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Happier Than Ever

A Weekend Getaway

By Rebekah ConardPublished 2 months ago 10 min read
1
generated via NightCafe

We drove up the snowy, winding road towards the cozy A-frame cabin. Have you ever seen the snow fall without any wind? I'm talking zero wind. Not even a whistle. The snowflakes are almost too light to make it to the ground without help. They sort of flounder about en route like they're seeking clearance to land, spending so much time aloft you get dizzy trying to follow any one flake. The air is so still, yet their journey is so frantic. Didn't anyone teach them that gravity is constant?

The car window was so-cold-it-hurt against my forehead. I had been pretending to sleep the last hour of the drive, but I kept one eye on the snow. When we came to a stop I continued the act, breathing gently on purpose. With purpose? On purpose. I waited for a rough hand to jostle me awake. Instead, I jumped six inches at the slam of the driver's side door. He marched to the door, key in hand. I guess he grabbed it from my sweatshirt pouch while I was "asleep". That's fine.

I retrieved one of our bags from the back seat and lugged it through the open door. My grandparents' cabin was the same as it had always been. The high ceiling was just as unreachable now as it was when I was little. Furniture still arranged as it was when I made my last pillow fort between it. Everything looked untouched. I think the last time anyone stayed there was four years ago: me, my sister, my mother. Just us girls. That was before. Before mom died. Before I moved to the city. Before I met this man. Such a big word, "before."

"You should have brought the cooler in first," he said.

"My bad." We brought the cooler in together. He stocked the fridge and pantry.

The cabin has three levels which are divided down the center. The ground floor has two rooms: a kitchen/dining area and a family room. It's not huge, but having only two rooms means each of them is spacious. The middle floor has a full bathroom and a bedroom. Yeah, just the one bedroom. When the whole extended family is here, there's an eclectic array of temporary furniture, sleeping bags and cushions tucked into every space big enough for a body to lay down. The cabin has always been better for couples' and single families' getaways, but the family hasn't always been good at sharing. Then, of course, there's the loft.

After making the bed and unpacking a few things, I crept up to the loft. I didn't have to creep but to make noise would feel somehow irreverent. The loft was a frozen moment with an unbreakable atmosphere. It was cold, but the temperature exactly matched what my goosebumps remembered. A nearly imperceptible crunch of stiff carpet, which sounded to childhood ears as if the snow had come inside to visit. A pomander ball hung overhead. Was it the same one that had always been there? Or had someone been changing it? The scent lingered, whether it was real or just in my memory. I laid myself out on the floor and took in the cool, the dry, the dust and the spice. I looked up at old furniture full of family treasures. A bookcase, a cedar chest, a pile of boxes that may as well have been a single object. I bet there was a time I could have used it as throne.

Somewhere far and below, he shouted for me. Down I go.

---

"Not bad, huh?" There was a sizable crackling fire going in the fireplace. He seemed very proud of it.

"It's pretty."

"Yeah, pretty fucking impressive, if I do say so myself. Why don't they have these in the city?"

They do, sometimes. I just shrugged.

We each went about getting ready for a sit. He changed into sweatpants and a tee. I had flannel pajamas. I made myself a hot chocolate with Bailey's. He poured an eggnog with a splash of Fireball. I went to the window for a look. The sun was setting. The snow was still falling. There was just a little wind now. The snowflakes had somewhere to go now but they weren't in a hurry to get there. They still took the time to dance.

He closed the curtain to keep the heat in.

We snuggled on the couch under a luxuriously large fleece blanket. It was a little weird for both of us not to have any entertainment playing in the background, but this was such a rare opportunity for us that we decided to try 15 minutes of quiet, at least, before giving up and putting on a podcast. The fire was a comfortable distance from us, just warm enough, just loud enough. We made little sounds each time we sipped our beverages. There was an occasional weepy gust of wind, I think. Maybe I just wanted there to be. If we wanted anything more, someone would have to start talking.

"How come we've never come out here before?"

I made that rising-and-falling hum that means "I don't know."

"Are you embarrassed or something? I mean about the cabin. Like, yeah it's kinda dumpy, but it's cute."

I smirked. "Like me, right?"

He laughed one loud laugh. "Leave the self-deprecating humor to the experts, hon."

We breathed.

"Really though, how come?"

"I didn't think of it til recently. A lot of my family stuff just got pushed to the back of my mind, you know?"

He made a grunt. I knew that grunt. I went first.

"Does it matter?"

"I just thought we weren't supposed to keep secrets, and here you've been holding out on me. You want me to believe you just forgot about this prime vacation spot?"

"I'm sorry, I didn't think it was that important."

"No, well, no, it's not. It just makes me think what else you are you keeping from me."

There's this desperate spark of panic that lives in my brain that mixes everything up. My feelings, my intentions, my actions, my energy, my will to live. My body moved to cling to his arm. He allowed it.

It was my turn. All I could manage was, "I didn't mean it."

