never want to publish this thing because (1) it's horrible and (2) I've repurposed the characters and do not want to mess up their new stories by having both out there.

Therefore, I have decided to share one chapter every Wednesday for the next 22 weeks on my blog.


So...here goes nothing.

PS: Several edits have been made to the original draft over time and some scenes were added/rewritten later, but I haven't touched it more than two years, so what you're reading is the work of my eleven- to twelve-year-old mind. Bear with me, please.



Prologue


July 1850

Lake Huron, Michigan


Young Arielle Myers watched in horror as the red-orange flames engulfed what was once her home.

She snuggled close to her German shepherd pup, Blessing. The puppy squealed in fear while the smoke rose high, flames growing larger.

Arielle still wasn’t sure the terrifying moment was real, perhaps a dream. She could just open her eyes and it would all be over. But it wasn’t.

Only seconds ago, Arielle was unpinning her hair and getting ready for bed. She had been startled by the sound of her mother’s screams. The fire already reached her father in his room and swallowed him in its blanket of death. Arielle had managed to escape the burning house with her mother, but a blazing wood beam fell on top of her mother, sending her to Heaven with Vater.

Arielle couldn’t take it anymore, she picked up Blessing and ran. She didn’t care where, just anywhere but here.

The evening sun set across Lake Huron behind her. The hot sand stung her bear feet as she ran, but she didn’t care. She had lost everything, what was there to care about now?

“I have you,” Arielle whispered to her puppy, “and that's all that matters now.” A tear slid down her cheek. She sucked in a breath, though smoke still filled the air.

It’s all gone, she thought to herself.

Gone.







Chapter 1


September 1857

Lake Huron, Michigan


Seven years, three months, two weeks, and six days since Arielle Myers was left a homeless orphan. Not that she was counting, mind you.

Arielle and her dog, Blessing had made a home for themselves in an old, unfinished lighthouse off the shore of Lake Huron. No one had made it to finishing the lighthouse, but the small cabin beside it was in good condition. Someone must have lived there once, though she wasn’t sure why they’d left, for furniture filled the house, as did a wood-burning stove and dishes. Practically everything one would need to live, with an exception of pie. Up in the attic, though the area was not in the best of condition, was plenty of nonperishable food, sacks of flour, canned vegetables, and so forth. Tucked away in trunks were multiple dresses that Arielle had altered to fit her over the years. And much to her surprise, there was a chicken coop in the back yard, a few birds still alive. Though it was obvious whomever had inhabited the cabin was long gone, sometimes she felt as though she was barging into another’s home. But she didn’t let it worry her.

Arielle pulled a weed out of the garden she’d planted earlier, during the spring. Most of her fruits and vegetables had died in the summer heat, but a few still produced. Arielle enjoyed gardening; it was canning the produce that wasn’t fun. But if she wanted to live, she had to work.

At that moment, Blessing came bounding out of the house, panting and wagging her tail. Blessing really lived up to her name. She was Arielle’s constant friend. The German shepherd had been a present for Arielle’s thirteenth birthday, four months before the fire. And the only one who knew the pain she’d endured.

“Woof, woof!” Blessing barked as she neared her owner.

“Hey, Blessing girl,” Arielle said as she petted the dog’s head, scratching behind her furry ears as she knew Blessing loved.

Blessing barked in reply, running right into the garden and beginning to dig up the few plants left. Arielle picked Blessing up and sat her down, away from the garden. “Oh toll,” she muttered in German. She pointed a blame finger at her. “You know you aren’t allowed to dig in the dirt, not if you want to stay in the house,” she explained, turning back around to straighten a trampled carrot.

Blessing’s ears drooped and she started to whimper, her nose pointed towards the ground as she slumped her head in dejection.

“How about we go take a walk by the lake and clean your paws off?” she suggested, moving her head to face her dog.

Blessing perked up as if to yes.

Arielle stood from her crouched position and wiped her hands on her calico skirt. She walked away from the garden, following a path towards the shining Lake Huron, Blessing following close behind her.

As Arielle neared the rushing waves, the fresh air flooded her senses and sent peace over her. Next to the top of the unfinished lighthouse, the lake was her favorite place to be.

Once she arrived at the shore, Arielle unlaced her boots and slipped them off, setting them aside before running straight into the cool water, splashing and laughing in enjoyment.

This is my life now, and I love it.


***


Cade Darren had no idea what he was getting himself into. He was going to complete the building of an unfinished lighthouse and run it. Yes, he fixed up lighthouses before. And, yes, he knew how to work the light, but this seemed like too much.

Cade walked along the shore of Lake Huron, trying to sort out his thoughts and decide if he was truly making the right decision. He had spent a lot of time praying before he moved from where he had been stationed for the past three years to the “haunted” lighthouse here. Seemed he was the only one who dared to take it on.

As he traipsed through the sand, young woman and her dog splashing in the water caught his eye. The girl looked to be about twenty, judging by her height, and had gorgeous wavy, long strawberry blond hair that blew in the wind. The woman must have sensed his presence, for she came to a stop, sent an icy glare to him over her shoulder, and walked away, motioning for the dog to follow.

Cade took in a breath of the salty air and headed back to his horse. He figured it time he make his way to the light house. Cade mounted his horse and rode towards the old lighthouse.

According to what the lighthouse board told him, the lighthouse was supposed to have been built ten years ago, but it was never completed. The local story went that the man who’d been assigned to build it left after the tragic death of his eight-year-old daughter. And because of that, believing the place to be haunted, no one had touched it since. So, Cade took the challenge of fixing it and running the light.

Once he arrived, Cade was amazed at what he saw: a garden, swing-set hanging from a nearby tree, and the small cabin that was built for the keeper. Not to mention a chicken coop, which shocked him the most. The lighthouse didn’t surprise him as much, but it did look like someone had recently made an effort to try and fix it. A few broken glass window panes, but otherwise, fine. For an uncompleted ten year old lighthouse, that is. The keeper’s house was fixed with boards closing in any gaps that might have been. The roof even looked like it could handle a storm. The door was oddly painted an ocean blue color.

Perhaps the board was wrong.

Cade walked up to the door of the keeper's house. He touched a finger to the bright blue paint. Odd choice of color, he thought, Who would have painted the door? A neighbor?

