View Full Version : Blood Winter

November 24th, 2010, 05:43 AM
It is begging to snow as I make my way up the darkening dirt road. The suns rays had faded just ten minutes before but night was hasty in its occupation of the skies. I make a left turn onto Miller Road; glad I have just three miles of driveway before pulling into my garage. And then I see it, a flash of fur collide with my headlights. Oh no, oh no, oh no, I shout over and over again, bounding from the drivers seat before I can begin thinking of what has just happened, running to the front of my parked pickup. There lays a large, motionless heap of animal, a deer by the looks of it. I come around to its head, splayed out from its body in an unnatural position. I can see the deer is dead before I am able to invite in the hope that it might still be alive.
The deers eyes seem to stare somewhere in the direction of where it has come from. I anxiously hope the deer never saw my car coming, sparing it that moment of fear. I watch its body, still as the snow settled around it. Its face is unmoving but not, I realize, as if it were sleeping.
I hesitate, thinking of what to do. But what feels right is to stay with this deer, apologizing for taking its life. I place a hand on its chest, still warm, and feel its soft fur and still heart. I close my eyes as tears start to fall down my cheeks, the tears unexpectedly stinging my face.
Youre bleeding, comes a voice, soft and light as if it drifted down with the snow. My eyes snap open, looking around in worry. All that surrounds me is the thick forest on either side of the one-way road leading to my home. I snatch my hand away from the deers chest, gripping it in my other hand as if to keep it as warm as the deers body had done.
My cars headlights pierce the night that comes in from all directions, but no one is to be seen. I touch my cheek, withdrawing my fingers to find them tinged with red, and I quickly look at the deer as if its blood had transferred onto my hand.
No, youre bleeding, comes the voice again, this time sounding agitated. I startle, standing abruptly as an eerie feeling rises in my throat. I look at the deer one last time before scanning the road around me and getting back into my car, locking the doors once inside. Putting my car into drive I figure I can make my way onto the edge of the road and back onto it once Im pass the animal. I can, and once Im clear of it I push the accelerator, glancing only once in the review mirror.
The deer is already covered with a thin blanket of snow.
That night I peer into the bathroom mirror to find my forehead and cheek a mess of dried blood and two shallow cuts. I suspect my face hit my hands on the steering wheel when I hit the deer, the rings on my hands cutting my face. I can recall the voice as I clean my wounds with a washcloth, chalking it all up to how the winds in the woods can be construed as voices in this parts of the woods.
I should call Carter, I think, the notion comforting enough in itself. Carter was the first person I met when I first moved to Valance, the little town sending Carter as the unofficial welcoming committee. He arrived at my front door with a frozen pizza and a smile, and our budding friendship has been growing ever since. He is Valances own bachelor-in-residence, and I think word got out that I was single as well, though we havent made headlines yet as a couple. So far Carter is just my friend, a friend that can come in handy for times like these.
I go to sleep thinking of the deer and calling Carter, though I never do.
I only make it until ten that next morning before I am forced to head into town; I am out of milk and need some more propane. The road is probably covered in snow from last night, but I figure if I attach the front snowplow onto the pickup I can go. Besides, I have to talk to the body shop in town to figure out what to do with my now crumpled grill on the front of my truck.
It is perhaps the deers body that frightens me the most. This morning I think of last night as I would a dream, but the carcass that I know is still on the road will have to be disposed of today if I dont want it to freeze or to invite other, more carnivorous animals so close to my homeor both.
I wonder for a moment if I should call my neighbor Dan, but he would only tell me that I should have used the meat or should have called him last night already. Besides, compared to Dan I have no business living on my own in the spacious wilderness. Dan is rough and fierce like the land he inhabits, while I am simply the beneficiary of my late mothers cabin, the reason as to why I am living here at all.
I reach for my cell phone, resolving to finally call someone, though I end up slipping the phone into my purse instead as I pull on another coat and my gloves and start up the injured pickup. I can do this by myself, I think, living up to my background in Womens Studies. I travel down the road slowly, eyes scanning every direction. Perhaps it wasnt the deers dead body that scared me so. Perhaps it was that voice that accompanied it last night that made me so on edge. It hadnt sounded like the wind whistling through the trees at the time, though I now reassure myself it had been.
The late morning had taken heed to the cold weather and is plainly gloomy. The suns light barely lights the road enough for me not to put my cars headlights on again. Snow starts to fall again, the clouds circling above like vultures.
