Annie ended the night on the back porch playing kissy face and giving her body a thorough work out rubbing up against a horny DJ she'd been flirting with at a local Karaoke Bar.
He'd told her a month ago that he loved her singing.
That made her go weak in the knees and fall for all his sweet talk which ceased after their third date.
Now even on the porch, with his hands all over her, he didn't say much, and that was just as well, it helped her keep her head and not get carried away with emotion.
Coming to her senses, she abruptly broke away from him and went in the house asking herself, "What the hell, was I thinking."
Glad to be alone, she relaxed with a glass of merlot, a plate of cheese tidbits on toothpicks, and good intentions to satisfy the hunger between her thighs before she shut her eyes for the night.
She tried to convince herself sleeping with him would be meaningless and there was no reason it should leave her feeling hurt and hollow in the morning but she knew herself well and that it wouldn't fly.
If just kissing and messing around with him had left her feeling more sad and lonely than she was before, it was only logical that having a one night stand in the hopes things would improve, would be delusional.
She was a romantic at heart and could not imagine having satisfying sex without love--yet love would have taken a bigger effort than either she or her new found friend were ready to put forth.
Lonely and wanting a man in her life, she'd stayed positive figuring that eventually he would explain himself.
Annie tried to find out how he felt about her but he owed her nothing, she owed him nothing and that kept them both in limbo.
The possible reasons "why" were endless.
She told herself, maybe he's married. Maybe he's reunited with a first love, maybe he's tired, working too hard, maybe he's got a hot new cyber-sex chick that makes me seem dull.
Then again she wondered if his lack of response was because he was upset by something she'd said or didn't say, or that she'd written him too much, or too little, or maybe another singer had said things that'd turned him against her.
The "maybe" scenario had no end to it.
It didn't even occur to her that the "real" reason could be the same as the oft quoted title of the recent best seller "He's Just Not Into Into You That Much."
Bristling she looked in the mirror and sized herself up--indignantly she asked herself "So what's not to love?"
The only thing she knew for sure, was that after his original burst of sweet talk--he had little to discuss--couldn't seem to put more than twenty words together at a time and hadn't proven to be any more fluent after a few drinks.
It made her wonder how they would ever be able to enjoy each other in bed if having an ordinary conversation was so difficult. She liked her sex with talk and she couldn't see that happening with him.
Actually, she thought, I should be grateful that things didn't get any further--BUT WHAT CONTINUED TO BUG HER--was why she'd even agreed to date him at all.
Suddenly it dawned on her that this was more about HER than him, and by spending time with men not suitable, she avoided ones who were--delayed her rejoining the human race--being with a man who loved to talk, a man who'd steal her heart and excite her mind and body.
The love of Annie's life had died the year before and when he did, she felt like she'd died with him.
Since then she'd felt empty--had no energy--did little more than move in slow motion through her daily routine.
She was a writer and now it took her twice as long to write her column, "Pioneer Home Cooking and Restoration."
It had been easy to talk the editor of the Flint News into giving her a leave of absence for six months.
He'd agreed and only had one condition--that she'd mail him four articles a month that'd supplement old ones that'd proven to be popular with the paper's readership.
But for now, she was giving her mind a rest and concentrating on fixing up her dad's cabin in a northern wilderness adjacent to thousands of acres of state owned land on beautiful Lake Michigan.
The homesteaded property was deeded to her grandfather in 1876. He had inherited it from his father and on back several generations, father to father.
Annie's grand-father had sold half of it in the 1970's to world famous rock star who wanted his privacy to party hard with his band, other rock stars, and assorted groupies.
As part of the real estate deal "Mr. Rock Star" agreed that Annie's father would build his new log lodge and then stay on as the caretaker.
It had been further agreed that Annie, her father and any ascendants, would retain life time rights to the adjacent pioneer log cabin that had been built on the original 80 acres procured through the 1875 United States Homestead Act.
The present down-state folks who'd recently purchased the Rock-Star's lodge had left Labor Day for the winter to go south leaving the newly arrived Annie to close up.
Although she was always pleasant to everyone, Annie wasn't much for getting social with locals.
She did however, occasional visit the village bar for Karaoke and to stay over night in the Paradise Bed and Breakfast, mainly to take a long hot bath and get away from her usual routine.
She worked hard physically every day on fixing up the place and found she needed to get out of there once and awhile and let her hair down.
Being forced to build a fire the past few days made her feel the urgency of making the old cabin ready for winter and told her to get her butt moving, that time had run out.
Annie knew that IF she was going stay the winter she had to replace that gawd-awful ill fitting steel front door and get a pipe driven for an artesian well.
The door was to satisfy her soul and the well was to keep her supplied with non-stop running water--water that wouldn't freeze as it was known to do with the old hand pump her dad had installed years before over the kitchen sink.