He swung the door wide open, revealing a large entryway decorated with flowers and paintings that hung on the walls. Cade was stunned by how well kept the place looked. He closed the door behind him and stooped over to untie his boots.

At the sound of a closing door and soft footsteps, Cade looked up to find a girl standing in front of him, a glower on her pretty face. Actually, this was the same girl from the beach. Her icy blue eyes peered into Cade, looking right through him. The woman was soaked and in her undergarments. His face flooded with embarrassment. Cade tore his gaze from her and focused on her face. She was the epitome of gorgeous; a perfect nose, full lashes, and lovely lips. If only she would smile.

The girl stood still, not caring about her appearance.

A deep growl came from behind the woman and a German shepherd walked out from behind her. The dog sneered. Obviously not one for company. The dog crept towards him, but the lady snapped her fingers, stopping the animal.

“Mr...?” the girl asked, her voice as smooth as honey, though her expression was far from sweet.

“Darren. Cade Darren,” he responded, not sure he could get the words out. He extended his hand.

The girl didn’t reach out and shake it, but instead placed both hands on her hips. “Well, Mr. Cade Darren, I would greatly appreciate it if you would leave my home,” she sneered, her lips curled upward to create a face that resembled some kind of monster rather than a woman beautiful as a princess.

“Your home? I’m afraid you are greatly mistaken; this is my home. I work here,” Cade said, puzzled. Surely she didn’t live here? The board had said not a soul had touched it for the past ten years. And the board wasn’t wrong. Besides that fact, everyone thought it haunted. If the girl were from around there, wouldn’t she believe so too? Then another thought crept in. What if she were the ghost so many spoke of? As soon as the idea appeared, Cade pushed it aside. He knew good and well that ghosts didn’t exist. Then why was she here?

The girl’s eyes widen with surprise. No, horror. “That’s absurd. The lighthouse isn’t even complete. How could you work here? I’m afraid that you, sir, are mad if you think you can just waltz in here saying that you work here.” At the matter-of-fact statement, she cocked her head, obviously awaiting his confirmation. Not that there was any.

“Sorry, miss,” Cade pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and unfolded it, extending it outward.. “This is the board’s letter to me, saying I work here.”

She snatched it from his hands and scanned it over and over again. “Not possible. This can’t be happening, God,” she muttered under her breath, her eyes not ceasing their frantic searching through the written words. She raised her voice back to its normal volume. “I’m sorry, I can’t leave here. I just can’t,” she stated, her eyes glistening with unshed tears, only serving to make the jewels shine even more.

Cade took the paper from her hands, folding it and stuffing it back into his pocket. “I’ll give you one week to pack and leave,” he commanded, crossing his arms over his chest in an attempt to seem more powerful and controlled, when in reality his heart broke for the girl.

Her face turned bright pink, bringing the red tint in her hair out more. “This is all I have, Mr. Darren. I’m not leaving,” she hissed, those tears leaving her eyes and getting caught in her lashes.

“Don’t you have family somewhere?” Cade inquired, not entirely sure why he bothered to ask. Her well-being was her own problem, not his. Okay...That might be a little un-Christlike of a thought. But what was he supposed to do? Build her a house? Of course, you dummy. You’re supposed to help other people. Show ‘em God’s love. His conscience might be right, but practicality won him over.

The woman wiped a tear from her eye. “No. And even if I did, they don’t know I even exist.” To punctuate her remark, she buried her face in her hands and cried.

Without thinking, Cade stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her, rubbing circles across her back with his hand to try and comfort her as he could remember doing with his baby sister years ago. He expected her to pull away and sneer at him, but she didn’t, in fact, she laid her head on his shoulder and sobbed even deeper, if that could be possible. It was obvious she had a lot of pent up tears waiting to fall.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Darren, I don’t know what got into me.” The girl sniffled as she pulled back, not quite meeting his gaze. “By the way, I’m Arielle Myers,” she told him.

Cade smiled. Arielle fit her. “That’s a beautiful name,” he stated, attempting to lighten the mood, maybe bring a hint of a smile to her face.

Not likely. Instead she huffed and replaced her hands where they’d once rested on her hips.“I didn’t tell you my name because I wanted compliments.” Well, she had definitely regained her confidence.

Feeling defeated, he took a small step back, though the motion could’ve been more for his well-being. One wrong move, and she might just pounce. “Very well, then. Now, back to our original conversation. You...um...might want to put on some clothing and start packing,” Cade said, motioning to Arielle’s body.

She immediately took a step back and wrapped her arms around her waist. Arielle fled the room, her embarrassment visible by the blush that had returned to her cheeks. “Oh toll,” he heard her mumble as she ran. “Sorry, sir,” she called once she had made it to her room and closed the door.

Cade stifled a laugh. Poor thing.


***


Arielle was so mortified, she would have jumped off the roof to keep from having to endure something such as a total stranger seeing her almost naked.

Arielle shook her head at the thought. She had worse things to worry about. Like having that same total stranger take her home right out from under her. She would have to find another place to live or figure out a way to get rid of Cade Darren, though something told her that wouldn’t be easy.

Who does that man think he is? The light keeper, that’s who.

Arielle pulled a clean blouse over her head. She should have put on something before seeing who had barged right in to her home. The situation could have been much worse. That was one thing she could be grateful for. At least the man was honorable. Maybe.

But something that definitely took her by surprise was the confidence she had displayed. Under normal circumstances, she probably would’ve coward at even the thought of someone taking her home. But then again, normal circumstances had disappeared when the fire had stolen everything from her.

Arielle finished dressing and walked out of her room, only to find Mr. Darren petting her dog.

“You had better not be trying to take my dog, as well as my home, Mr. Darren,” she scolded him. Arielle crouched down beside Blessing and motioned for the dog to come to her.

“On the contrary, the dog came to me,” Mr. Darren said as he stood. His gaze met hers and made her stomach turn flips, his cinnamon brown eyes no longer filled with stern authority. Though she had to harbor some kind of ill feeling towards the man―who wouldn’t?―she couldn’t deny the fact that she found him dreadfully handsome, what with his gorgeous brown eyes and caramel waves that were tossed over his head that lead her to believe he hadn’t picked up a brush that morning.