As I come closer to where I think I hit the deer I start to peer hard at the road in front of me, driving the pickup at a slow crawl to get through the snow and plow out the drifts that have gathered on the road overnight.
To my surprise there is nothing I can see, not in front of me at least. I start to wonder if an animal got to the deer already. I pull my car over where I recognize the low branch of a pine tree that I remember seeing last night.
The snow squeaks under my boots as I come to an impression in the road, perhaps where the deer carcass had been, though there is no sign of it now. All that is left is a large, descending indent in the snow that continues into the woods on the right side of the road. This discovery almost satisfies me; an animal got the deer. However, if an animal had gotten the deer there would have been blood trailing into the woods as well. I poke around the site some more, looking for any evidence other than the snows indentation that there had been a deer hit here at all. I glance back at the front of my truck, a crumpled grill casting serious doubt on my growing suspicion that I might have dreamt the whole thing. I touch my face in reassurance, the scabs on my cheek and forehead proof of the accident.
What happened? I ask out loud, my words sounding shrill against the silence around me.
A wind gust comes up, blowing around me, whipping my hat off and scattering my long brunette hair about my shoulders. I squint into the snow as it gusts up about me, catching sight of my hat just as it blows out of sight behind two large pine trees. Shit, I say under my breath, going after it without thinking, plowing into the woods where the path of the deer carcass leads.
It is darker as I enter the woods, the trees branches thick with needles, making the forest floor noticeable murkier. I examine the ground, look on the trunks of the trees, and gaze up at the branches for clues as to where my hat might be. Its quieter in the woods than I would have imagined possible, the snow a magnificent silencer on nature.
Hello? Hat? I call, trying to shake the eeriness and lighten my mood. I make it through some close-knit pine trees, sliding between their trunks and catching my cheeks scab on one of them. I can feel wetness on my cheek again, the blood falling quickly from the newly opened gash. Dammit! I curse, this time wiping up the blood in haste. I turn to look at the forest again, scanning a last time for my hat.
And thats when I see it.
I scream and run from the image, my heartbeat ringing out. I cover my face and keep running, sprinting around trunks and scrambling over fallen branches. I think I keep screaming because I keep making a high-pitched sound, over and over. I go to jump a root that sticks up from the path, my mind still on the image I just saw, when my foot snags the root and twists. I fall onto the ground, alarm still building up within me, when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I shriek one last time as I turn to see Dan over me, clutching my shoulder, and then everything goes black.


A broken ankle? Oh, shes going to hate that! a recognizable voice says over a steady beeping noise of my left. Everything reels in front of my eyes as I try to open them, my eyelids still heavy. I feel my whole body now, my right foot starting to ache in a dull pain.
I think shes waking up, another voice says. Thats Dans voice, I can tell. I open my eyes again, trying to look about me. I can see a blurry image of Carter and Dan peering over me. I try and smile and they both laugh.
Hey there spaz, Carter says, leaning in to give me a kiss on my cheek and taking my hand. Dan gives me a curt nod.
What happened? I ask, the mens faces before me starting to focus.
What happened? Jesus, I think you damn near died of fright, exclaims Dan, holding his palm up as if he were prompting me to answer my own question. I flinch. It starts to come back to me in little pieces.
There was this deer, I start to say, then trail off, preoccupied with trying to sit up. I look at Carter who begins to help me.
Take it easy now, says a doctor, entering the room. She looks at her chart and smiles. Can you tell me your name please?
Elizabeth Kotler, with a K, I reply, looking at the doctor strangely. She takes out a little flashlight and flashes it into both my eyes.
And your date of birth? She asks.
April 5th, I say, looking inquisitively at Carter.
Shes just following up, Carter says, nodding at the doctor.
Yes, Ms. Kotler, Im just trying to gauge where youre at here. It seems you had quite the morning, the doctor says, glancing again at the chart. Can you remember what happened?
The three of them look at me curiously, pushing in to be in better earshot. I look over at the heart monitor screen on my left, the methodical beeps somewhat comforting. I honestly cant really remember that well. Its been a crazy two days, I finally say. The doctor nods, scribbling something down.
Lets start with how your pickup was on the side of the road without you in it, Dan says, crossing his arms over his chest. He looks like hes four feet around when he does this, his stance something of a pro wrestlers before entering the ring.
I hit a deer last night, I say, looking down at my hands in embarrassment. There are scrapes on my palms, probably from where I caught myself after catching my foot in the root. The root. And I was running? What happened before that, I cant remember.
