Sylvia We drove up the snowy, winding road towards the cozy A-frame cabin. I was having to concentrate hard on the curves, black tarmac weaving a path through a formless white edging, pockets of trees becoming patches of woodland, and then parting to reveal the snow cloaked meadow, and ahead, the steeply pitched timber roof and narrow porch of our home for the weekend. Golden light glowed behind what I hoped were modern double glazed windows, like beacons calling us home, and I felt my shoulders begin to drop. Nearly there, and no kids in the car. Just one small bag each, and the bag full of food we had stopped and picked out together 30 miles back, at the last sizeable town. There had been something exciting about choosing that food – two breakfast, one lunch, two dinners, just for us. We could have whatever we wanted. A tingling remnant of the early days of making a home with one another had lent the aisles a jolliness I had not felt in a supermarket for at least a decade, though three jars of our daughter’s favourite pasta sauce, hard to find near home, had made their way into our trolley, and I had wondered aloud how they were getting on without us as I put them in.
The sun is still low in the sky casting bright edged beams through the half open curtains and across my eyelids as I wake this morning. The room is yellow and blue, the speeding light of nuclear fusion skimming snow on its way to my eye, the colours of potential, the type of day I feel full of energy and intent. I allow the softness of my pillow to hold me for a moment, my body languid under the covers. I can feel the heat from your body next to me, your face turned away from the morning. You never have liked the way I like to let the light in, though it’s rarely you it wakes. I hear the heating kick in, and I know it will still be freezing in the house. Maybe I don’t need to get up just yet. Give it ten minutes to take the edge off. But my body has begun to stiffen, slack muscles readying, heart rate picking up. I barely notice, really, but still, I read the physical gathering of myself and it reminds me of the whirring which stirred me in my sleep, and the soft thud which woke me. First of the month. Shit. I sit up, pivoting on my hip and bringing my feet to the floor, using my fingers to pull my slippers over my heels before I stand. It IS cold. It matches my mood now. I stomp to the door and open it. It’s even colder outside, even brighter. I glance down at the box, and then across the dazzling gleam of the varnished porch, to the sparking white of the world beyond, all diamond shimmer with splashes of green where shining leaves poke out under heavy coatings of snow. There is no surface, it seems to me, that is not throwing off light. Except the box.
I hover in pools of blue-green gloom, undulating light filtered through water, glass, vitreous humor thick with dreams of pure, clear, unimpeded sight, unimpeded knowledge, which way to turn, which A leads to what B, what C. How all paths lead to D, and then the terror of unimpeded knowledge, glimpsed in the glancing light, and the easy retreat, the siren call of the half-light again, in deep blues and greens, distorting edges and darker recesses. I hover. In the subaquatic gloaming I am cocooned, held, stasis-like by the endless lopping muffled soundtrack, an imagining of the composition an orchestra of squid might play for endless hours on the seabed to lull the passing whales to keep passing, and not look down. I am drowning. Air, or water, it does not matter, my blood is filled with oxygen, bright and red and capable of staining the blue a darker hue, but still, my brain is starving, my consciousness waning with every passing particle of time.
The clearing, ringed with spruce and birch and tussocked underfoot with coarse grasses, was tinged a murky yellow under the grey blanketing sky. A slow drizzle laced the air, the moisture neither falling nor rising, but coalescing on the little girl’s lashes, beading into bright gems around the darkness of each iris, one, deepest brown, the other unfathomable blue. She stood alone and quiet, in the centre of the clearing, the gaze of those wide, cloud-rimed eyes passing from shadow to shadow as she sought comprehension between the encircling trunks. She should have been cold, standing there, naked and wet in the cool air, but the water lay on her skin like it was obsidian, and the only movement in her small body were those probing eyes. She did not shiver or pimple, not from cold, and not from fear, as the gloom thickened above her and the wind whipped her black hair about her face. But in the valley, an ululation spread through the village setting cats and dogs alike to their crying, as the wise women watched the distant hillside and held their talismans tight to their breasts.
They say, when you walk into your home, you know. You can look at ten, twenty, thirty houses, and then, you pull up to one more, stand on another kerb, look up at another frontage, step through another front door…and recognise that you are home. It was like that the first time I saw you. The shelter had taken out a double page ad in the paper, it’s motley crew of furred friends-to-be arranged around the page, and you, meeting my eyes from the centrefold. I had been flicking through, taking a break, not looking for love, but there you were. I knew. I took the paper home, and I showed you to my mum. I knew that she knew too. I showed you to my dad.