“Now, shall we discuss the lighthouse, Ms. Myers?” Mr. Darren asked most formally, though practically everything about him said he was far from formal. That is, in normal circumstances.

“I’m afraid there is nothing to discuss, Mr. Darren. This is my home and you have no right to barge in and claim it, papers or not.” Arielle inwardly smiled at her confidence, and Mr. Darren seemed amused himself. But in the back of her head something said she needed to be a bit more lenient. The poor man hadn’t expected to find her here. He was just doing his job, after all.

“Home or not, the lighthouse is going to be put back to use, whether you like it or not.” The words were spoken so rudely, her earlier thoughts vanished into thin air. How dare he?

But still, defeat rushed over Arielle. She knew there was no use arguing with Mr. Darren; he had the government on his side for heaven’s sake, while no one even knew Arielle existed.

“Ms. Myers?” Mr. Darren was obviously looking for a retort.

Arielle let out a sigh, all but giving up. “It’s no use. You are right. Keep the lighthouse. I’ll find somewhere else to live.” Like where? She had no idea where else to go, never had a reason to worry about such. No one knew she hadn’t died in the fire with her parents. Why cause an uproar now?

Perhaps all was not lost. Mr. Darren would needed someone to help him cook and clean as he worked on the lighthouse. Surely he would have pity on her and allow her just a small amount of time to stay. Maybe.

Dropping down onto her knees, Arielle took hold of the hem of his pants and begged. “Please, sir, allow me to stay for just a little while. Until I can find somewhere else to live. Please?” Yet another tear fell from her eye, landing on a less-than-shiny shoe.

“I don’t need your tears,” Mr. Darren said, “I have enough already.” He motioned to his wet shirt.

“S-sorry, sir.” She sniffled, telling those tears to get back into her eyes. “Please, let me stay. I’ll do whatever you ask,” she offered, her hopes high.

“Stop crying,” Mr. Darren commanded, his arms folding over his broad chest again.

“What? Oh, yes.” Arielle stood, wiped her eyes, and smoothed her skirt. Her plan was working.

Mr. Darren ran a hand through his curly brown hair. “One week. We’ll see about getting a place for you to stay in the meanwhile.”

“Okay! I can help you fix the lighthouse, if you want me too,” she said, “I’m a hard worker.” Joy overcame her. All she had to do now was show him how amazing she could be, and hopefully he’d let her stay even longer. She just had to keep from breaking down in front of him so often.

Mr. Darren’s gaze swept around the room. “I can see. I’ll hold you to that, Miss Myers.”

Arielle held out her hand. “Please, call me Arielle.”

Mr. Darren shook her hand. “And you can call me Cade.”




Chapter 2




Arielle awoke the next morning to the distinct sound of clattering paint cans. Seems Cade found the paint. She chuckled at the thought, sitting up in her bed and stretching her arms, releasing a yawn.

This is really happening.

Arielle had spent most of the night thinking of how she could impress Cade so he would let her stay. Whining worked yesterday, now it was time for amazement. She had planned out the day, though she knew good and well plans were often disrupted. Even still, breakfast was going to be a huge meal, afterwards she’d help Cade with the lighthouse, then fix a small snack for lunch, and the rest of the day until supper she would continue to work. No time for anything else. Cade needed to know she was a hard-worker, someone who he didn’t have to worry about. And hopefully someone he could allow to stay.

Arielle got dressed as fast as possible, braided her hair, and headed to the kitchen. She hoped Cade hadn’t eaten, because he would need an empty stomach to fill with a big "light-keeper’s breakfast".

Arielle pulled a cast iron skillet from one of the wooden cabinets. She set it on top of the wood burning stove and poured a little bit of leftover grease that she had sitting in a jar on the counter. Arielle placed a fish that she had cleaned yesterday in the pan and got the stove hot and started to cook. While the fish was cooking, she cut up a couple apples and pears from her fruit trees and added a dash of cinnamon she found in a drawer. She poured the fruit into another pan and cooked them down. After removing the food from the stove and putting a serving on a couple plates, she got started on coffee. When that was done, Arielle opened the blue door and called for Cade.

“Breakfast is ready!” she yelled, her gaze scanning the yard until she found Cade standing on a ladder propped against the tower.

Cade turned on the ladder he was standing on and hollered back, “One second!” He scrambled down the ladder and set the paintbrush he was using on a piece of wood. Cade jogged to the house and smiled at Arielle as she held the door open for him.

“Welcome to the Blue Door Inn,” she teased, “Where breakfast is always hot.”

Cade laughed. “That’s your catch phrase? Where breakfast is always hot?”

Arielle grinned. “It’s original.” She closed the door and followed Cade into the kitchen. She handed him his plate and a cup of coffee and sat down across from him at the wood table in the center of the room.

Arielle didn’t realize she was staring at him until Cade looked up from his food and met her gaze. His cinnamon brown eyes softened. Arielle felt her breath catch. He looked so handsome the way the wind had tossed his curly hair and it fell across his forehead.

Maybe it was because she hadn’t seen another human being in so long, but Arielle had to admit, she found him quite attractive.

Without thinking, she reached out and wiped a lock of hair off Cade’s forehead. As soon as she realized what she was doing, she pulled her hand back. Cade didn’t really seem to notice.

Arielle immediately looked away from him and started to eat her food.

“This is very good, thank you, Arielle,” Cade said, shoving a bite into his mouth.

“Thank you...um...I mean, you’re welcome,” Arielle stammered. Even though she was staring down at her food, she could sense Cade smiling at her embarrassment.

“So, Arielle, that’s a Hebrew name, right?”

Arielle perked up at Cade’s question. When she was younger, she used to love telling people what her name meant. “Yes, Arielle means lion of God and is another name for Jerusalem,” she explained. “What about your name?”

“Well, Cade is Welsh and means spirit of battle,” Cade answered.

Arielle looked down at Cade’s paint splattered shirt. “Need some help?”

“Only if the Blue Door Innkeeper isn’t busy.”

Arielle nodded. She liked this teasing side of Cade rather than the business side. “I’m all yours.”


***


Cade knew Arielle was a hard worker, but she still surprised him. It was late in the afternoon and Arielle hadn’t once stopped helping with the lighthouse.

