We drive up the snowy, winding road towards the A-frame cabin. When Hallelujah starts to play, you grab the dial, in no mood for rhythmic sorrow. I empathize, content just to share in your silence.
We pass the iconic farmstand, the one from our Polaroid, its earth rendered barren by winter.
You speak to me for the first time in miles.
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 borough where we built our tony fortress.
I've often wondered if we would've been happier in the sticks, far removed from the city's glare, but I doubt if these pines could contain 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 pink from champagne and well-wishes.
On that February evening, life 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?
There's a fireplace in the corner, its logs already alight. 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 suited for Balmoral."
Entertaining, 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 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. Like ours, their patterns hold fast, unchanged.
"It's perfect," you whispered as a bride, and you repeat this now, indifferent to your consistency, your penchant for awe.
I've cherished every instance.
We're seated on the sofa, tartan upholstery beneath us. I think of what we once did in this spot, giggling and frenzied, aware a bed stood six feet east but too entangled to use it.
If I know you—and I do—your mind is retracing patches of skin, things said in lust. It won't be like that tonight, though our passions remain loyal.
"I've dreamt of coming here," you confess, eyes climbing the 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 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 the 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, and it consumes me.
"I love you, Paul."
Simple. 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 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—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.
I've long wanted to see the canyons, but this New Yorker never took the time.
About the Creator
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Original narrative & well developed characters
Amazing story beautifully written!!!💕😊💖