She wasn't worried about heat. With only one big room, there were enough cords of wood in the wood shed for the Garland Cooking Range. It'd be plenty, not only for cooking and heating water in its big reservoir, but would keep her warm too.
The candles and lamp oil she found stored in the cabin were a bonus--enough get her through the winter without electricity.
She'd thought about buying a generator, but then she'd have to always be buying gasoline to run it.
Her snowmobile could take her into town to get it, but she didn't want to have to depend on it.
When she first arrived in August of 2010, she'd found two small tanks of propane gas that'd be likely to get her past winter--enough to run the 1940's Servel Propane Gas Refrigerator and 1950's Tappan Propane Gas Kitchen Range.
For shooting ducks and general protection, she had her dad's old twenty gauge shot gun that was still in the gun case along with enough shells and buck shot to get her by--she knew how to use it--but hoped it wouldn't be necessary.
In her teens she was known as "Sharp Shoot'n Annie Oakley, " but killing creatures or even putting a nightcrawler or minnow on hook, went against her grain.
Upon arriving at the cabin she started laying in food, building a larder--her victuals--her food supplies and provision as her ancestors would have done.
Her first purchase was from a local farmer who took pride in his grain fed hogs.
Assured it had been killed "Kosher Style" she cured it herself with brown sugar and salt after the delivery boy had hung it in the coolest part of the cellar.
Next Annie had purchased bushels of produce from nearby farmer and stocked the root cellar with potatoes and apples and cider for vinegar and hard cider.
The shelves leading up from the cellar, were then filled with fruits and vegetables she'd canned in grandmother's 20 quart cast iron pressure cooker.
Upstairs on the shelves above the old range she stored staples--Mason Jars full of dried wild rice, navy beans, kidney beans, corn meal, wheat bran, dried yeast, rice, rye and whole-wheat flour, corn starch, organic sugar, brown and powdered sugar.
Gelatin, cream of tartar, honey, vanilla extract, and a variety of spices such as pepper, garlic, onion, chili powder, sage, Hershey's Extra Dark Cocoa, green tea, and bottles of lemon concentrate filled up the old Hoosier Cabinet next to the range.
On the floor by the refrigerator sat a big can of lard rendered from the pig along with cans of olive oil of every description and North Atlantic Wild Salmon.
She stored the soap she'd made from the pig renderings and lye, by the back door, along with two 25 lb. sacks of Bird Seed and blocks of salt for the deer.
When she'd first arrived, she fixed up a bathroom of sorts--from a big walk-in a closet with a window.
There was an outdoor privy with a half-crescent moon, for toilet needs, but in here she could take a sponge bath and had an emergency portable camper toilet when it was too dark and scary to go out doors.
Shelves on the wall and a big mirror took the place of a medicine cabinet. Here she stored boxes of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, Morton's Sea Salt, bottles of Dollar Store cheap five grain aspirin, left over antibiotics, Epsom salt, Pepto-Bismo, Band-Aids, bandages, elastic bandages, tape, anti-biotic cream, Bag Balm, Vaseline, sun screen, Retin A, and one hundred bottles of assorted vitamins.
With all these preparations for winter completed she was beginning to feel secure and more positive about staying the winter but was still concerned about being alone.
With a little coaxing, "Old Red" the owner of Paradise Hunter's Winery and Goat Cheese Deli, agreed to visit twice a week and keep Annie supplied with his hunter's venison, rabbit, salmon, and his own free range chicken n' eggs, goat cheese n' milk.
It became an even sweeter deal when he told her he'd deliver her purchases for free if she'd write up ads and do signs for his store.
She figured if all her plans failed to work out and she decided to high tail it back to the city, she'd donate it all to hunters and old friends of her dad's that lived in the area.
After the work of putting up supplies was done, she began concentrating on the cabins interior to try and make it feel like a home.
Most of the furniture in the cabin was original and hand crafted from the 1800's, including the beds which instead of having springs, had ropes stretched from side to side and from end to end.
On the ropes was a "tick" filled with straw that served as a mattress. Three new feather ticks from a local man who hand crafted big plump feather ones, replaced it.
Putting them on top of the old log bed made it look like a giant sofa, especially with 15 new feather pillows she purchased along with the mattresses. These she out fitted by whipping up red paisley covers and shams on the cabins treadle 1850's Singer Sewing Machine.
Underneath the bed on the original roll out trundle bed where little ones used to sleep, she stored her clothes. That along with the racks of deer horns on a nearby wall to hang her clothes, proved sufficient.
Bottom line, within six weeks, she had made the run-down log cabin look homey and charming.
This still left Annie with her two original problems she'd put off fixing. The water and that damnable re-muddled 1970's front door she couldn't stand.