Cade had found some white paint in a shed behind the cabin and had painted over half the lighthouse with Arielle. The outer part of the tower was pretty nice looking; it was the inside that needed the most work.

“Hey, Cade!” Arielle called from behind the lighthouse, “I’m gonna head inside and get started on supper. Is that alright?”

“Yeah! Go on ahead,” Cade hollered back.

Arielle ran away from the lighthouse and towards the house. Cade laughed at all the paint she had covering her. Probably hadn’t got any on the lighthouse.

Despite her snappy attitude the day before, she had turned out to be a pretty nice girl. Other than being mad at him for coming, she was alright. Especially for someone who hadn’t seen another human being in over five years.

She didn’t go into detail, but Cade had managed to squeeze that much information out of her earlier that day. She hadn’t wanted to discuss her past. Not an easy topic. He knew how she felt, his past wasn’t the most wonderful. But that didn’t matter anymore. After painting for a few more minutes, Cade figured he ought to get cleaned up for dinner. He made his way into the house where the smell of food already filled the air.

“Smells good,” he said as he walked through the kitchen.

“Oh, thanks.” Arielle pivoted around, bring her paint-covered face into his view. He tried and failed to not laugh. Her brows creased as she followed his gaze to her face. “Oh toll,” she muttered, touching a finger to her ghost white nose. Maybe the myths were true.

“Here.” Cade picked up a towel and carefully wiped the paint off her face, which turned bright pink at the contact. “All better.”

Arielle smiled. “Now we’re even, huh?”

Cade grinned back, “I guess so.” His thoughts drifted back to earlier that morning when she had fingered with his hair. He still didn’t understand what she was so embarrassed about.

“I’m going to get cleaned up. Let me know when supper’s ready,” Cade said while he walked to the small spare room in the back of the cabin. He changed his shirt and paint splattered trousers, then washed his hands and face, finding paint splashes of his own, before opening the bedroom door.

Arielle stood right in front of him, her hand held up as if she was about to knock. “Oh, sorry, I was going to tell you that dinner’s ready,” she said with an innocent smile on her lips.

“Good.” Cade walked out of his room to the kitchen and sat down across from Arielle.

“So, Cade Alexander Darren, tell me some more about yourself,” Arielle inquired.

“I thought I already did,” Cade teased.

“Well, I wanna know more.” Arielle handed him a plate of food.

“Only if you tell me about yourself.”

“Alright. You first.” Arielle scooted closer, ready to listen, and propped her elbows on the table, resting her chin in her palms.

“Okay. I was born in Tennessee, year 1831. Kind of boring until I was ten, when my mom died. My dad, two year old sister, and I moved to Michigan, where my dad's parents lived. Life was good for about five years, then Dad started drinking. Once he started, he couldn’t stop. My grandparents took us away from him and we lived with them. When I was twenty, I started working as a light keeper. That’s how I ended up here.”

“Interesting. I’m real sorry about your mom.” Though he’d heard those same words a million times over from countless people, rarely did someone speak them filled with empathy rather than pity. And the way that her eyes reflected the pain and hurt he’d felt the days after Mom’s death could only belong to someone who’d lived through that themselves.

Cade looked down at his plate, though he didn’t want to break that connection. “It’s alright. And, you know, after sixteen years, I don’t remember her all that well. Now, what about you?”

Arielle’s face went back to the same bright red that it did when she found out he worked at the lighthouse. She gulped. “Well, long story short, my parents died when I was thirteen, then I moved here.”

“You already told me that, Arielle. Mind going into detail?”

Arielle grew tense and slammed her fist on the table. “Yes, I mind,” she yelled as she jumped up from the table and ran out of the house.

“Good job, Cade,” he told himself.


***


Arielle breathed heavily as she climbed up the stairs leading to the top of the lighthouse. She knew all too well that she shouldn’t have blown up at Cade. So much for impressing him.

Arielle didn’t like to think of the fire that took her parents that dreadful night. Or think of her parents themselves. It was just way too much.

The stone stair steps felt cold to her bare feet. The opposite of how the blazing sand felt under her feet the night she left.

A tear trickled down her cheek.

Her life had been almost perfect. Why did God let that happen?

Her father had come to America from Germany when he was twelve and had made a quick friend of her mother the moment he stepped on the American soil. Six years later, they were married, and one year later, Arielle was born. Her parents loved God, each other, and her. The life most children dreamed of, she had.

Until the fire.

Arielle bounded up the last couple of rough steps before she made it to the top of the lighthouse.

The lighthouse was her happy place. The place she felt safe. Safe from the memories. Safe from the heartache. Safe from the pain. Safe from it all.

The sound of footsteps startled her. Cade came through the entryway and walked up behind her. His presence was surprisingly comforting. He stood beside her and stared out at the lake.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Cade asked. His voice came near her ear and his warm breath gave her goose bumps. “I’m really sorry. Forgive me?”

If only you knew. “It’s not your fault. You need no forgiveness, I do. I shouldn’t have been so awful. Will you forgive me?” Arielle asked him, her eyes still burning with unshed tears.

“I’ll forgive you on one condition,” Cade said.

Arielle was puzzled by his statement. “What condition?”

Cade turned to face her and wiped a stray tear off her cheek. His touch sent chills up her spine. “Don’t cry on me this time.” He gave her a half grin that made her stomach turn flips.

“No problem. I’ll hold them in.” Arielle returned his smile then looked back at the setting sun.

The sky was painted with gorgeous pinks and purples and the lake reflected its beauty. Arielle let out a sigh of pleasure. If Cade wasn’t standing beside her, she might would have painted the magnificent sight.

Slowly, her eyelids started to droop and she yawned. Arielle turned to leave. “Good night, Cade,” she whispered as she trudged down the stairs.

“Good night, Arielle.”




Chapter 3


The first two days of Arielle’s last week at the light house weren’t as terrible as she had thought. For one, Cade hadn’t once mentioned her leaving. Her hope built every second. Maybe, just maybe, Cade would let her stay.

She was a big help when it came to fixing the lighthouse. And considering Cade would live there, he would need someone to cook, and he wasn’t the very good at that. Then, every light keeper needed an assistant, right?

Arielle stood at the top of the lighthouse early that morning. The rising sun was one of Arielle’s favorite things.

