“I give up Emma. This place is impossible to find.” Carrianne slumped down into the leather booth and peered at her friend over the table.
“Nothing is impossible!” Emma raised her fist in the air. “We will –“
“Emma!” Carrianne sat up quickly and batted at Emma’s arm. “You don’t have to shout. I’m sitting in front of you.”
Emma smiled sheepishly. “Sorry.”
“You’re forgiven,” Carrianne said while rolling her eyes. “Just remember to use your indoor voice.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Emma waved off Carrianne’s words.
“Excuse me ladies.” An elderly man with coke-bottle glasses stood by the table and handed the girls menus. “Can I get you anything to drink?”
“I’ll have a coffee, black,” Carrianne said with a light smile.
“Do you have milkshakes?” Emma asked as she batted her eyelashes.
“Yes we do.” The man’s voice had a slight country twang to it. “We’ve got vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. I recommend the strawberry as we get them fresh from the field this time of year.”
“Excellent.” Emma peered at the man’s name tag. “George, I will have a strawberry milkshake.”
George left, presumably to make their drinks, and the girls went back to their conversation.
“Do you remember anything about Winterwood?” Emma asked.
Carrianne shook her head. “I was only five. The only thing I remember was one of the older kids kept teasing me. I think it was a boy; Matt or Mark. Something like that. I use to call him the terror.”
Emma giggled. “You? Call someone a terror? Never.”
“Oh, be quiet.” Carrianne looked over at the counter and noticed George staring at them. “People are staring.”
Emma looked around. “No they aren’t. There’s no one here to stare. Pity, I was hoping they would be cute.”
“Not customers. That old man was staring at you.”
“Who? George? He can stare if he wants. He’s sweet.”
Carrianne slapped her forehead. “Emma! We just met the man. How can you know if he’s sweet or a murderous maniac with a chainsaw?”
“Easy, he doesn’t have a chainsaw.”
“That’s because it’s getting repaired; Puts a damper on the killing.” George set a bright pink milkshake in front of Emma and a steaming cup of coffee in front of Carrianne, who had turned red with embarrassment.
“Sorry about that. I’m trying to teach her to be careful around strangers.”
“No offense.” George laughed which made his brown eyes sparkle like melted chocolate. “I grew up with a friend like her. She kept me on my toes before she moved to the city.”
“That’s sad,” Emma said while frowning. “What happened to her?”
“Well, she got married and had a little girl. Settled down better than anyone else I know.”
“That’s ‘cuz she got out all her crazy.” Emma nodded sagely.
Carrianne rolled her eyes. “George, I was wondering if you might help us. We managed to get a little lost.”
“Most people do ‘round here. Where’re ya looking for?”
“Winterwood! Home of adventure!” Emma said between slurps of her milkshake.
“Well, that is a tricky one. Not many people come through looking for that. I reckon you passed it long ago.”
“Thanks, George,” Carrianne said dismissively.
“Now hold on. I didn’t say I couldn’t help. Why are you looking for Winterwood anyway?” George pulled over a chair from a nearby table and sat down.
“Adventure, treasure –“
“My family is from there,” Carrianne interrupted Emma with a cold glance.
“What did you say your name was little one?”
Carrianne’s eyes narrowed as she subtly slipped further into the booth, away from George.
“I didn’t but my family name is Picketts.”
“You’re not Wilhelmina’s daughter by any chance?” George said, his demeanor seeming a lot more friendly.
“Yes, she was the one that told me to come. Why? Did you know her?”
“Bet she’s the friend. Your mom seems like the crazy in her youth type.”
“She was.” George laughed. “Use to talk to her all the time. But I haven’t heard from her in over a year now. Funny that she sent you. I remember her saying that she would never send her Carrie back to Winterwood.”
“You haven’t heard from her because she died,” Carrianne stated. “She had cancer.”
“May she rest in peace.” George made the sign of the cross on his body.
Carrianne frowned. “You’re catholic? I never would have expected that.”
“Because I work on the reservation or because I look Native? I am a Catholic Native though. I even go to Mass twice a week.”
“No, it’s not either of those things. It’s just something Mom said about Winterwood. I thought everyone around here was part of a crazy religious cult. You seem surprisingly normal.”
George laughed and stood up. “Sit tight, I’ll draw you a map and make you some breakfast. It would have been a long drive from the city to get here.”