"Right." He took out his phone and put on a true crime show. We only lasted 12 minutes without.

---

I woke up around 2 o'clock in the morning from a fitful sleep. He was snoring gently beside me. I tried to get back to sleep for a while, but it was no use. I've always had a hard time sleeping away from home. I also have trouble sharing a bed. Both at once is a big ask. I slipped on some socks and quietly left the bedroom to get some space.

Upstairs in the loft the wind was audible. The snow was falling with purpose now. No sleep for them, either. I fished out a few scrapbooks, some of which were assembled by my great-grandmother. All of the deep family memories I hadn't touched for years were surfacing inside me. It was gentler, less painful than I had anticipated. The most recent book was more like a photo album. There were lots of glossy 4x6 prints of my cousins, my sister and I throughout the years at various family gatherings. Some of the photos were taken in this same loft. Every few pages was a group shot of the adults, looking a little older and sadder every year. Eventually, there was one without Mom.

The next one was a more traditional scrapbook. There were plenty of photos, but also newspaper clippings, bookmarks, poems, and decorations. The 4x6 prints were grainier and stickier with less vibrant colors. Lots of Polaroids, too. Practically every achievement from the school days of my mom and her siblings was represented with certificates, ribbons and photos of the trophies that couldn't fit in a book. Toward the end there was a spread dedicated to Grandpa's funeral. I hadn't seen that before. It surprised me. I wondered who added it but no answer was going to come in the middle of the night in a far-away cabin.

The oldest book was one of the "family lore." The binding was weak and the pages smelled a little musty, but not any worse than it did when I was a kid. There were almost no photos; only two family portraits with so many people crammed into the shot. Letters, drawings, recipes, poems and songs... Our family's way of preserving our values and traditions from long ago. I had worried that paging through that stuff would bring back feelings of loss, but there was instead a degree of comfort in this nostalgia. I curled up on that crinkling carpet and slept, embraced by the ghosts who lived in the books.

And then I woke up. It was late morning, and the wind had died. He was sitting on the pile of boxes looking through the older books.

"You slept on the floor. Bed too soft for you or something?"

"Couldn't sleep. Came up here to distract myself and I guess it worked."

"Distract yourself from what?"

"Not like that, just... a distraction from the inability to sleep."

Silence.

"Your family was into some weird shit, huh." He spoke without looking up.

Something like anger pulled me up from the floor. I stood in front of him with a hand out, wordlessly demanding the book.

He looked puzzled. He scoffed and dropped the book onto a box beside him. He went downstairs. I put the books away then turned my attention to breakfast.

---

After breakfast he took a shower. I like it when he showers. He takes his time, and I can do what I want. Sometimes that's singing or dancing. Sometimes that's writing. Sometimes it's just enjoying the "me time." On this weird Saturday morning in the woods miles from town, I wanted to walk. Slowly but naturally, like I was on autopilot, I bundled up and left the cabin.

The snow was deep but still fluffy, compressing with a satisfying crunch beneath my boots. The cold air tickled my lungs as I walked. I like the stillness between snowfalls. That stillness makes me feel like the only living thing on the planet. It's a silly thought, but I'm allowed to think it if I want to.

I wandered my way to a familiar clearing. I couldn't tell you how to get there, but my feet always seem to find it. There's a bunch of strange stones there. Each one on its own is pretty unremarkable, but so many of them in one place feels purposeful. They must have been arranged by some ancient god. I picked up a long stick and let it trail behind me as I circled the clearing, weaving a pattern between the rocks in an unbroken line.

When it was complete, I plopped down in the center making a big me-shaped dent in the snow. I felt heavy and as if I were melting into the ground. I waited.

"Are you messing with me?" He finally stepped out from behind the trees. His hair wasn't even wet.

"Just a walk."

"I don't believe you."

"I know."

I took a very deep breath and began to sing one of the songs from the old book. I had forgotten it until the previous night. There isn't a need for songs like this in the city. My heart was so full now. I felt connected to my roots, and those roots ran deep. I closed my eyes, and sang.

There was a menacing rumble from the trees in the direction of my head.

"What was that?"

I pretended not to hear. I sang.

The air became dense. Through my eyelids I could feel the light changing.

He ran to me and threw himself on the ground, trying to take cover beneath my coat. "What the FUCK is that?"

I pretended not to hear. I sang.

I heard the unbending of woody flesh. I felt the shadow of the shambling old thing blocking the sunlight from my face. I felt his hand let go of my coat.

From somewhere far away, he screamed for me.

I pretended not to hear.

I opened my eyes as the snowflakes kissed my cheeks, those happy snowflakes that find their way with or without the wind.

generated via NightCafe

familyShort StoryHorror
1

About the Creator

Rebekah Conard

30, She/Her, a big bi nerd

How do I write a bio that doesn't look like a dating profile? Anyway, my cat is my daughter, I crochet and cross stitch, and I can't ride a bike. Come take a peek in my brain-space, please and thanks.

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