She set her makeshift easel up and laid her paints on a brick that sat in the middle of the stone floor.

The sun shined over the lake and rocks that encircled the rushing water outside the broken glass window at the top of the tower.

She picked up her pencil and started to draw an outline of the lake, sun, and rocks. When she finished the rough sketch, Arielle gave the sky its light blue color and the lake’s darker shade. She blended a deeper tone with the sky’s lighter one. Slowly, the shades and tones came together into the perfect likeness of the real sky and lake in front of her. Arielle gave her sun its yellow-orange-pink tint that blended with the sky and shone above that lake.

She became so deeply immersed in her painting, she didn’t realize Cade was standing behind her until he leaned in and studied the painting.

“That’s amazing, Arielle,” he said, his voice groggy, like he had just awakened.

She quickly turned to face him and stifled a giggle. Cade’s eyes were half closed, his hair was stuck to his forehead, and he was slouched over.

“Cade.” She shook his shoulders. “Wake up,” she whispered in his ear. He still stood there, partly asleep. Arielle ruffled his brown hair, trying not to focus on the feel of his silky locks in between her fingers, but still he stood motionless. She used the moment to her advantage and grabbed her paint brush, dipped it into the blue paint and carefully traced the brush over his lips. Using the pink color, she gave Cade’s cheeks a rosy hint.

Once she finished his makeover, she led him carefully down the stairs and into the cabin. Silently, she sat him on his bed and pulled his comforter over him as he absentmindedly laid back on the mattress.

With a babyish tone of voice, Arielle softly whispered into his ear, “Good night, Cade.” She planted a kiss on his cheek as she would do to her baby dolls when she was younger.

As soon as she left the room and closed the door, she burst into laughter at her prank on the sleep walking Cade.

Then, a few minutes later, Arielle heard Cade scream in horror.

“Yes!” she muttered to herself, “It worked!”

Cade came staggering out of the room, a scowl on his face. “Arielle,” he growled, “I’m gonna get you back for this. Now, get this paint off of me!” He sat down in his chair at the table.

“It was hilarious while it lasted,” Arielle stated as grabbed a towel and wiped the paint off Cade's face.

“No, it wasn’t,” Cade snapped. “You remind me so much of my sister, Kerri-Leigh. Maybe a little too much.” He ran a hand through his hair, examining it to be sure she hadn’t gotten any paint there either.

When Arielle finish cleaning his face, she got started on breakfast.

She was in the middle of cutting an apple when Cade walked up beside her and snuck a piece into his mouth. “If I had known the Blue Door Inn’s keeper was so rude, I might not have come,” he teased.

“Oh, but you’re the first customer I’ve had since Mr. Scarecrow; you can’t leave,” she replied, following along with his playful bantering.

Cade sat himself on top of the counter beside Arielle. “Mr. Scarecrow?” he asked, his forehead creasing in confusion.

“Yes, he stayed for about three days before Blessing ate him. I’m afraid he wasn’t her favorite.” She laughed at the sight of her dog eating the straw man. “That was quite the sight. Poor thing didn’t even get a proper funeral.”

Cade and Arielle’s laughter was interrupted by Blessing’s barks. The dog jumped up and scratched her paws on Arielle’s apron.

“I don’t think she likes you talking about her dinner,” Cade said as he hopped off the counter and petted Blessing behind her ear. Blessing licked his face in thanks. “I believe she found some paint you missed, Arielle.” Cade got to his feet and wiped the dog slobber off his face.

“Wait,” Arielle studied Cade's face. “I’d say you’re right.” She wiped her finger across his rough cheek. “There, all better.” She turned back to her cooking. “Now, get ready to eat. We have a lot of work to do today.”

Breakfast was a quick meal, and before one could say “lighthouse”, Cade and Arielle were outside working on the lighthouse. Come noon, Cade ran into town to gather supplies and Arielle and Blessing took out any glass windows or pieces of windows. When Cade returned, they put in new glass panes and worked on putting in a new door. By the time they were finished, evening had come and Arielle was busy working on supper.

Arielle was nowhere near prepared for what was about to happen.

As she stood over the stove cooking fish, Cade snuck up behind her and ran a paintbrush through her hair, adding strips of color to it. When she realized what he was doing, Arielle twisted her head to catch Cade in action. Cade swiped the paint-dripping brush across her forehead and cheek. He exploded into laughter.

Arielle jerked the brush from his hand. “Not funny,” she hissed.

“I thought it was,” he said. His cinnamon eyes shone with mirth. “Now we’re even.”

“Not for long.” Arielle dipped her hand into the jar of grease that sat on the counter and smothered Cade with the fatty oil.

He grabbed a towel and wiped his face before throwing it down on to the counter. “That was mean, you stinker.”

“You asked for it.”


***


The next morning, Arielle and Cade sat by the beach with fishing poles in hand.

Cade cheered as he pulled in a nice sized fish. “Well, so far, I’m beating you,” he teased as he put the fish into a bucket where his other three fish were. So far, Cade had caught four more than Arielle caught, which was none.

“Well, so far, I’ve only fished when I must,” Arielle said with a mocking tone of voice. “You, on the other hand, fish all the time.” She cast her line into the lake. Within seconds, a fish jerked on her line and Arielle quickly pulled the pole upward. On the end of the string hung a large trout. “Take that!” She laughed at the sight of her first catch of the day.

“It’s only one; I have four. You couldn’t catch that many if you were out here all day,” Cade joked.

Arielle playfully nudged Cade in the shoulder before she grabbed a handful of sand and attempted to throw the dirt at him, but he grabbed her wrist in mid air and stopped her.

“Don’t even think about it” he warned as he dropped her wrist.

“Bad move, Mr. Darren.” Arielle didn’t let go of the sand as Cade expected, but threw it at him anyway.

The sand hit him right in the face. He spit and sputtered, trying to get the dirt out of his mouth. Before he knew what hit him, another handful of sand flew at him. Cade managed to dodge the throw and scooped up some dirt and tossed it at Arielle.

“Oh toll,” she muttered as she threw another dirt ball at him.

They continued to fling dirt at each other until Arielle threw up her hands in surrender. “Stop!” she managed to yelled despite her uncontrollable laughter.