Why didnt you call me? Carter almost yells, looking appalled. Getting into an accident with a deer can be really dangerous Eliza, he chastises me, calling me by my nickname. You could have been really hurt!
No, I was fine, I just hit my face a little, I say, pushing his worry away. But I killed the deer. I even got out of the pickup to check on it and it had already died. I was going to call you, either one of you, but I decided to just wait and get the carcass this morning. But then I got back and the deer was gone... I mean there wasnt even blood in the snow where it had been. And then I dont know I was in the woods Im sorry I cant remember. Carter shakes his head while the doctor continues to look at her notes and jot things down.
I heard this scream, and then I found your pickup on the side of the road. Your footprints led into the woods so I followed them. I found you on the forest floor and your ankle was caught under a tree root. But you were, well, Dan wrings his hands uneasily, screaming bloody murder Eliza. Dans face grows pale. I realize he looks frightened by the recollection.
Screaming because of my ankle? I ask him.
No, not screaming in pain, screaming in fear!
From what? Carter asks me, turning to look at me strangely. I shake my head, trying to recall anything at all.
Well, lets have you rest, interjects the doctor, patting my hand. You may remember after you get a little sleep. The doctor writes one last thing down, scans the equipment hooked up to me, and then leaves the room. Carter and Dan look at each other, nodding.
Id best be going too, Dan says, glancing at me over his shoulder once more as he leaves the room. Well talk later.
I think Id better go- Carter starts to say.
No, I declare loudly, looking at him with determination. Please stay! Im just Im just a little shaken up still.
Ya, ok, Carter says, patting my hand and standing. Im getting a cup of coffee then, and you should try and rest. Ill be right back. I nod as he stands, his six foot four stature seeming taller than usual because Im still partially lying down. He has on a tan jacket that is the same color of his light brown eyes and he looks comforting, familiar, not to mention handsome. I watch his broad back as he exits my room.
Once hes gone I glance at my ankle and then make a study of the cast I have on. I groan, thinking of how long it will take for it to heal before the cast comes off. I look over my knees, scrapped too, and my arms, all a mess as well. I look for my purse and find it next to me on a rolling tray table. I grab for it and fish around for my makeup compact. I snap it open to reveal a mirror and look over my face only to find that I look like hell.
My gash on my cheek seems to have grown; now starting under my eye and ending at my jaw like a tears path. Theres a scratch on my chin that looks like road rash and the scabs on my forehead from when I hit the deer are healing, though now there are light bruises around them that are sure to get darker.
I maneuver the mirror, taking note of my hair where sticks and pine needles have taken up residence. I start to pull out a rather large twig when I notice some activity behind my compact. I bring it down to find Carter standing there, two cups of coffee in his hands, his eyes trained on me.
I stare back at him, smiling slowly.
Youre beautiful Eliza. Put down the mirror. He says factually, making me blush.
Ya right! I laugh, throwing the twig at him. He steps closer to me, placing one of the cups on my tray table. Cream and sugar? I pry, smiling at him playfully.
Yes, of course, he grins back, looking at me closely. I meant that though, he says as if it were an afterthought, glancing at me before looking at the floor sheepishly. Youre beautiful Eliza. And I dont know what Id do if you-
Oh stop Carter! Im fine! Its been a rough day, thats all. I just wish I could remember what happened to me, I laugh, trying to switch subjects. I had an idea of where this was going and Im not ready to have Carter profess his love, or whatever it was, in the middle of a hospital room to a girl who still had forest droppings in her hair. Carter looks at me, obviously unsatisfied at my change of subject, but drops it.
The coffees hot, he says simply, going over to the hospital rooms window and looking out it. Outside I can see its still cloudy but I notice it has finally stopped snowing. Carter stares out, distractedly sipping from his own cup of joe.
I watch him for a moment, rolling onto my side and snuggling into my pillow, my eyes feeling itchy. Carter defines the perfect-for-you man. He has a job as a local contractor and has built many of the small towns homes and knows well that people that live in them now. Hes a real small-town guy, one thats grown up here and now knows just about every family that ever passed through Valance. He has muscles upon muscles, always a five oclock shadow, and a smile that could knock a girl over. When I first met him I thought he was perfect perfect for my single girlfriends back home, perfect for the single women in town, perfect for any woman, really, except me. To me he was immediately and undoubtedly just a friend.
