“Oh?” he asked, intrigued.
“There’s a lot of Russian on my mother’s side, on top of the Tlingit. My maternal grandmother had a torrid love affair with a Russian fisherman. My mother is my uncle Yazzie’s half sister. So I have no idea about my maternal grandfather. Or at least my biological one.”
“Hey, close to the Ukraine,” he teased, and she laughed. “Torrid, eh?”
“Yeah, though I don’t like to think about Le´elk’w having any kind of torrid anything.”
Derek laughed. “Yeah, I can’t picture Katlian as a young woman, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit that her and her sister were a bit of a… Well, they had fun.”
Evelyn laughed. “I’m glad you’re letting Mo still have a connection to her mother, and I hope for Mo’s sake it continues for a while longer.”
She knew all too well the pain of losing your connection with everything you knew. Your heritage, everyone you loved. It was horrible, and no one should ever have to go through the pain of losing a piece of their soul.
“Me too,” Derek admitted.
It didn’t take them long to reach Derek’s in-laws. Evelyn stayed in the car and Derek made a couple of trips to bring in the luggage that Mo needed for her couple of nights with her grandparents.
Mo gave Evelyn a hug before she left, and Evelyn cherished those small arms wrapped around her neck in a hug that had completely caught her off guard but was appreciated all the same.
Once Mo was settled, Derek returned to the car. “You ready for a trip to the summit?”
“Come on! Your le´elk’w has an adventurous spirit. You need to have one too.”
“I do have an adventurous spirit.”
“Then there’s no problem,” Derek teased.
It wasn’t a long drive to the center of Juneau’s cruise ship dock. There were a couple of large ships in the harbor, but Derek parked and was able to get tickets for the next trip up in the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway.
They crammed onto the tram with all the other people on their trip. It was a bit of crush, and most of the people were tourists from the cruise ships. Evelyn found herself crammed in a corner, with Derek pressed against her.
Evelyn craned her neck and saw the cables disappear almost vertically up the side of the mountain into the mist.
“Oh, my God,” she whispered. “We’re going up that?”
Derek looked. “Yep. It’s eighteen hundred feet up and it’s one of the most vertical tramways in the world.”
She closed her eyes. “Remind me to murder you if we survive this.”
“You can hold on to me—or to the hand-holds.”
Evelyn went to reach for one, but an older man in front of her grabbed it, not noticing her. Derek reached down and wrapped a strong arm around her, pulling her close as he held onto a hand-hold himself. His arm around her gave her a sense of security she hadn’t felt in so long.
It was nice.
The door shut and the tram began to move out of the station and up through the mist and the rainforest that blanketed the lower elevation around the mountain, on their way to the subalpine eco system at the summit.
Evelyn opened her eyes and braved the view as Juneau disappeared below them and they rose above the mist that was clinging above the city. The sun came out, burning away the drizzle, and she couldn’t help but stare at the beauty in wonder.
Derek chuckled. “See—it’s worth it.”
“If we survive to the upper station,” she teased.
“Well, since we’re almost there I think that’s a safe bet.”
Evelyn peered over to the front of the tram to see the upper tram station waiting for them. Once the tram was safely docked the doors opened. Derek and Evelyn lingered to let the other people get off first, so they weren’t caught up in the mad crush of tourists.
“Want to go for a quick hike? John said he’d meet us at the Langstrom Grill at seven o’clock. We can head up to the alpine meadow and then take the tram back down.”
“Sounds good. Lead the way. I don’t think I have my footing yet.”
“What?” Derek asked playfully. “Come on, you, goose. This is solid ground.”
“It’s a cliff. This station is hovering over a cliff.”
Derek rolled his eyes and then stomped his foot. “See—it’s solid… Whoa! Whoa! Oh, my God, I’m going to fall off the edge of this cliff.”
Evelyn punched his arm. “Ha-ha. Funny.”
Derek was shaking his head and still laughing as they left the tram and headed for a path that wound its way through two-hundred-foot-tall trees up to the alpine meadow. There were a lot of tourists going there and back, but Evelyn didn’t find them as overwhelming as when they were riding the tram.