Heart of Gold - By Tami Hoag


University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana Spring 1977

“OKAY, EVERYBODY, THIS is it. The final portrait of the Fearsome Foursome. Make sure your caps are on straight, ladies. I’m setting the timer now.” Bryan Hennessy hunched over the thirty-five-millimeter camera, fussing with buttons and switches, pausing once to push his glasses up on his straight nose.

Faith Kincaid adjusted the shoulders of her graduation gown and checked her cap, poking back long spirals of burnished gold hair that had escaped the bondage of barrettes. She settled herself and her sunny smile in place.

They stood on the damp grass near the blue expanse of Saint Mary’s Lake, not far from the stone grotto that was built into the hillside behind Sacred Heart Church—a replica of the shrine at Lourdes. The clean, cool air was sweet with the scents of spring flowers, new leaves, and freshly cut grass. Bird song mingled with Alice Cooper’s School’s Out blasting from a boom box in a distant dorm.

To Faith’s right stood Alaina Montgomery, tall, cool, and poised. To her left stood petite Jayne Jordan, all wide eyes and wild auburn hair. Bryan hustled around to stand behind her, his cap askew. He was tall and athletic with a handsome, honest face and tawny hair that tended to be a bit shaggy, because Bryan tended to forget little details like barber appointments.

These were her three best friends in the entire world. Faith loved them as if they were family. Jayne was artsy and odd, warm and caring. To most people Alaina seemed aloof, but she was fiercely loyal and sharply insightful. Bryan was sweet and eccentric—their surrogate big brother, their confidant.

They had banded together their freshman year.

Four people with nothing in common but a class in medieval sociology. Over the four years that followed they had seen each other through finals and failures, triumphs and tragedies, and doomed romances. They were friends in the truest, deepest sense of the word.

And they were about to graduate and go their separate ways.

Faith sucked in a breath and valiantly blinked back tears.

“Okay, everybody smile,” Bryan ordered, his voice a little huskier than usual. “It’s going to go off any second now. Any second.”

They all grinned engagingly and held their collective breaths.

The camera suddenly tilted downward on its tripod, pointing its lens at one of the white geese that wandered freely around Saint Mary’s Lake. The shutter clicked, and the motor advanced the film. The goose honked an outraged protest and waddled away.

“I hope that’s not an omen,” Jayne said, frowning as she nibbled at her thumbnail.

“It’s a loose screw,” Bryan announced, digging a dime out of his pants pocket to repair the tripod with.

“In Jayne or the camera?”

“Very funny, Alaina.”

“I think it’s a sign that Bryan needs a new tripod,” said Faith.

“That’s not what Jessica Porter says,” Alaina remarked slyly.

The girls giggled as Bryan’s blush crept up to the roots of his hair. Faith knew while there had never been any romantic developments within their ranks, outside of his unusual friendship with them Bryan had an active … er … social life.

“If you want a sign, look behind you,” he said through gritted teeth as he fussed unnecessarily with the aperture setting on the camera.

Faith turned as her two friends did, and her dark eyes widened at the sight of the rainbow that arched gracefully across the morning sky above the golden dome of the administration building.

“Oh, how beautiful,” she said with a gasp, the hopeless romantic in her shining through. Lord, she wasn’t even gone yet and already she was feeling nostalgic about the place.

“Symbolic,” Jayne whispered.

“It’s the diffusion of light through raindrops,” Alaina said flatly, crossing her arms in front of her.

Bryan looked up from fiddling with the camera to frown at her, his strong jaw jutting forward aggressively. “Rainbows have lots of magic in them,” he said, dead serious. “Ask any leprechaun. It’d do you some good to believe in magic, Alaina.”

Alaina’s lush mouth turned down at the corners. “Take the picture, Hennessy.”

Bryan ignored her, his wise, warm blue eyes taking on a dreamy quality as he gazed up at the soft stripes of color. “We’ll each be chasing our own rainbows after today. I wonder where they’ll lead us.”

They each recited the stock answers they’d been giving faculty, friends, and family for months. Alaina was headed to law school. Jayne was leaving to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood as a writer and director. Bryan had been accepted into the graduate program of parapsychology at Purdue. Faith