I was physically attracted to him, sure. It had been three years since my last relationship and my bed reflected that of a woman who was accustomed to sleeping alone. But I knew, deep down, that Carter and I would have to be friends above anything else if I ever wanted to keep him around. Sure, we could try dating, be hot and heavy for several months, maybe even a year to two, but after that I am fairly sure wed fall apart.
Three years ago, before my mother died and I decided to live in her isolated cabin instead of sell it; I had had a boyfriend much like Carter. A nice boyfriend in fact, one could say, a boyfriend that processed almost the same qualities as Carter. So in fact I had, in one way or another, already dated Carter. And it didnt work out.
Carter turns to something he sees out the hospital window, squinting at it hard. I can see his lips twitch, his paw-like hands gripping his coffee cup. He is in love with me, I am fairly sure, but after a year of living here weve developed a safe zone for our friendship, maintaining that very feature- friendship. But after a year hes started to cross over the zones boundaries, making little comments, touching my hand, kissing my cheek as he just had earlier.
I have grown cold to his advances, however. If I do give in, out of love or lust or loneliness, I am fairy sure it could never last. I love Carter, as a friend- anything else would be...
Eliza, go to sleep, Carter smiles, looking over at me and seeing my eyelids half closed. I smile back, dreamily, slipping into a deep sleep.
The hospital discharges me soon after I wake up from my nap, Carter helping me to fill out the paperwork and offering me a ride home. He holds my hand tight as I hop along to get into his car, my cast a heavy lump thats throwing me off balance. I feel uncomfortable with Carter fawning over me like this, and the awkward state of my leg doesnt help.
No, Carter, I dont think I need to go home with you. Wheres my car? I ask suddenly, everything starting to come back to me as to what to figure out next.
The body shop on 9th Street, like I told you earlier, Carter says, peering at me skeptically. Hes slipped easily into the drivers seat of his Jeep and starts the engine, blasting the heat. Nightfall is coming again and its below thirty degrees already.
Thanks Carter, I appreciate all youve done. I guess Ive just been out of it since this mornings incident. I stammer feeling like it has been days since the so-called incident happened, not less than nine hours ago.
I need to get milk too and-
Can I at least stay at your place overnight? You seem really crashed still, Carter asks. I open my mouth to protest, but he gives me one of his beautiful smiles, and I decide that maybe it would be a good idea for him to stay tonight.
Okay Carter, I sigh, looking out the passenger window.
We stop by the supermarket and pick up a couple groceries, stop to get gas, and head up the mountain towards my place. I live fifteen steep-sloped minutes from the main street stretch of Valance, so going into town means I get everything I need for the next week or so. It also meant that Carters offer to come stay with me is all the more profound.
We turn on to Miller Road, otherwise known as my unofficial driveway seeing as there are no other homes on Miller Road. I scan the road again. Carter seems especially on edge as we pass the trees, both of us barely breathing. But we get through all right, no dead deer or anything else in our way. And my memory of that morning still fails me.
Park it in the garage, I tell Carter as we pull into my drive. My little cabin is only built for one person really, with one bedroom, one bathroom, one dining table, and a one-car garage off to its side. I hit the garage button from the remote in my purse and get out before he drives the car in. Just go park it! I yell at Carter as he hesitates before I shut the passenger door. I can tell he doesnt want to leave me alone.
I quickly realize that the crutches in the snow are worthless though I try my best to hobble up to my front door. I finally get there by the time I hear Carter slamming his car door shut. I look for my keys under the dark porch light and find them in the bottom of my purse and go for the door, noticing something is covering the doorknob. I tug it off, holding it out in front of me to see it closer in the moonlight. I can hear Carter behind me, the snow loud under his feet. I squint closer at the knitted material Im holding, and then I recognize it.
Its my hat. I remember.
I flounder as my hands start to shake, loosing grip of the crutches support under me. I can hear the wind whistling through the trees around the dark cabin, the chill inching up under my spine. It takes everything I have not to scream, the memory overtaking me.
Whoa Eliza, Carter yells, running to grab me under my arms and catching me before I hit the ground. Eliza, he shouts, shaking me. I realize Im staring off somewhere, my hat shaking in my hand. I come back to the present, the horror evident in my eyes. Are you ok? Eliza? Carter gets me to my feet as best he can, looking from me to the hat in my hands.
After moments pass and I still have yet to respond he takes the keys from me, slowly, balancing me in his other arm as he unlocks the door and pushes through, pulling me after him.
