There were times when days, even weeks, passed without a thought of her past. Then, some little thing would jog Lillie Delaney's memory and her mind would flit back to Gumption, Arkansas, and the idyllic life she'd once led as a child growing up in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Today, the trigger was a scrap of paper resembling a dry leaf being carried along by the rainwater in a curbside gutter. As Lillie watched, her make-believe leaf became a homemade boat, the gutter a meandering creek and Lillie a seven-yearold seeing her tiny craft sail out of reach. "Catch it!" "You catch it. It's your boat." Squealing, Lillie had jumped feetfirst into the stream, slipped on a mossy rock and landed on her back pockets in the icy water while a neighbor boy and his sister had giggled over her plight. She'd been sure she'd be scolded for coming home all wet that day. Instead, Gram had found the incident so funny she'd hugged little Lillie and they'd laughed together until tears had run down their cheeks. Lillie sighed. Breathed deeply. Brought herself back to the present and hurried across the busy city street as the traffic light changed in her favor. There was something refreshing about the air after a storm, even though the wind off Lake Michigan was cutting through her heavy coat and chilling her to the bone. Here in Chicago she welcomed showers because they cleansed the atmosphere and left behind a temporary respite from the pollution of the bustling city. Back home in Gumption, the rain always gave the air a heavy sweetness as it nourished the forested hills. This time of year, redbud trees would be finishing their display and dogwoods would be spreading creamy-white four-petal flowers in the dappled shade of the soon-to-leaf-out oaks. Yellowish-green buds would make the forest shimmer in the rain's aftermath, glistening with the promise of the coming canopy; a roof of coolness beneath the arching azure of a cloudless Southern summer sky. Shivering, Lillie pushed her way through the revolving door into the imposing stone office building where she'd worked for years. Her heels clacked against the polished marble floor of the crowded lobby. Concerned about the time, she hurried to the elevator and pushed the up button again, even though it was already lit. Slick streets had made her late, not that anyone upstairs would believe that excuse. No one employed there had a passion for his or her job. They simply reported in the morning, put in their required hours behind a desk and went home as soon as possible. That blaseacute; attitude had been hard for Lillie to understand until she'd spent a few months walking in their shoes--or rather, sitting in their desk chairs. She huffed as she stepped onto the elevator.Months, nothing.She'd been stuck in basically the same job for much longer than that and she was now at the top step in her department. Granted, medical insurance records and ordered the authorized payments but if there was a more boring job in the world she couldn't imagine what it could be. Three men wearing raincoats and a middleaged woman carrying a folded, dripping umbrella followed her onto the already crowded elevator. Pressed into a rear corner, Lillie felt nearly as uncomfortable as she had the time she and her girlfriends had crammed together into the janitor's closet at school, meaning to scare him, and had panicked and nearly suffocated when they'd accidentally locked themselves in. To this day, being in total darkness gave her the willies. There was no accident involved with her present position, however. She'd come to the city to seek excitement and glamour and had found, instead, boredom and dingy sameness masquerading as job security. Part of her loneliness was admittedly her own fault. Though she did attend church occasionally, she had never become fully involved in the kind of social life that would bring her into contact with manHansen, Valerie is the author of 'Treasure of the Heart ', published 2007 under ISBN 9780373874491 and ISBN 0373874499.