“Never!” Cade yelled, running towards her.

Arielle tried to run away, but she tripped over her skirt and fell to the ground. The bright sun blinded Cade’s eyes and he fell on top of Arielle. His hands braced him, and he hovered over her. Arielle laid motionless under him. Cade couldn’t help himself but admire her. Her blue eyes shined like the sun above them. Her gorgeous, long strawberry blond hair was matted to her face, and Cade didn’t bother to resist the urge to tangle his fingers in a strand. Before he knew what he was doing, Cade let his fingers trail across her cheek and jaw. Cade could sense Arielle’s breath quickening, so he pulled away.

Regaining his balance, he stood and slowly walked towards the fish bucket.

Arielle snuck up behind him and sent yet another ball of dirt at his back.

“I thought you surrendered!” he said, brushing the sand off his back.

Arielle walked up in front of him and flashed a rare smile. “But you didn’t accept it, so it wasn’t a complete surrender,” she explained as she skipped ahead of him.

In the distance, Cade could see Blessing running to them from the lighthouse. Arielle ran closer to her dog and rubbed her head. “Hey, girl.” Blessing licked her face. “I’m covered in sand, aren’t I?"

Blessing woofed in reply.

Cade had noticed over the past few days the bond Arielle had with her dog. They had obviously been the only friends they each had for the last seven years. Arielle told him that Blessing was the only being who knew everything she had gone through. Cade often wondered what Arielle had endured. It was evident that she suffered a terrible heartache. All that Cade knew was that it had something to do with her parents. He could only wonder.


***


Arielle laid in her bed replaying the events of the past three days.

It was the most fun she had in the past seven years, yet it was the hardest thing ever.

Not just the thought of having to leave, but seeing another person. The only time she saw other people was from a distance and they never saw her. And if they did, well, they assumed her to be the ghost that was said to haunt the lighthouse. Rumors had gone around for the past ten years that there was a ghost that haunted the lighthouse. It was said that the man who started to build the tower had a daughter, who died during the tower’s construction, and then her spirit continued to live there. So, if anyone caught sight of Arielle, they figured her to be the ghost.

But seeing Cade only reminded her of the life she once had. The normal life.

Now, Arielle preferred to be more of a hermit, hiding away from the rest of the world. The world she once lived in.

She never understood why God didn't take her with her mother and father. Why did He take them in the first place? Why?

Why, God? Why didn’t you take me? Why didn’t you leave them here? Do you even know I exist? Can you even hear me?

She buried her head in her pillow and cried. The image of the fire was the only thing in her mind. It wouldn’t leave. It haunted her just like the ghost that haunted her lighthouse. The flames that swallowed her home. The smoke that choked her as she cried. The fire that took her parents...that took her hope.

Hope.




Chapter 4



September 1857

Berlin, Germany



Peter Myers sat at his desk scanning the papers over and over again. Nothing made sense. If his granddaughter was still alive, where would she be? The articles stated that the fire destroyed everything. She had nowhere else to go. Maybe they were wrong.

A knock on the door broke Peter's concentration. “Ja?” he called, looking up from his desk to the door before him. Bitte, let it be good news, he prayed.

Herr. Myers?” came familiar a soft voice from the other side of the door.

“Come in, Gerlda.”

A young woman walked through the doorway into the room, shutting the door behind her. The girl, Peter’s secretary, sat in a chair in front of his desk. “I bring news,” she said, a smile on her face.

“Good news, I hope.” Peter pulled a fresh piece of paper from under a stack of folders, and retrieved a quill from a drawer.

“They found your granddaughter,” she told him, her smile not fading.

Peter jumped from his seat. “Where? When? Is she alright?” He threw the questions at her.

“Sit, and write this down, Herr. Myers.” Gerlda motioned to his chair before clasping her hands in front of her.

Peter sat and grasped his quill so tight his hands shook.

“She is living in a lighthouse on the shore of Lake Huron in Michigan. She is alright and has taken good care of herself. She has no guardian. The fire took her father, your son and her mother. She is no longer a small child, but a young woman of twenty. She is all alone, except for a dog. The details are random, but we now know where she lives,” Gerlda explained.

Wunderbar! How long will it take for me to get to America?” Peter asked.

“Weeks, perhaps even a month,” Gerlda answered.

Peter jumped up from his chair again and started to pace. He rubbed his balding head. “Arrange for my journey, immediately. I must see my granddaughter as soon as possible.”

Gerlda left the room, and Peter raised his hands to the roof. “Thank you, Lord Jesus!” he said. God had answered his prayers. For the past five years he had searched for his son’s child with no avail...until now.



* * *


Arielle lifted her head from her tear-soaked pillow, turning over in her bed, a bitter smell flooding her senses.

“I guess I really let the fire get to me; I’m smelling smoke,” she said to herself as she pulled her half-asleep-self off her bed. She caught a whiff of the air, realizing that there really was smoke in the house. “Oh toll.”

Arielle ran out of her room into the kitchen, then stopped.

Cade stood over the stove, burning towel in hand, and a worried look on his face. “Sorry,” he apologized when he saw Arielle standing behind him.

“Let me.” She jerked the towel out of his hand, and shoved him away from the stove. A pan sat there, orange flames coming from the burnt contents “What is this?”she asked, picking the pan up and pouring water onto it.

“Breakfast, or at least it was suppose to be,” Cade answered.

Arielle huffed and threw the pan on the counter. “No more cooking for you.” She pulled a new pan out of a cabinet and started to cook.

“Um...Arielle?” Cade stammered. “You might wanna put on some clothes first.”

Arielle looked down at her nightgown. “Oh toll. You catch me at my worst moments, Mr. Darren.”

She left the kitchen and changed into a light blue dress. She was busy braiding her hair as she walked out of her room and back into the kitchen to start on breakfast.

If Cade was going to stay here, he would have to learn how to cook. Or let her stay.

“Sorry,” he repeated.

“You already said that. Now, go work on that lighthouse of yours. I’ll let you know when breakfast is ready.” Arielle rolled her eyes as Cade walked out of the house. Once she heard the door close, she exploded into laughter. “Crazy man.”

Later that morning, Arielle joined Cade at the lighthouse.

She had to admit, she was surprised at how fast everything was coming together.