It is not until we are inside and he turns on the hall light that I come back from my memory. I find myself slumped against his chest and arm, my breath quicker than his own. I press against him more so, hugging him tightly around his waist. I understand this is as close as Ive ever been to Carter physically, and that perhaps, in different circumstances, this would have led him to believe I wanted him, needed him. But for this moment all I can focus on is the scene I just remembered. The scene that had my hands shaking, my heart quickening. The scene that has me clinging to Carter like a small child scared of the dark. Because now I had reason to be scared of the dark.
Eliza, are you all right? Talk to me, Carter whispers, touching my hair softly. I took a rattled breath.
It was awful Carter, I started, shaking my head. It was the deer, but it was just bone. And he saw me! He saw me Carter! I shriek, panic rising in my voice.
Who? Who saw you? he asks, taking me by the shoulders and pulling me away from him to look me in the eyes. He scrutinizes my expression.
I close my eyes, trying to forget, shaking my head. But I cant. I was standing there, searching for my hat, when I came across them. It was the deer, the deer I suspect I had killed the night before, but all that was left of it was pure, white bone. So stripped it was of all tendons and muscles, all skin and fur that it was just bleached bone that lay almost camouflaged against the pristine snow. But there was also a man crouched over what was left of the deer, his hand fingering the bones as if in thought. He seemed to be saying something under his breath, his head lowered. He had ebony colored hair that fell in long strands over his dropped head. The back of his neck was exposed, the collar of his black coat standing up a bit to reveal the tan skin beneath. I stepped forward, trying to see more of him, but in doing so I made a noise and I was discovered. The mans head snapped up, his expression one of fury, locking eyes with mine. Though what sent me running in terror was neither the bones nor the man hovering over them, as suspicious as that was- it was the blood that was running off his face, his bloodstained fingers. He had eaten the deer.
I remember he gnashed his teeth in anger, unveiling their sanguinary appearance, but his eyes stayed round, reflecting a different emotion entirely. He was staring at my chest. I screamed, fearing I had become his next victim. And I ran.
I shook my head, coming back to the present. Carter was still standing there with me, staring fixedly at me. I just remembered what scared me in the woods. It was the deer, and there were some animals feeding on it, I lie. I dont know what I am afraid of the most; telling Carter the truth and have him not believe me, or telling him a lie and having to live with the truth by myself.
Oh, Eliza! Is that all? You certainly arent a mountain girl, are you? he said lightly, careful to keep from laughing. My God girl, you had me thinking you just remembered a murder or something! Carter continued to say, taking me in his arms and hugging me tight. Those mean old animals wont come near you, promise. This time I heard a giggle slip from his throat.
Im not so sure, I say, looking down at my hat, still in my hands. The man I saw in the woods had come to the cabin, my home, to return my hat as a threat? As a reminder to stay away, he knew where I lived? To tell me Im next? I shiver again, thinking of this. My head feels tired all of the sudden, like Ive drunken too much.
Listen, its late Carter. The couch pulls out, and there are linens in the closet in the hallway. Do you mind if I just go to bed? I start to pull away from him, looking over my shoulder at the cabin interior just to make sure were alone.
Wait, Carter says, reaching for my shoulder again. You sure? Are you ok sleeping... alone I mean?
Yes, I say, almost cracking a smile. Sorry to disappoint you but Ill be fine Carter. I continue into the cabin, wrapping my arms around me as I head for my bedroom. The cabin is only 900 square feet, and getting the grand tour means swiveling your head from side to side in the entryway, from which you can see every room.
I can feel Carters eyes do this very thing as I walk away, finally resting on my back until I disappear behind my bedroom door. Once alone I look down at my hands, the hat resting in them unthreateningly as ever. I throw it on my bed and go into the bathroom to brush my teeth and brush my hair. I notice in the mirror once again that the cuts on my face look worse then they feel. The bruises on my forehead have become deeper in color, just as I had thought they would, making me akin to an eggplant. I wash my face as best I can, wincing as I touch the bruising.
Walking back into the bedroom I see the hat again. I watch it skeptically as I rummage through the dresser and find my pajamas. Sighing, I head for my bed. I pick the hat up, fingering the familiar weave. And then, without really thinking, I bring it to my face and inhale.
The smell is not mine any more. It smells now like snow, and forest, but of something else too. I inhale again, closing my eyes. The scent is a mix of something like leather. And fire smoke. And blood. I tear the hat away from my face, staring at it inquisitively, though I see no blood on it. Its just as clean as if I had just taken it out of the dryer.
