The wedding was held the following Labor Day weekend at the shop. Family, friends, clients, and every passerby on the Trans-Canada Highway that day were welcome. Bikers from all parts of the continent had dropped in to congratulate Cain and Julie and to give a monetary gift. The five acres of land that Cain had now owned was alive with well-wishers enjoying the food, drinks, and the live band. It was a spectacular event. Later that night, Cain and Julie took the red-eye to the Caribbean for their honeymoon and Cain’s parents took care of things while they were away. They had a fantastic honeymoon.
Everything was going well for Julie and Cain; the business was booming and Cain had hired an older friend to help with the repairs. Julie ran the business from the office and Cain ran the business from the shop. Cain felt that in another few years he could safely merge from his day job that he still held at Sutherland to finally running the bike shop full time. He would finally be living his dream. They loved to go camping and hunting together and Julie was an avid hiker. She loved the outdoors and she explored the woods surrounding their five acres. Julie would sometimes bring a small axe and make trails through the woods on Saturday afternoons when Cain was busy working on a bike. They had a deep love for one another and always had a great time together. They were happy.
Four years later, true to his plan, Cain finally retired from his job at Sutherland Honda. He was 38. The office staff held a Farewell party that afternoon and customers were invited to the free barbecue. All hated to see Cain leave, he was well-liked and an important part of the team. But all knew of his shop and they would call him with business. Everyone in the area owned ATVs, Ski-doos, motorbikes, and cars and trucks. Cain had worked on all types of engines, even small engines like lawnmowers. He was the best mechanic Sutherland Honda had ever known. It just wasn’t going to be the same without him. Later that night, Julie comforted Cain for he felt bad about leaving his job. It was going to take time to adjust. He felt better after Julie gave him some good news. She was pregnant.
That winter was one of the coldest ever recorded. Julie and Cain kept warm with a roaring fire. Every fall Cain made sure that they had enough firewood for the winter and that the freezer was full of meat. He would buy a full side of beef and pork, and he would hunt for the deer that would also get them through the winter. Julie would go to the farmer’s market every weekend and the vegetables and fruit that could be frozen was piled in the freezer as well. Buying in bulk was cheaper and organic meat was better than what they put on for sale in the local supermarkets. There was always plenty of gas in the truck and the first aid kit was always full of supplies.
Business was slow. Travelers were light. Occasionally, they would get truckers looking for a warm bed and good meal. The rest stop was designed for bikers, but they would accommodate larger trucks in special cases. Well, it was only in special cases that truckers would have to stop, like in the middle of a ferocious snowstorm. A free breakfast was always included with the price of a room, but in the winter, a hot home-cooked dinner was always free. And Julie liked to cook and bake. It was nice to have company to dinner on those long winter evenings and truckers had such interesting stories to tell.
By the time spring came by Julie was doing the duck-walk; she was almost eight months pregnant and happily waddling around. The doctor had given her a clean bill of health at her last check up, but now wanted to see her every two weeks. She had the nursery almost finished and all the diapers and wipes had been piling up on the floor. She, just like Cain, was always prepared. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and the sun was shining. The temperature had come up from the -30s and was holding at -5. Cain was out in the shop working on a bike, so she got dressed and decided to go for a little trek in snowshoes around the property. Why she took the axe no one will ever know.
An hour later, Cain went outside to check on his wife. She was nowhere within eye distance. He went into the office to see if she was there, but no luck. He went to the house and called her name, but no answer. He walked around to the main rest stop, but no tracks. He was suddenly struck by a sense that she was in trouble. He headed out toward the trail to the back of the property and found her tracks going into the woods. He called her name, but she did not answer. The snow was deep, and he was having trouble; he was trying to hurry. He fell through her snowshoe tracks. He repeatedly called her name and got no answer. His heart started to race as he plowed through the snow. He fell a few times, face first in the snow. As he was getting up from another fall, he saw her up ahead, face first in the snow. He hurried over and turned her on her back, bright red blood pooled in the snow. The axe was stuck in her belly. He screamed her name and she did not respond. He picked her up and trudged back to the house, trying to hurry and trying hard not to fall. When he made it back to the main path, he ran to her car and put her on her side in the back seat. He ran to the shop, grabbed his cell phone, and drove as fast as he could to the hospital, dialing 911.
When they took her out of the car and put her on the gurney, she called to Cain. Cain told her that he loved her and that everything was going to be okay. Tears spilled from his eyes, he could go no further; they had her now. Her hand slipped out of his. He called his parents and her parents. They came. But it was too late. Julie and the baby were gone.
After the funerals, Cain roamed through his house, still in disbelief at his loss. His mother had stayed on to help Cain deal with his pain and sorrow, and help manage the business. There was nothing anyone could do. As the months went by, his mental and physical health deteriorated and his business suffered. Nobody wanted to bother a man who had just suffered such a loss. It was just as well, Cain had completely given up.
Many years later, I had been driving on that part of the highway, heading for Halifax, when I decided to visit the rest stop. I noticed the new signage right away. It still read CAIN’S MOTORBIKE REPAIR & REST STOP. I took the exit and drove into the parking lot. I got off my bike, and took a look around. A sign in the main office window read UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT. The main rest stop and office had been renovated, and the shop had a fresh coat of paint. A few other bikers were sitting on a large gazebo where Cain’s log cabin home used to be. I went to the office and inquired within. I found out from the owner that there had been a fire. They found Cain’s body inside the nursery, inside the baby’s crib. My heart sank. If only I had forced my hungover self to go into work that day, then Cain wouldn’t have been in the shop working on that bike; he would have been snug and warm in the house with Julie and their soon to be born baby. I thanked the lady and with tears in my eyes, I got on my bike and drove away.