That day, they planned on painting the interior of the tower. Cade handed her a paint brush, and she dunked it into the white paint and started to coat the stone wall at the top of the lighthouse.

Together they painted the walls until noon, ate a quick lunch, then went back to painting. Come evening, they had finished and were sitting at the table eating supper.

“We’ve painted the top, outside, and trim, put in new doors and windows, all that’s left is the light itself,” Cade stated while picking at his food.

“And paint the rest of the inside,” Arielle corrected. She tilted her head backwards and stretched her sore arms.

“Right.” Cade released a yawn before stuffing a piece of fish in his mouth. “This is a lot of painting. I'm glad I’ve got you helping me,” he said with his mouth full.

“Thank you. And not just for the compliment, but for letting me stay for this long,” Arielle remarked. She looked down at her hands, knowing he would remind her that her time was limited.

“Speaking of staying, I was thinking that―only if you want―you could stay. Because, this morning being proof, I need the help.”

Arielle jumped up from the table. “Oh, thank you, thank you!” She ran towards Cade and almost knocked him over as she wrapped her arms around his neck in a hug. You’re absolutely wonderful, Cade!” she declared. Oh, thank you, Jesus! She was staying! She wouldn’t have to leave!



* * *



Cade was about to undress and hop into bed, but a noise from above him made him change his mind.

Who was up there and why? He hadn’t seen Arielle walk up to the second floor of the cabin. It was more of an attic really. Probably just a mouse.

Cade walked out of his room, down the hall, and up the wood stairs to the attic. The door was wide open. Not a mouse. He quietly peeked through and spotted Arielle standing by the window. She was holding a paintbrush and Cade could see a painter’s easel in front of her.

He better be careful or he would end up covered in paint like last time. Fortunately, this time he was wide awake. Slowly, he tiptoed into the small room and crept up behind Arielle. He stopped for a moment and observed the canvas she was painting on.

The painting was a perfect picture of the sunset through the window. Not only was there the stunning colors of the sun that set over the lake, but Arielle managed to create the view through the window. The glare from the glass, the wooden frame that she blurred around the edge of the picture. It was beautiful.

“That’s gorgeous,” Cade told her.

Arielle turned to stand in front of him. She had a couple smudges of paint on her face, and Cade knew she planned on putting the same on his.

“I’m awake this time.”

A small hint of disappointment shadowed her eyes. “Too bad, ‘cause I was thinking of how handsome you would look with a mustache, beard, and bushy eyebrows,” she teased.

“Going with a more manly approach this time, huh? You know, I can grow the beard and mustache, if you really want me to,” he played along.

“You would grow facial hair just because I might want you to?" Arielle asked. “That’s awful sweet, I think. Too bad I don’t.”

“And why wouldn’t you want me to?” he questioned.

“’Cause you’re fine just the way you are,” she answered as she turned back to her painting.

“Just fine?” he wondered aloud, “I thought she would have said something like handsome or good-looking. Maybe even attractive,” he joked.

Arielle huffed and quickly pivoted on her heel towards him, and before he knew what hit him, she swiped her paintbrush across his face. “Now, that’s attractive,” she said.

Cade rolled his eyes, then grabbed her hand, jerked the brush out of it, and painted her face. “Now, that’s attractive,” he mocked.

“You think so?” Arielle gave him a rare smile and posed for him. She spun around. “Attractive, huh? I must thank you, Mr. Darren, I’ve never felt more beautiful in my life.”

“Oui, oui, very beautiful, Miss Myers,” Cade said with a French accent.

Arielle burst into laughter. “Thanks, Cade. I never had so much fun until you got here.”




Chapter 5



Arielle smiled as she quickly braided her hair and skipped out of her room. Joy flowed through her for multiple reasons: Cade was letting her stay; the lighthouse was almost completed; and today was Blessing’s eighth birthday.

For the past seven years, Arielle celebrated her German shepherd’s birthday. It made her feel normal, in a happy sort of way.

Arielle was twirling through the cabin when she bumped into Cade, who had just woken up.

“Whoa, slow down, Ari,” he said with a sleepy laugh as he helped her regain her balance by taking hold of her shoulders. “What are you so excited about?” His hands didn’t release her shoulders, and shivers ran up and down her arms at the touch.

“Well, for starters, today’s Blessing's birthday,” she explained, tugging away from his grasp.

“Ooo, does that mean cake and presents?” Cade asked, a glimmer in his eye that resembled a child’s look of pleasure rather than a grown man’s expression.

“Yes, but I’m making the cake,” she stated, trying not to laugh at the poor fellow. Why, he couldn’t cook to save his life.

Cade smiled. “That’s a good idea, ‘cause I have a feeling Blessing wouldn’t like ashes on her birthday,” he played.

Arielle started towards the kitchen. “You’ve got that right,” she called to him over her shoulder.

Cade walked up behind her. “So, what do you need first?” he inquired as he sat himself on the top of the counter as he did every morning.

Arielle thought for a second. “First, you need to get the eggs from the chickens. Then, I need milk, butter, flour, sugar, vanilla, baking powder, and salt,” she instructed while she pulled a large bowl from inside a cabinet. She turned to find that Cade had already left to retrieve the eggs. “Let’s get cooking,” she said to herself.

Arielle was mixing the dry ingredients when Blessing ran up to her and rubbed on her dress. The dog barked and jumped up to see what Arielle was making.

“You wanna see your cake, huh, girl?”

Blessing wagged her tail and nodded as if to answer.

At that moment, Cade walked into the kitchen with his shirt holding the eggs he collected, removed the five brown eggs, and laid them on the counter by the bowl. He pointed his finger at Blessing. “Don’t slobber on those,” he commanded.

Blessing took her paws off the counter and curled up on the floor. She whimpered.

Cade turned to Arielle. “I wasn’t that mean sounding, was I?” he asked, frowning slightly, and for some reason, she missed his smile.

Arielle laughed. “No, she’s just sensitive.” Blessing whined again. “See what I mean?”

Arielle and Cade got the cake batter mixed up, then poured it in a pan and put it in the oven. A half hour later, Arielle grabbed a towel, quickly pulled the pan out of the oven, and placed it on the table to cool.

Both Cade and Blessing stood beside the cake, a hungry gleam in their eyes.

