It was early and the light was just beginning to dance on the water but the birds had already started their cheerful wake up call and I got up to stoke the fire. A flock of geese flew overhead, honking and carrying on as if it was high noon. The mist was rising in silver columns from the surface of the lake and the air was rich with the scent of pines. I could hear the lone call of a loon somewhere in the distance and I climbed back into the sleeping bag, reaching for her. She was already awake. There was another couple in the tent next to us and their muffled laughter made us both grin, the memory of last night still fresh on our minds. I smelled the bacon frying and could practically taste the hot coffee, fingers of scent drifting toward me… tempting. I was hungry, but not enough to let go of this moment just yet. Two years was a long time… too long. Breakfast could wait another two minutes. She smiled at me without a word… relaxed and content to speak her heart right now, only through her eyes. She always knew. This was my idea of luxury. I'd been coming here since I was a boy and this campground felt as much a home to me as the place I'd grown up. There couldn't have been a better place to start over with her.
I flopped onto my back and let my mind wander. Isabel liked being alone. It never made her feel lonely or afraid, like it did, some women. She told me a story once about how when she was a girl, her parents had given her a small rock tumbler for Christmas and she was fascinated by how simply rolling the jagged rocks around and letting them crash against each other, could wear all the rough edges away and create something cool and clean and entirely different. She would keep the smooth stones in her pocket and run her fingers over their silky surface and it felt like a wonderful secret. She told me that being a loner and being with other people was a lot like that to her. When she was with others, she would collide against them and their ideas and perspectives and she felt it changed her in so many wonderful ways. But when she was alone and the tossing had stopped, she could wander peacefully in the stream bed of her own ideas, turning each one over and over in her mind, like a beautiful smooth stone, polished to a glassy sheen by time and tumbling. For Isabel, it was the best kind of magic.
I had always understood that on a deep level. Hell, I felt the same way. How two lifelong loners had somehow formed such a strong bond of connection was beyond me but I loved it. I would sit up on the porch, in one of the two rocking chairs she had picked up for the cottage and watch her wander, wondering at where she had gone off to, in that mind of hers. She enjoyed being by herself as much as she enjoyed being with the people she loved. When I could not find her in the house, I would often find her down on the sand, smiling to herself as she collected rocks and seashells by the dozen. Our home was littered with her treasures. She was a tidy person, but she liked to surround herself with anything and everything that reminded her of the ocean and I would often find bits and pieces scattered in the most unlikely places. The walls were also covered with scenes of our lives together; seaside, mountains and woods, painted in both soft pastels and earthy hues that always meshed together in harmony somehow. That was my girl. She worked so hard to take dark and light, shadow and detail, void and form…and merge them all together into a complimentary symphony of color and light. I found it enchanting. It was as much a part of her nature as simply breathing and it was so different from my own that I often found myself standing at a comfortable distance, watching in wonder.
I recalled vividly when I had first started calling her Sunshine. She was a midnight owl and I was a morning person. She hated getting up early and would moan and groan and pull the covers over her head when I would tease and push and try to get her out of bed for an early morning run with me. I had finally given up in exasperation and had taken instead, to heading into town to my favorite diner for coffee after my run, while waiting for her to wake up. That first time I had gone, I had let the screen door slam behind me and thinking I was irritated with her, she had sprung out of bed and ran out onto the porch in her pajamas, but she was too late. I never even saw her. When I had come home with her favorite salt encrusted bagels in a brown paper bag, I'd found her sitting on a chair out back in the rain, legs drawn up under her chin, hair sticking up in all directions and tears streaming down her face. I got down on my knees in front of her and wrapped her up in my arms, distressed that something was bothering her enough to make her cry and at a total loss for what could have happened in the mere hour I’d been gone. When she told me what was wrong, I burst out laughing, assuring her that I was much tougher than she might think, and if she was trying to make me angry, she would have to work a lot harder than that. The smile she gave me when she realized I wasn't mad, made it seem as if someone had rolled the clouds back instantly and spattered my heart with sunshine instead of rain. Isabel beamed at me. "That's better, Sunshine," I had responded.
“Why are you smiling?” she asked, her fingertips grazing the stubble on my cheek, tenderly, bringing me back to the present. I knew she didn’t really need me to answer that.
Rolling over on my side, I propped myself up on my elbow facing her and took her hand in my own, bringing it to my lips. It was cold and I warmed it gently between my own. Moving a little closer, I folded her into me. She lay down on my chest, as if I had just seen her yesterday, and I closed my eyes, understanding intimately in that moment, that home was a person… not a place.