Against my better judgment I put the hat to my face again. I realize, mid-breath, I love the aroma. It reminds me of how the woods smell. It was an animal scent, an earthy fragrance.
Are you ok in there, Carters voice trails in, startling me. I toss the hat into my top dresser drawer, throwing the covers back on my bed and crawling in.
Yes, fine! In bed, going to bed, I call after him. I can hear him grunt in frustration, perhaps willing me to invite him in. A few seconds pass.
Night Eliza, he whispers, his breath at the crack of the door. I can practically see him on the other side, his fingers on the handle, his mind pushing him to just walk in. But his footsteps reluctantly go the other way, ending, I imagine, at the foot of the couch in the living room.

I cant sleep so I wait until I hear Carters breathing becoming heavy and snoring ensues. I venture from my bed, reaching inside my top dresser drawer and feeling the hat in my hands.
It was the man in the woods face, the difference in expressions it embodied, which comes back to me. He was furious looking, scary as hell, but his eyes held another emotion entirely. His eyes remained round when he saw me the expression were as if he was irritated and perhaps even dreadful. What had I interrupted in the woods?
I tiptoe out to Carter, hovering over him for a moment to make sure he is asleep. He makes a sound in the back of his throat, smacking his lips and turning over. I look over his body, resting and tucked into the covers. His hair is short but thick, a sandy color that almost is identical to his skin. I follow his arm down to his rough, tanned hands that are use to working outside. His upper lip and jaw have the makings of a five oclock shadow, already, and I notice some of whiskers a lighter than the rest, white almost. His eyelashes are darker, a black ring around his eyes. They flutter as he dreams.
I touch his face with the back of my finger, the soft skin by his cheekbone. He breathes softly. I think of the deer, pausing to look out the living room window the couch backs to. Outside the moons light is barely noticeable its so black. I wonder if the horror of what I saw is still out there, the beast, the man, the thing that peeled the deer clean. I look out the window for a while, my hand resting on Carters cheek so, perhaps, I dont feel so alone.


Eliza? Eliza? Its Carter, standing over me, his face half worried. I pick my head up and look around, wiping at my eyes. I take in the couch, the window Im on my living room floor.
Oh my God, I must have fallen asleep out here, I mutter, embarrassed Carter caught me sleeping so close to him.
Were you scared in there? You know you could have woken me up and I would made room for you-
No, no, I just couldnt sleep so I decided to check on you and I must have just fallen asleep. My back is in pain, having been submitted to the hardwood floor all night. And I am freezing. I turn to the window, watching the snow come down again. Lets get a fire started, ok? And then Ive got to get some work done, I tell Carter, watching him eye me.
Eliza Ive gotta get going- Lisa Butterson called me this morning to tell me she needs her hot water heater fixed or something. Im afraid duty calls, he says, rubbing the back of his neck guiltily. I notice hes already dressed, the pullout bed already folded into a couch again.
Oh, ya, get outta here! I smile, smacking his leg. He shouldnt feel so bad about leaving me.
Ok, but Ill come back to check in on you tonight, about six? Is that all right? And I can stay too if-
No Ill be fine. Ok? Just do me a favor and come get me when my trucks done being fixed. I struggle to get up, my whole body now in pain from sleeping on the floor. He reaches down and scoops me up, like I weigh as much as a feather.
You know you dont have to be so stubborn Eliza. You can just give in and let me take care of you for awhile, Carter smiles, taking me into a hug. I skirt his advance and squeeze his hands as I unlatch them from my waist.
Ok, ok Carter. Just call me when the trucks done, deal? I punch his shoulder, trying to be like brother and sister more than the lovers hes implying. The punch jolts him, his smile going slack. I realize the gesture has hurt his feelings. Carter- I start to say, trying to apologize, but his holds his hand up and grabs his keys from the coffee table. He turns a cold shoulder to me as he leaves out the front door.
I can hear his car pull out of the garage and squeal away, as if the Jeep is pissed at me too. I watch him barrel down Miller Road until hes swallowed up by the snowfall. I turn back to the empty house, taking a deep breath. Hell get over it, I whisper to no one. I breathe in and out and turn to my desk.
