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The Pond

Frozen or Thawed

By ANITA RACHELLEPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 3 min read
The Duck Pond by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1873

Oona ogled at the image and fought back tears of nostalgia threatening to thaw a recently secured icy exterior.

The ducks were present on the same lake they escaped from the previous winter. Their bodies plumper from a season south and hard-billed faces impenetrable to any real ego threats. They just existed, without over-analyzing their lives, waddling from one moment to the next. How she, alongside Jerry, envied the birds when they first laid eyes on them in the summer sun. Months later, they wondered where the ducks had flown when the water froze and became incompatible for their feathers and palmate. Jerry taught her the word “palmate,” just as he transferred to her all he had learned during his brief stints at NYU and Columbia, like an open palm.

“Where did they go, J?”


“Away where?”

“Just away.”

“Will they be back?”

“Sure they will.”

That was that. He rarely transferred his knowledge in a clear way. However, Oona had learned how to connect his dots to reach answers she always sought. Whether all he said was accurate could not be verified but believing trust core to any relationship, she took his claims as facts. Well-educated in her own right, she still enjoyed learning from her suitors too. At the time, Peter and Orson courted her as well, but she fell for J with his brain and dependable writing, secretly preferring the letters to his in-person nature.

As the ducks escaped to more floatable waters, so did J to the other side of the big pond for deployment and Oona across the country for a new job. With three-fourths of a world separating each from the other, even the letters could not save them. Feeling the cold set in, Oona began to seek footing elsewhere.

“Are you there, Oona?”

“Oh sorry, Chap. I’m here.”

“Here where?”

“Just here.”

“Will you stay?”

Thirty-three years later, she was stuck with the new ground she had secured following Jerry. Chap, though less of an intellectual, and riddled with legal troubles, made her laugh. Though times were currently tough and leaving for warmer waters could be an easy escape, talking to him on the phone now while on location for a new film, she was reminded of all the promise she first saw in their life together. Listening to Chap, her eyes remained glued to the photograph of J and his new friends staring up at her from the inside pages of the magazine laying open on the floor. The ducks seemed to welcome him like one of their own to the pond they both regularly visited together in another life.

Standing on top of the photo, Oona registered her envy at their ability to unemotionally escape the pond and find new waters. How easy, like clockwork, to flit from one locale to another as soon as the temperature dipped below freezing. She had escaped ponds, but never returned to any, or gone through a pattern of going back and forth between a seasonal selection. Now, she wondered whether J was happy always chasing the sun. Her life with Chap was full of smiles, yet unpredictable, thanks to the involvements he found himself in which threatened the state of their marriage today.

Staring more intently at the photo, Oona caught sight of Jerry’s webbed feet and stoic face. Seeing the changed features of an escapee to thawed waters with feathered friends, she no longer recognized him or envied the ducks.

Times were cold at present with Chap, but at least she, unlike J, was still human and full of emotion she no longer wished to avoid. Life would continue to be unpredictable with Chap, never knowing where they would live and what legal accusation he would face, but she signed up for this. Though nostalgia had briefly set in, she would not fly away.

Oona stepped off the magazine onto the hardwood floor, grabbed the phone more securely in her right hand, and wiped away tears with her left. With newfound clarity, she announced to herself, Chap, and her chosen pond, frozen or thawed, through any season, “Of course I’ll stay.”

Short Story

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