God, he loved mornings like this. He’d almost forgotten what it felt like. Lately he’d chosen to work seven days a week, getting up before dawn and staying long past the time everyone else had gone home. The light out here seemed to come from some other world. He honestly believed he could sit in this rocking chair all day long, wiling away an afternoon with nothing more than his own thoughts and a good cup of coffee to occupy him. When was the last time he’d felt that way? He knew. He knew exactly when. He passed a hand over the scruff on his face and decided he’d just leave it. Annie had always liked it and for years he’d kept a goatee, rubbing it against the softness of her cheek whenever possible. She’d complain about it, but there were so many mornings he’d wake up to her running her hand over his scratchy face, tenderly.. that he knew her grumbling was only for show. He scratched his chin. Maybe he’d let it grow out a little.
The sun was scattering diamonds across the water as it made its way into the sky. He guessed it was around eleven o’clock and he had already been sitting there for several hours, watching the geese swoop in for a landing on the surface of the lake. There was a peace here that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. It was quiet, sure. He had spent plenty of time in the woods and he preferred that kind of silence, but this was somehow different. It was pervasive, as if the rest of the world had frozen for a brief moment in time, allowing him to sort out his thoughts in a way that might actually enable him to organize them permanently, without leaving him behind in the dust. He took a sip from the mug at his side, thinking of the old Henry David Thoreau quote.
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, find that I had not lived."
It made so much sense to him in this moment, tucked away from the rest of the world, and he could see easily why Isabel liked to write out here. The surroundings with their myriad scents and sounds were inspiring, without being intrusive. He thought he might stay the weekend and explore the woods a bit, if she wouldn’t mind. He’d ask her later. She had finished her painting but was still sitting on the dock far below him, knees drawn up under her chin, one hand splashing back and forth in the water, making little ripples as she moved. She was staring off into space and he wouldn’t disturb her right now. It was interesting sitting up here in the shade of the porch, watching from a distance. He paid attention to the quieter details, like the way she cocked her head to the side when a seagull passed over her head, squinting into the sun, or the way she giggled to herself when a fish mistook her finger for its breakfast. She was deeply connected to her surroundings, respecting them even more out here than she did in the house. She was at ease, blending naturally with the landscape, and somehow it made him feel that way too. It surprised him that she spent so much time alone. He thought that people must be rather drawn to her.
Jack looked around him at the log cabin where he was staying, appreciating the quality of the build, in the daylight. He hadn’t had much of a feel for his surroundings when he’d gone inside last night in the dark. It resembled the Lincoln Logs he used to play with as a boy, right down to its green metal roof. Looking through the woods to his right, he could clearly see the Lodge at this time of year. Isabel was packing up her things and heading back to the house, and he stood up to wave at her from the porch. Shielding her eyes from the sun, she waved back, shouting to ask if he’d had any breakfast. When he shook his head no, she smiled and motioned that she’d be right there. He went inside and rinsed his coffee cup, leaving it in the sink. Drying his hands on the towel hanging on a hook next to the oven, he heard her footprints crunching on the gravel outside the back door. Opening it, he tried to hide his smile over what she was wearing, but he just couldn’t do it. His face must have given him away because she looked down at herself and laughed.
“Yeah, well… I’m no fashion diva, that’s for sure,” she grinned.
She stuck her finger in the hole in her sweatshirt, mumbling something about how all her sweatshirts looked like that because the sharp edge on her laptop rested against her torso causing friction between it, and the fabric. It drove her crazy for a time looking for anything that might be causing the small tears, but she had finally figured out that the repeated rubbing motion that happened when her computer was resting on her lap, had worn through most of her wardrobe as she wrote.
"One of the hazards of the profession," she teased.
There was a smear of blue paint on one leg and she covered it with a hand, feeling embarrassed all of a sudden that she hadn’t thought of that before dashing over here. She should have at least changed first! She asked him if he’d like to go down to the village to get something to eat, since her refrigerator was sadly lacking. He agreed, remembering the sorry little tangerine he had politely swallowed last night and they decided to meet at the car in an hour.
“Hey, how would you feel about my staying the weekend up here and spending some time in the woods?” he asked. “I’ll stay out of your way and won’t be a bother. I know you’re writing.”
She looked at him for a long moment and then nodded her head before walking slowly back up to the Lodge. He was determined to make her smile today and went inside to shower and contemplate the best way to do that. She didn’t seem unhappy really. He just felt like she hadn’t laughed much in awhile and, when he stopped to think about it, neither had he. He felt a sudden wild desire to change that for both of them and he knew exactly how to pull it off. He took out his phone and made a quick phone call to the shop in the village. He had an arrangement with a guy he’d done some work for before Christmas, and he was more than happy to help. Showering quickly he ran up the road and sat down on the bench by the door, impatiently waiting for her to come out.
He hadn’t taken it out in almost a year, but it was a perfect day for it. When she opened the door, she found him standing there, a huge grin on his face. Grabbing her hand, he yanked her outside and said, “Come on! I have an idea! Get in the truck!” He was already running up the driveway.
If it had been anyone else, she would have dug her heels in and demanded an explanation before going anywhere, but his enthusiasm was contagious and she found herself running after him. They made it to the village in record time, stopping briefly to pick up a few things at the deli. When he drove in to the gas station on route 20, she leaned forward in her seat raising an eyebrow but settled back in when he pulled up to the gas pump.
“Stay here. I’ll be right back.”
He left the keys in the ignition so she could listen to the radio. She fiddled with the knobs until she found one she liked and closed her eyes to listen. The sun was warm on her face and it was just nice to feel the air again. She heard the grumble of a Harley pulling up to the pump next to them but she was so relaxed, she didn’t even bother to open her eyes.
Jack stood on his side of the truck smiling at her through the window. She was mouthing the words and drumming the air and he took it as a good sign that she’d go for this, like he thought she would. Opening the door, he dumped a helmet in her lap and pointed to the bike.
The next thing she knew, she was tearing off down the road, burning like wildfire and laughing into the wind.