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Connecticut, 1996

By CJ MillerPublished about a year ago Updated 3 months ago 4 min read

We drive up the icy, winding road towards the A-frame cabin. When Hallelujah starts to play, you grab the dial, in no mood for its rhythmic sorrow. I empathize, content just to share in your silence.

We pass the iconic farmstand, the one from our Polaroid, its surrounding earth rendered barren by winter. Here, you speak to me for the first time in miles.

"Almost there."

Almost, I agree, but I say nothing.

The landscape, icy and vast, hasn't changed in the decades since we made each other family. It's all timber and hills, a foil to the tony borough where we built up our fortress, season by eventful, vivid season.

I've often wondered if we would've been happier in the sticks, far removed from the city's watchful glare, but I doubt these pines could've contained you. You have always been verve, condensed into feminine form.


As we cross the threshold, I flash back to scooping you up, too-tight shoes dangling on a finger, the pair of us rosy from champagne and well-wishes.

On that February evening, life still lay stretched out before us, as yet unsculpted, malleable in the manner of snow.

The lone treasure in a sea of gifted china.

Did we know that then? Could anyone?


There's a fireplace in the corner, its logs already alight and crackling. Your request, circa 1974, comes rushing to the surface.

"I don't want a wood-burning stove. Not for my honeymoon. Find me a blaze better suited for Balmoral."

Ever the thespian, even when offstage.

Our travel agent did us a solid. The stony encasement extends to a pitched ceiling, its mantel—broad, imposing, hand-hewn—a decent match for Scotland's finest.

Observing the flames, I feel a kinship that leaves me disquieted.

The rest is less fussy—a mishmash of splintered planks and linens bathed in plaid, a headboard crafted from knotty branches. Like ours, their patterns hold fast, unchanged.

"It's perfect," you whispered as my bride, and you repeat this now, indifferent to your charming consistency, your childlike penchant for awe.

I've cherished every instance.


We're seated on the sofa, tartan upholstery wrinkling beneath us. I think of what we once did in this spot, giggling and frenzied, aware a bed stood six feet east but too enraptured to use it.

If I know you, and I do, your mind is retracing patches of skin, things uttered in lust. It won't be like that tonight, though our passions remain loyal.


"I've dreamt of coming back here," you confess, eyes climbing the sun-striped walls. "I don't understand how we never found a moment. Between the kids and jobs and the dog, it adds up, but—"

You pause, working past the lump in your throat, a sensation so visceral that I swear I can feel it for you.

"We should've tried harder. Prioritized each other."

Your thumbs, delicate as the day we met, tear at the napkin, a makeshift tissue from that diner in Hartford. I ache to still them, to comfort you in the ways you've become accustomed; erotic nibbles on an earlobe, chaste strokes down your spine, the prescription tailored to what ails.

I can do neither at present, and the helplessness consumes me.

"I love you, Paul."

Bold. Direct. Classic. A gloved fit for the woman I married.

"I love you, Ellen."

Then, needlessly bashful, "Ellie Belly."

While I realize you did not—that you cannot—hear me, your soothed expression conveys otherwise.


Tomorrow you'll hike the ravine and release me to the purview of the stars: my speckled ancestors if one is pretentious of thought and romantic in sentiment.

You'll cry fat droplets that sting amid the biting cold, and curse the fates for ending a good run. Grief as a substitute for peace was not in our vows—not in our plans. You wanted more.

Deserved more.

Tonight you'll talk of putting some aside, that I might remain within our brownstone—upon our own mantel, beside the broken clock and curation of photos—while at once befriending the squalls that will carry me westward.

Maybe we'll make landfall in Kansas, or wait until we hit the coast, absorbed by the Santa Anas, still tumbling in reverie on the California wind.

I've long wanted to see the Canyons, but this New Yorker never took the time.

Short Story

About the Creator

CJ Miller

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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  • Babs Iversonabout a year ago

    Amazing story beautifully written!!!💕😊💖

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