In retrospect she could kick herself for not taking care of these two problems first, because now she was running out of time and snow was bound to arrive any day.
Getting up early the fifteenth of October, she put on her hiking boots and walked 5 miles into town determined to find a man who was both a carpenter and and a well driller.
With a flowing well--an artesian well--she wouldn't have to worry about her water freezing as was the danger now with the hand pump over the kitchen sink.
A steady stream of water flowing into the sink and on out into the stream that ran back into Lake Michigan would give her a practical solution and be environmentally sound.
And that log cabin's door--how she loved it--longed to have it restored. All she needed was a halfway decent carpenter to rebuild it.
She wanted it to look like it did when she was a happy little girl standing before it all excited to enter and behold the treasures that awaited her arrival every summer long about June 1st.
It was friendly looking door and downright inviting. It was cross buck and made out of 3" thick wooden planks--black walnut--that had gained a soft glowing patina over the years from being treated kindly by gentle folks.
It hung on huge wooden hinges and on the inside, there was a latch with a piece of string attached to it.
The loose end of the string could be pushed through a hole in the door. Then when pulled from the outside, the string lifted the latch and the door opened. To lock the door, the latch was pulled inside.
Her dad told her that back in the 1800's when the log cabin was built it was not customary to knock on the door. If you did, it was thought of as "putting on airs." Instead, you simply pulled the latchstring and walked in.
He further explained that it was common to tell a close friend "For you, the latch string will always be on the outside."
When she was a child, Annie fondly recalled her father telling friends, "No need to knock, just come on in and make yourself at home."
By the time she made it into town, the main street of the village was busy with bow hunters and various charter color-tour busses
Heading straight for the busiest looking bar and restaurant, she ordered lunch and draft beer.
When she finished she ordered a second beer and asked the bartender if he knew of anyone in the area that could drive her a quick artesian well and fix her front door.
Not hesitating he pointed over to the far booth.
"See that guy in the tan Stetson cowboy hat and the red plaid Pendleton jacket? Folks call him 'Billy The Kid.' He's not a local boy, but he's honest and pretty handy. He drilled a well and fixed up his own hunting cabin real nice awhile back."
"Thanks. I want to talk to him. Please take him a drink and ask him if it's okay if I join him."
Within minutes she was at his booth handing him one of her dad's old guide cards with a map to her cabin on the back.
When he looked up at her and smiled her heart raced. He was nothing short of drop dead gorgeous with a grin that made her knees weak.
Getting hold of herself, she extended her hand and said, "I'm Annie--the bartender said I should talk to you--may I sit down?"
In return he handed her one of his cards and replied, "Sure enough, I'm Billy, glad to meet you. I knew your dad long time ago, but didn't know he was doing guide work anymore."
"He's not, he passed away, I'm trying to fix the old place up. Got a lot done in the past weeks, but now I need a man to drive pipe for an artesian well and to re-build my front door."
Crossing himself he said, "God bless his soul," adding I know all about that door on your cabin, your dad used to leave the string on the outside for me when I'd come up stay with him--he started calling me 'Billy The Latch Key Kid.'
"You've GOT to be kidding me . . . this is incredible."
"Yeah, it sure is, and your right about that artesian well too. I told your dad long time ago he needed to do that to keep the water from freezing. Place is no damn good without water and it'd freeze every year."
"This is wonderful Billy. I'm so happy I found you like this. Can't believe it!"
"You sound like your daddy Annie. He was such a great guy, we'd talk for hours and hours non-stop. Always told me I should meet you, but I moved to California and stayed gone. Finally had to come back to my roots, couldn't stand being away any longer, missed my old cobbled up shack."
"I remember now, my dad DID tell me about you, for years in fact . . . I'll be re-living all of them on my trek back home."
"Tell you what pretty lady, I was planning to bow hunt up your way today. How about if I give you a lift back home in my jeep? That way I can see what you've done with the place and we can plan out the work that needs to be done before the snow flies."
Laughing she said, "I KNEW I didn't want to hike back. I'll grab my coat."
They walked out the back where Billy was parked up against a bunch of cedars.
"Let me get that for you," he told her as he took her arm to guide her past low hanging branches to the passenger side
Beneath the shirt she saw his muscles bunch and turn hard, as he leaned over to open the door and lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her as if by accident.
With his lips pressed to hers something hot and intense flooded her senses and her fingers curled into the virgin wool of his shirt that was warm from his flesh. Tongue on hers his hand slid between her coat and under her sweater where he cupped her breast and fanned his thumb over her nipple leaving her breathless.
Just as she gave serious thought to grabbing his other hand and shoving it down her pants, he took his hand from her coat.
"Get in," he ordered, his voice gravelly from raw lust, "I need to get your door fixed so YOU can start calling me, 'Billy The Latch Key Kid.' "
To Be Continued