Ok, work, I resolve. My desk is in the corner of the living room, just a desk with a couple of drawers on both sides and some shelving up above it. Theres my faithful computer, affectionately named Bessie, and the plethora of sticky notes littering the desk and computer screens edge. I look it over before sighing and settling into my chair, pulling myself in.
I click on the computer and pull up the latest article Ive been writing. Its on the growing pattern of ferns in different climate zones around the United States. A little magazine in Oregon wanted it done by, well, yesterday, but today would have to do. I type out an email explaining my personal reasons as to the delay of the article and promise it will be done and submitted promptly. And then I turn back to the article.
When I was in college I was somewhat of a budding botanist, someone that always knew the names of obscure plant life that usually lived on the edge of the colleges dormitories. It was a fun party trick to name the mold that lived under a party houses stairs, or to identify what all the flowers meant in a bouquet for one of my friends. Yellow roses are friendship, amaryllis is pride, carnations are fascination, and so on.
Subsequently, as I decided to make the move out into the middle-of-nowhere, I called on my background in writing and plant life to start freelance writing for magazines around the world. With a little stretching it paid the bills, and since the cabin was already paid off, and it was just my mouth to feed, it was enough to get by on. And I still had the money inherited from my father in my savings.
My father had been a fisherman in Maine, who married my mom for all of two years, just long enough to have me. Then he left my mom and I for the sea. He died out on his boat in a terrible when I was only seven years old, and I dont remember him except for his picture that sat on my mothers nightstand until she herself died last year. I didnt want to put her in a retirement home or have her go into assisted living, but as her health started to decline two years ago it was obvious I would have to start looking at my options.
I remember going up to her door, thinking of ways to tell her that we needed to look at some communities where theyd help her get along easier. I knocked for a while, finally digging for my own key to the house.
I found her inside, sitting in her recliner still, her mouth slack and her eyes shut. I thought she might have been sleeping for a moment but her face was not unlike the deers; it was unnatural the way it hung there, and I knew she was dead from just the sight of her. I called the ambulance, called the funeral parlor, called the relatives. Her funeral was over and done with by the time I started to comprehend that she was really gone.
I had no family other than her, and when she died I think something snapped in me. I let go the wishy-washy guys I was dating, dropped out of graduate school and was about to take the trip out to Valance to sell off the cabin when her lawyer came to visit me.
She wanted to go back to it one day, he had told me, and my heart broke at the thought of it. She told me she wanted to hang onto it, just in case she ever did go back.
Why, I had asked as I shook my head in disbelief. I myself had never been to the cabin but I knew of it. My mother had bought it before she met my father, planning to move out to Valance and live here as a single woman, on her own. But she met my father and got pregnant, ruining her opportunity to ever leave Maine again. Through all the poorest moments of growing up she never could sell off the cabin, letting go her dreams completely. And yet, deep down, she also could never be so far away from my father, from his ocean, their ocean.
She wanted you to live there, her lawyer had told me. I looked at him in disbelief. No, I dont think so, I shook my head.
Well, whatever you decide its up to you. She just asked me to tell you this, in case she never go the opportunity. He left me then, the key to the cabin in a manila envelope on the table.
I took the next train out to Valance, the three-day ride giving me time to comprehend what I was doing. Back home in Maine was no longer home by the time the train pulled into Valance, the cabin being the last link I had to my mother.
When I got to the cabin the whole place was well kept, still in good condition. I was preparing myself for dust three feet thick and rusted out water pipes, but it looked as if someone had just left on an errand. The cabin was built back in the 1960s but had a charm about it that spanned the passing decades.
I remember opening the front door for the first time, falling in instantaneous love.
I stopped renting my apartment in Maine, sending for my furniture. I never went back to Maine, never left the cabin. In a way my mothers last wish for me was exactly what I needed.
I think this over as I look at the white computer screen, the curser blinking at me indignantly. I moan, focusing my attention back on dreary ferns while fingering the charm around my neck. I found it back when I was moving in the last of my shipped-out furniture, left on the windowsill of the living room window. It is about the size and shape of a silver dollar, but upon closer observation I saw a pattern inscribed on it, a set of interlacing lines that stair step up and down the charm.
I had put the charm around my neck that day. Once the string was knotted it hung even with my breasts, bouncing playfully as I went about pushing the rest of the furniture into place. That night I went to take it off but I ended up leaving it on. Even though my mother had only seen the cabin once, to buy it, I felt it might have been hers. It was a long shot but I still think she might have worn it once, back when she was my age and dreaming big dreams for herself and this cabin.