Fifteen-year-old Jackie left her room in the Adirondack's Quinnesec Lodge and took the stairs instead of the elevator down to the lobby. When she opened the door at that level, she peered out and breathed a sigh of relief. Her parents were nowhere to be seen, they must still be at the dance. She crossed to the side entrance, let herself out into the midsummer blue evening and followed the sweet scent of honeysuckle to the maze that concealed the mystic spring-fed moon pool.
Her father insisted the mystic part was only one of those made-for-tourists Native American legends, but Jackie wanted to believe in the romantic tale of the Algonquin maiden and the Iroquois brave and how, in the mid-seventeen hundreds they'd met by chance at this very same pool.
She entered the maze, her mind fixed on the legend that told how these two, enemies by tradition, fell in love and met there as often as possible. She imagined them on a midsummer evening gazing into the pool at the reflection of the moon and their images, hoping for a glimpse of a future together.
Instead, arrows flew, aimed by her kinsmen at the enemy brave. She flung herself in front of her lover and they died together. From that day a mist claimed the pool so no images could be seen. Her people named it quinnesec, meaning smoky.
Sad, but so romantic. Jackie sighed as she made the turns she'd memorized to get to the center of the maze. But she must have slipped up because she came to a dead end. Retracing her steps, she turned left instead of right, hoping that would take her to the mystic pool. But even if she found it, would the poll still be mist-shrouded?
She'd expected to be alone, but, as she came out of the maze into the center, she paused when she saw a figure standing beside the pool. Moonlight told her he was male and about her age.
"Hi," she said, advancing toward him. "I didn't think anyone would be here what with the dance and all."
He turned to look at her. "I'm not much for dancing to golden oldies."
"Me either. I came to the pool because I sort of wanted to be alone here."
"Meaning I should cut out?"
"Oh, no! You were here first and, anyway, I don't mind having company. Look at that full moon--it's absolutely beautiful."
"A blue moon."
"Means this is the second full moon this month. It’s special, only happens once in a while."
She sighed. "Oh, that's so romantic."
"If you know about blue moons, maybe you can tell me what a gibbous moon is. Like in that poem when the highway man came riding, riding, riding over the purple moor."
"Gibbous is when the moon's not quite full, coming or going. I take it you like poetry."
"I hope to be a poet someday." She drew in her breath. "I've never told anyone that before. Don't laugh."
When he didn't, she said, "Now it's your turn to tell me a secret."
He shrugged. "Can't think of any."
"Tell me the truth. In your secret heart of hearts, what do you want to do with your life?"
"Save the world. Your turn to laugh." He sort of mumbled the words but she heard them.
"Save the world how?"
He shrugged again. "Just make it a better place to live. Haven't got the how figured out yet."
"Maybe you can find out. The pool's supposed to show couples their future. We're two, so that makes us a couple, but maybe if we look into the water together, it'll work for each of us separately."
"Providing the mist lifts enough to see anything. What we need here is some kind of incantation."
He spoke lightly, but the idea took hold of her. Should she? Why not?
"Maybe this will work:
“Candle of memory, forever burning bright
Your flickering light
Illuminates the lonely, loveless
Long, dark night."
"One of your poems?"
As she nodded, she noticed the mist was lifting. "Look!"
Together they gazed into the dark water of the pool.
"Nothing but a little flicker of light," he said. "Must be a reflection of the moon."
Awed by what she saw, she said, "No. Look again. It’s a candle flame. You know the saying about lighting a single candle? Maybe you will save the world. For me it could be like in my poem, the candle of memory. Maybe it means I'll be a poet."
"Or it could mean we'll remember."
"Remember tonight? Oh, let's. We won’t tell our names to make it even more romantic, okay? Sort of bittersweet since we may never meet again.
"Whatever you say--uh, bittersweet it is."
She started to reply but stopped when she heard someone calling, "Jackie? Jackie, are you out here somewhere?"
"Rats. That's my mom. I was supposed to stay in my room. I better go. Good night."
He watched her rush off into the maze. Turning back to the pool he saw the flickering light was gone. The dark water reflected only the moon. The blue moon Jackie thought was so romantic. Maybe it was, since they'd never meet again. Without realizing he intended to, he murmured:
"Candle of memory, forever burning bright
Your flickering light
Illuminates the lonely, loveless
Long dark night."
Bittersweet? Yeah, whatever that means..
In her Saginaw, Michigan apartment, Lynn Nolan turned from staring from her window at the April rain to reread her mother's letter. As her mother pointed out, she shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, especially when it was a thirtieth birthday present. Actually she couldn't, since her parents had already paid for two weeks in June at the place, claiming she needed to get away. But why in the world would they think she wanted to go to Quinnesec Lodge?
It'd been fifteen years since she'd been there. If she did go back, it would be for what the lodge called a "farewell visit" because they were selling out. And , since her parents were cruise-bound in June, she'd be alone.
Alone was a key word these days. Her career as a microbiologist had taken off, but she couldn't say the same for her social life since her divorce.
Quinnesec Lodge. Lynn sighed, aware she'd have to go.
Two months later, now a registered guest at the lodge, Lynn took the elevator to the lobby, stepped out and approached the Bell Captain.
"How may I help you, Ms.?" he asked.
"The notice about the kittens?"
"They're in the barn, Ms., along with the adoption sign-up sheet where you put down your choice and room number."
Lynn left the lodge by the side door. She certainly hadn't planned to bring a kitten home with her, but how could she not adopt one when the alternative for them otherwise was death. She entered the barn, finding it gloomy after the bright sunshine.
"Anybody here?" she called.
"Not unless you count me," a man's voice replied. "If you're looking for the kittens, I've found them. "
She headed for the voice, saw a man crouched beside a cardboard box and knelt on the opposite side of the box.
"Good grief, there are seven on them," she said.
"Eight. I'm holding one. He's my choice."
She peered at him, saw that the tiny black kitten he held looked smaller than any of the others.
"You're choosing the runt of the litter? Why on earth? The others are bigger and stronger and probably healthier. From a scientific point of view, You're not making a good choice."
"Who else will want him?"
"I'm not Spock. Logic never helped me much. Science either."
A bit miffed, Lynn said, "Science happens to be my field. What's yours?"
"I own a farm."
"Upstate New York. Came here to oversee the last rites for Quinnesec Lodge."
"That's a gloomy way to look at a vacation."
"So you're not here to bury the old timer?"
Distracted by a calico kitten trying to climb out of the box, Lynn didn't answer. As she picked up the kitten, it licked her finger. "Hey, I like this one's spirit. She's my choice."