THE HIKE: A Kanuk, Alaska story;

By Voni Harris on

Divorce…the word had never been spoken in her family before. But there it was.

She and Chad would be divorced soon. The papers were all complete. Signed even. Sitting on her kitchen counter.

Chad was already living in an apartment of his own.

So, why had she agreed to this hike with him?

They had promised Salmon and Jennie to help chaperone the church youth group, that was why. It was the group’s annual hike out to Termination Point, where the land met the ocean a few miles outside of Kanuk. Tatiana rolled her eyes and sighed. Not only was Chad going to be on the trip, but it was raining ferociously.

But Alaskans were used to the rain, especially in this part of the state. “Gear up and go” was the motto around here, and accordingly, Chad and Tatiana would put on their rain gear and go on the 13-mile hike as promised.

Divorce and all.

She pulled up at the trailhead parking lot and parked in the one parking spot that wasn’t full of groups of teens texting and talking and pulling on rain gear. Scoping out the rest of the parking lot, she saw that Salmon and Jennie were collecting permission slips, trying to keep them dry as much as possible. And Chad was already there, helping one of the boys who’d spilled the contents of his backpack onto the wet pavement next to Salmon and Jennie’s car. Sighing, Tatiana pulled the hood of her lime green jacket over her head and stepped out into the storm.

Jennie waved at her, “Hey, Tatiana! Over here! Glad you could make it!”

Sighing again, Tatiana headed over and accepted Jennie’s soggy hug.

“We were thinking that Jennie and I could lead out,” Salmon said, “with you and Chad bringing up the rear. We shouldn’t lose anyone that way.”

She stopped herself from yet another sigh. “Sure,” she agreed.

Jennie squinted her eyes just a little, recognizing Tatiana’s half-hearted acquiescence. “Okay then,” she said. “Everyone’s here. Let’s go.”

Salmon put the last of the permission slips into his waterproof backpack, grabbed his wife’s hand, and cried out, “Let’s do this thing!”

The teens laughed, and gathered around to listen to Salmon’s instructions, which went over Jennie’s head as she thought ahead to a full day playing nice with Chad. The fact that it was raining just topped the day off perfectly.

Salmon called out, “All right, you guys! Everyone follow me and the most beautiful woman in the world. Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon will bring up the rear.” Then he kissed Jennie soundly to the sound of teenage giggles, and they began to walk.

Tatiana’s felt a guilty ping at being called Mrs. Sheldon, but she fell in with Chad behind the teenagers. The silence was like a physical wall between her and Chad, but it was no less than she’d expected.

Salmon and Jennie’s son, Noah, walked with his friend Bill in front of them. “Are your parents always like that?” Bill asked Noah.

He chuckled. “Always. It’s corny, but, I dunno. It’s okay. They’re funny.”

“At least they love each other. My dad cheated on Mom. I don’t care if I ever see him again…And I don’t guess I ever will.”

Tatiana looked over at Chad. He’d heard, too. Adultery? At least their problems didn’t go that far! There weren’t even financial difficulties coming between them. They didn’t really know each other any more…like when he bought her an expensive bouquet of flowers for her last birthday instead of the running shoes she’d been desperately wanting. She’d accused him of forgetting the occasion, and the day had gotten worse from there.

It was just that Chad was always at work these days. He said she was always working out. They’d simply grown apart.

That and they’d never been able to have children.

Tatiana didn’t hear any of the rest of the boys’ conversation, her mind traveling back over the disappointments and arguments of the last few years. She couldn’t get them out of her head. They were like the page of a book that you couldn’t turn. They were the reason she’d signed the divorce papers.

Suddenly Noah and Bill stopped short. Noah pointed. “Look,” he whispered. There was a bear about two miles away, fishing in a creek.

The power and majesty and athleticism of the bear caused Tatiana’s mouth to curve into a smile.

“He’s far enough away, we’re fine, but we’d better not hang around,” Chad whispered, grinning at the boys, but letting his smile fade when he glanced at Tatiana.

The bear did one thing for her, though: it brought her mind sharply into focus on the nature around her and away from her problems with Chad. She felt the beauty of nature working on her heart. “Fireweed is almost done blooming out,” she pointed out to Chad, unable to stop herself. “Must be fall.”

"Must be,” he murmured.

Conversation hadn’t been their strong point recently. Tatiana sighed loudly. No wonder they’d signed the divorce papers. Chad rolled his eyes. The rest of the hike to the Point was silent, Tatiana’s mind back on the bleak, angry years of their marriage. The thought that it hadn’t always been that way just made her angrier as they hiked on. So much for God’s incredible creation!

NEXT WEEK: Tatiana and Chad discover information that is nothing less than shocking to their marriage.
Click here for part 2 of The Hike.