Arielle giggled. “I’m sorry, dearies, but you’ve got to wait till the cake cools off before you can eat it,” she told them in a kind, motherly voice.

Cade released a sigh and started to pout like a child. “But, Mommy, I wanna eat cake,” he whined in a child-like tone of voice.

Arielle walked to Cade, ruffled his hair, and kissed his forehead. “Oh, Cade, you’ll get to eat cake. Now, act like a big boy. You’re what, twenty-six now, right? Act your age, deary,” she teased.

Cade’s expression softened and he smiled. “Okay, Mommy. Can we make some frosting for the cake?” he asked as he moved to the pantry and started to rummage through it.

“Alright.” Arielle started to blend up some sugar, milk, and vanilla in a pot.

Cade walked to the stove and stared at the mixture. “That’s not frosting,” he complained.

“Now, don’t complain, Cadey. This is a glasur,” she told him.

Cade looked genuinely puzzled. “Glacier?” he asked in his normal tone.

Arielle shook her head. “No, glasur. It’s German for glaze.” Looks like I'm going to be doing some educating, she thought to herself as she waited for Cade’s reply.

“Since when did you know German?” he questioned. He stirred the glaze around in the pot.

“Since my vater was German, making me half German.” She sighed at the thought of her father. Nein, nein, nein. He could not ask about her family now. Not now, not ever.

“I’m guessing vater is German for father?”

“Yes.” Arielle stared into the sugary icing. She hoped Cade would drop the conversation. Talking about her parents wasn’t as easy as one would think.

Cade nodded his head. “That’s interesting. You never told me that. Which you haven’t told me a lot of things,” he stated. He was right; she had kept her past a secret. And that’s how she liked it.

“Do you know a lot of German?” He hopped back on the counter. Cade gave her a stare that made her stomach turn flips.

“Um, yes, I can speak it just as well as I can English. Wie ist es mit Ihnen?” she asked.

“Uh, I so don’t understand. That’s terrific. What in the world did you say?” Cade looked amazed.

“I said, ‘how about you?’” She smiled. She had a lot to teach Mr. Darren, that was for sure.

“No, I can’t, obviously. I know a few words in French.” Cade leaned his head back on the wall. “Not sure where I learned ‘em though.”

“I’m curious, but if you don’t wanna tell, that’s fine. Zu schlecht ich weiß nicht französisch.”

“Now that is amazing. You have your own little language, so if you don’t want me to know what you’re saying, I won’t. So, what did you say that time?”

Arielle sat beside him on the counter. “Too bad I don’t know French,” she answered.

The glaze that was being heated on the stove beside them started to boil. The sugary goo would burn in a matter of seconds.

“Oh toll,” Arielle huffed as she hopped off the counter, stirred the glaze, and removed the pot from the heat.

“Let me guess, oh toll’s German. Right?” Cade asked, getting off the counter as well.

“German for ‘oh, great’. I say it all the time,” she replied. She handed him the hot saucepan. “Put this on the table,”Arielle instructed.

Cade grabbed the pot and set it by the cake that sat on the table beside Blessing. “You had better not be drooling on that, Blessing,” he said. “Oh, Ari, what’s German for Blessing?”

Arielle walked over beside him and poured the glaze over the still warm cake. “Segen,” she answered, smothering the cake in sugary goodness. “I prefer Blessing.”

Cade grabbed a knife and started to cut the cake. “Oh, yum. Ari, you are spectacular! I wish I could cook.”

Arielle set out three plates and Cade placed the dessert on them. “I could teach you,” she offered.

“Then I wouldn’t need you anymore,” he stated, looking quite upset at his observation.

Arielle sat down and stuffed a piece of cake in her mouth. “You know, I’m not here for just cooking. I’m a helper, house-keeper, and your friend.”

Cade smiled as Arielle ate another bite. “That’s true. Wait, you’re forgetting something,” he told her.

Arielle looked around the room. “What am I forgetting?”

Cade pointed to Blessing. “You forgot to say the blessing and say happy birthday to Blessing.”

Arielle laid her fork down. “Oops. You wanna say the prayer?”

“Sure.” Cade bowed his head and closed his eyes and started to pray. “Thank you, God, for this day and for Blessing and for Arielle. I pray for your blessings over this food. In Jesus’ name, amen.” Cade opened his eyes then smiled.

Arielle returned his smile and slid a plate of cake over to Blessing, and the dog gobbled it up in one bite. She barked in satisfaction.

“She said, ‘That’s the best cake I’ve ever eaten. Thanks, Ari,’” Cade said.

Arielle grinned. “Not quite. Blessing doesn’t call me Ari,” she contradicted.

“Well, I do.”


***


Cade and Arielle walked along the edge of the lake that afternoon after a long morning of painting and playing.

Arielle ran past Cade and stopped at a large rock. “Cade, get over here!” she yelled to him.

He quickly ran up to her. Laying on the boulder in front of them was a man.

The man looked about Cade’s age and had the looks of a well-to-do gentleman. He was clean shaven, and his clothes were soaked, but it seemed like he was wearing a suit. Definitely not from around there. But what worried him the most was the blood that dripped from a gash in his forehead.

“What do you say, Cade? Rich?” Arielle said, flipping the man over and checking his pulse.

“Probably. He alive?” he replied.

“Pulse is faint, but certainly there.” She opened his eyelids. “Pretty blue eyes,” she commented.

Arielle pulled a wet piece of paper from his front pocket. She squinted at the blurred print. “Detective Forrest Billingham,” she read.

“Wow, a detective. Wonder what he was doing in the ocean.”

Arielle slipped her arm around the man’s waist. “Help me get him to the lighthouse.”

Cade wrapped his arm around his shoulders and picked him up off the rock.

Both him and Arielle carried the man―Detective Billingham, it seemed―back to the lighthouse.

Blessing ran to meet them at the door of the cabin. She looked at the man draped over Cade’s shoulder with curiosity.

Arielle leaned down to pet her. “No, he’s not your birthday present. We found him,” she told the dog as if she knew exactly what Blessing was thinking.

Arielle turned to Cade. “This is going to be interesting,” she stated.

Interesting indeed.



Copyright © 2020 Grace Ann Johnson

All rights reserved.

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