For all you Karen lovers, a look at her thoughts as Mineral Village enters a time of stress and strain. The diary runs in parallel with and depends on _A Haven from the Storm_.

This is a 'high risk' fanfic. It's very dangerous for a guy to try to get into a woman's mind - even a fictitious one! If I foul this one up badly - well, I was just joking! Honest!

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Karen's Diary

Chapter 1

28 Winter

morning - I can't wait for this winter to end. A storm came through last night and dumped another half-meter of snow on us. Now it's way below zero outside. Far too cold to go out unless you've got to - or if you're crazy. I'm not *that* crazy. Damn, I'm trapped in here - now I'll be pacing the house the whole day driving Mom and Dad insane. Won't see Rick or Mary or any of the girls. I bet only Zack'll come in here today. Nothing keeps him shut in.

When it starts, winter is kinda nice. When the first snow comes, I go out to the square and dance in it - I squint just right and the flakes look like snow fairies dancing along with me. After we've had a few storms and it's piled up past my waist, it's just disgusting.

noon - A big mistake telling Mom I was bored. She got me in the kitchen for another cooking lesson. Three hours and two boxes of flour - wasted! It was muffins this time; well, they were supposed to be. They look like rocks to me, except they don't make rocks that black. Why doesn't Mom just give up on me and cooking like Ann did years ago?

Now, I'm just sitting behind the register counting the coins for the tenth time. Dad's off in the corner sketching - dogs today, I think. Come onnnn spring!

afternoon - Zack came in for a couple of rice-balls and he paid cash! Said the old man at Erehwon farm had a wicked cold this morning. Zack tried to get him to go to bed, but he just laughed him off. Said cold weather kills the germs. He's gotta be over eighty-five, but he's tougher than me. I'm thinking about going over there later and checking on him. Gives me an excuse to force myself to go out. If Mom makes some soup, I'll take some. Then I can drop in on Rick after.

later afternoon - Laughing thinking about Rick cooped up with Popuri all day. Talk about maniac, I'm calm compared to that girl on a shut-in day! He'll want to see me just to get away from her WHINING :-) :-) :-)

night - Oh, God no - the old man is dead! Zack found him in the snow just now. I can't write anymore. I just want to go to bed and cry.

29 Winter

morning - Thomas came over to tell us what happened. Zack found him all blue in the snow, carried him into his house and ran for Doctor. Doctor and Elli ran back with him but they were too late. I'm still weepy this morning; I loved him like he was my own grandfather. Is it my fault he's dead? If I'd gone out there before Zack like I was thinking, I might have got him some help in time. I get sick just thinking about it.

afternoon - I was over at the Inn at noon. Hoping that Doug would give me a break and sell me a drink or two before opening time. He did. He, Duke and Thomas were on the phone the whole time I was there. They were trying to find a next of kin. The farmer had one son who left the village when he was a teen, but they think he's dead now. When I left, they were calling government offices in Capitol City seeing if the son had any kids. Thomas sorta kinda remembers a grandson but knows nothing about him.

evening - I went to church after dinner. The casket is already laid out before the altar. Carter said it'll be strictly closed casket as his face is so blue and it'd disturb people. He's right. I wouldn't want that to be my last memory of him. We prayed together a bit and I had to go back home because I afraid I was going to start crying again.

midnight - Spent a *lot* of time at the Inn. With Rick this time. We were drinking together and remembering the old guy. He treated Rick's dad like a son after the real one ran away and Rick loved him too. We were remembering how we played in his fields together when we were little. That's how we started, all those years ago. Memories, memories...

He walked me home after and we stopped and snuggled a little - I really needed it. He was telling me how he knew he loved me when we were kids and it's only gotten better since. He can be *so* sensitive and considerate when there's trouble. Why can't he be like that other times?

I'd better not get into that after all I drank!

30 Winter

morning - Ugh! How much *did* I drink last night? I feel like warmed over cow pie. I just looked in the mirror and I look worse than that. Ugh!

noon - Back from the library. Talked with Mary a long time about Rick and the old farmer. She says Thomas found the grandson yesterday afternoon. He lives in Liberty City doing something with rockets. Thomas sent him a letter asking him to come here for the funeral. He was in such a hurry to get it on the boat that he got the date wrong! I don't know why Thomas didn't just call him on the phone. He can get so flakey sometimes.

Mary's in a strange state. I didn't think she was that close to the old guy, but she kept asking me questions about what Erehwon was like when I was little. She looked all dreamy and not quite there. I suppose she's just getting ideas for another book, but it was still weird. I left her a moment to look at the supermarket ads and the horoscope in the paper. When I went back to her desk, she was staring into space with this *really strange* smile on her face. I don't think she even noticed when I left. Oh well, I like her so much because she *is* a little off center - she's sure never boring!

I wonder what kind of person the grandson is. I've never met anyone from Liberty City. That place has always sounded like a sewer to me. I don't know how anyone can live there.

afternoon - Working the register again while Mom and Dad go to church. Thomas came in and said that if anyone didn't want to go to Mother's Hill for the New Years' dawn, he'd understand. He doesn't think too many people will have the heart for it. He's thinking of canceling the dance in the square tomorrow night also. Makes sense to me. I sure don't feel like dancing. I'll join the old-timers and get toxic this time.

I asked when the funeral would be. He said when the grandson gets here - if. But he can't put it off past the 2nd.

Then freaking Duke came in, grabs *four* loaves of bread and struts right out with that "put it on my tab" garbage. If I wasn't still hungover, I'd have gone for his fat throat. My head hurts too much to listen to myself shouting. If I go to the Inn tonight, I'll squeeze it out of him there.

evening - I'm *not* going to the Inn tonight. I'm *not* going to get stinking drunk again tonight. *not* *not* *not* tonight!!!

I'm actually going to bed at a reasonable hour. To hell with the New Year. What's so happy about it?