Saturday, April 12, 2008

Diggin' Up Bones by Michelle Houston

Alisa took a sip of coffee and leaned forward, putting her elbows on the edge of the sink, and looked out the window. Wisps of red hair escaped her ponytail and she tucked the free strands behind her ear as she watched people scurrying around outside in her backyard, rudely disturbing what would have been a quiet spring morning.

"Great, just great," she muttered, turning away and heading down the hall to her study. Just as she was about to enter, a knock sounded at her front door. Cradling her cup in both hands, she went to the door and opened it.

The bane of her existence, all six feet two inches of him, stood there. Zach Bradford, part time archeologist, full time pain in the ass. Not in the mood to be polite, she stood and stared at him, impatiently waiting for him to tell her why he was further ruining her day. It would help if she hated him, but hate was the farthest thing from her mind when she was around him. Despite her best efforts, just looking at him made her melt inside.

"It's just like we thought."

Despite her thoughts, Alisa couldn't help but respond to his voice. Like whiskey, it was deep with an edge to it that gave it a kick.

"The finger bones and hatchet head you found are Native American. The testing confirmed it. They've also found some pottery shards and a leg bone so far today. It's looking as if we'll be here a while."

Without saying a word, Alisa nodded and tried to close the door, but Zach stopped it with his foot. Glaring at him, she gave the door a push. "I've said you can do your dig. Now go!"

"Alisa, I--"

Her eyes closed at the pain his words caused. Despite the years, she remembered the phrase that had started out the same way so long ago. Alisa, I love you, talk to me, please. What's going on? But she hadn't been able to tell him her secret shame. She hadn't been able to tell anyone.

He continued, "I didn't mean for this to happen. But you know, as well as I do, any Native American artifacts found have to be preserved. The Cherokee Nation's representative will be here soon to begin overseeing the dig and the preservation of any items retrieved."

Opening her eyes, she fought to keep calm. "I'm aware of that, Zach, that's why I called you! I told you I'd support your dig on my property. What more do you want from me?" Despite her best efforts, she could hear the pain that laced each word. She knew Zach would hear it, too.

"I just want us to be friends again."

Good ol' Zach, everybody's buddy. Even after she pushed him away, he had tried to remain her friend. The annual birthday and Christmas cards he sent her like clockwork testified to that fact. It was the other gifts, the treasured book on Valentine's Day, sent by messenger and without a card, the single red rose delivered on the anniversary of their first date, and the dozens of other little things that he anonymously sent to her that let her know he was still in love with her. And it all nearly broke her heart.

As much as she hated to do it, she had to be firm. She wasn't ready for him yet--and didn't know if she ever would be. She loved him too much to ask him to wait.

"I don't think we can be friends. Now, if you don't mind, I have some work to do." As he pulled his foot back, Alisa gently closed the door and locked it. Leaning against the heavy wood, she allowed the tears to flow. So many years and so much wasted time. Smacking her palm against the door in frustration, she slowly slid down to the floor and brought her knees up against her chest.