; CHAPTER ONE: ;Sally Fordyce left the house as soon as the breakfast dishes were done, ; walking a little, jogging a little along Highway 9 -- a narrow, straight-as-a-string ; two-lane with a fading white line and an evenly spaced parade of utility poles. ; This was eastern Washington State, quiet and solitary.A Wheat fields, spring ; green, stretched in every direction over the prairie swells.A Straight ahead, ; the highway dipped and rose gently into the distance until it narrowed to a ; vanishing point at the far horizon. The sun was warm, the breeze a little biting. ; It was April. ; ;Sally was nineteen, blonde, slightly overweight, and severely unhappy, mainly ; because she was no longer married. She had believed everything Joey, the trucker, ; told her about love, and how she was that girl silhouetted on his mud flaps. ; The marriage -- if it happened at all -- lasted three months.A When he found ; another woman more intellectually stimulating, Sally was bumped from the truck's ; sleeper and found herself coming full circle, right back to being Charlie and ; Meg's daughter living at home again.A She had to keep her room clean, help with ; dinner and dishes, get home by eleven, and attend the Methodist church with ; them every Sunday. Again, her life was not her life. ;She had tasted freedom, she thought, but she was turned away. She had ; no wings to fly and nowhere to fly even if she did. Life wasn't fair. (To hear ; Charlie tell it, he and Meg must have made up a list of all the dumb mistakes ; they hoped she would never make and given her a copy. Needless to say, things ; were tense.) ;Even before she tried Joey, the trucker, Sally used to find escape ; out on the wheat prairie in the stillness of the morning. Now she returned, ; even fled to this place. Out here, she heard no voice but her own thoughts, ; and her thoughts could say whatever they wanted. She could pray too, sometimes ; aloud, knowing no one but God would hear her. Dear God, please don't leave ; me stuck here. If you're there, send a miracle. Get me out of this mess. ;In all fairness, it was past time for Sally to feel that way. Except for those ; who had wheat farming in their blood and couldn't wait to climb on a combine, ; most everyone growing up in Antioch heard a call from elsewhere -- anywhere ; -- sooner or later. When they came of age, all the kids who could find a way ; out left -- usually -- for good. Sally had come of age, all right, but had not ; found a way out. Charlie and Meg would probably tell you that she was not the ; kind to look for one, either. She was still waiting for it to come to her. ;The halfway point of her jog was a spreading cottonwood at the top ; of a shallow rise, the only tree in sight. It was monstrous, and had to have ; been growing there long before the roads, farms, or settlers came along. Sally ; double-timed her way up the rise and was breathing hard by the time she reached ; it. She'd developed a routine: Every day she braced herself against the huge ; trunk and stretched out her leg muscles, then sat and rested for a moment between ; two prominent roots on the south side.A Recently, a short prayer for a miracle ; had also become part of the routine. ;The stretches went easily enough. She had cooled down, her breathing ; had settled, she could feel the flush in her cheeks from the exercise and the ; cool air. A ;She rounded the tree ;And almost jumped out of her skin. ;A man was sitting between the two roots, exactly in her spPeretti, Frank E. is the author of 'The Visitation' with ISBN 9780849942716 and ISBN 0849942713.