He felt like a coward. He knew he’d hurt her. He could see it as he drove away, and it wasn’t a good feeling. He should have at least talked to her before he left. She deserved something better than silence. He drove north, thinking about the last two days. It was more interesting and meaningful than anything he’d done in the last two months and he wasn’t entirely sure how that was even possible, except that before that, he’d spent every waking moment with only a hammer and a bunch of nails, working job after job, seven days a week.
It didn’t seem like much, just little moments. They had talked, shared a meal that was probably better suited to a pair of mice, watched a sunrise, taken the Harley out, walked through an orchard, wandered the woods with a wolfdog. They had laughed and they had cried. But he searched his heart and recognized he hadn’t lived even a tenth of the last two days, in the last two months. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt anything at all, much less, laughed or cried. In two days, he had come alive. And so had she.
By now, he was nearly home. Turning right, he made his way down to the river and pulled into the drive. He grabbed his bag from the back seat and stumbled wearily up the porch steps, unlocking the door and dropping his stuff on the hardwood floor. He stared out at the yard for a long time and he could hear the clock on the wall ticking. Was it really only 9 am? He flopped on the couch and put his feet up on the table, picking up the remote. Passing by a number of tv evangelists, he stopped on the news. He listened for awhile and it was totally depressing. More fighting in the middle east. Some expert talking about a virus he couldn’t even fathom. A plunging Dow Jones industrial. A baby lost in a crash not ten miles from here. He shut it off and got up to look in the fridge. Two beers, some white bread, a package of bologna that was turning green around the edges. And a jar of mustard that had crusty dry bits hanging off the lid. Really? He slammed the door in disgust.
Wandering the house he went out to her studio and sat down in one of the rocking chairs. Everything was still the same, just the way she’d left it. Because of the big windows, the sun was so beautiful out here. She used to love the way the river sparkled from east to west, the whole day long, making wavy dappled light on the walls and floor. It was her favorite room in the house. He stared out at the water for a long time. When he looked at the clock, it was 9:30 am. Irritated, he took his clothes downstairs and threw them into the washing machine, slamming the lid. He went back up to the office and turned on the computer, swiveling to his left to grab the phone. At eye level, was a row of books, and every one of them whispered her name. Isabel Wolfe.
Pulling one of them off the shelf, he began to read. He was surprised to find himself interested in the story after only a few chapters. You couldn’t really call it romance. It was more like “life experience” from a romantic point of view. Clearly she found some measure of beauty in ordinary things. She wrote of simple things in a way that caused her reader to pay attention to the details that made them extraordinary to her. No wonder Annie had loved them. She saw the world that way too. He closed the book and laid it on the desk, staring at it for a long time, thinking.
The timer went off and he ran downstairs to put his clothes in the dryer. He dumped the rest of the contents of his dresser into a duffel bag, leaving it on the bed while he showered and shaved. He added a few things from the bathroom to his bag, grabbing it by the handles and dropping it in the office. He chose two of Isabel’s books and laid them on top of the clothes, zipping it up and lifting it onto his shoulder. In the other hand, he grabbed his tool belt and an old blanket.
“Quit overthinking it, Jack. Just do it.”
He tossed it all in the truck and took off for the grocery store.
She was wandering the aisles listlessly, feeling bluer than she cared to admit to herself and would flat out refuse to admit to anyone else. She was wearing a pair of baggy sweats that were smeared with paint and her hair was tucked up in a messy ponytail. There was a small red basket over her arm, but she hated grocery shopping and she couldn’t decide what to fill it with. She found a display of tangerines and smiled to herself, adding four of them to the basket along with a jar of cashews, a big bag of M&Ms, some bacon, coffee and a few protein bars. She supposed she should put some vegetables in there so she found a zucchini and a bag of salad and tossed them in virtuously. It would probably be limp by the time she decided to open it, but she would try. She sighed and the old man next to her looked at her kindly, patting her arm, raising an eyebrow in question and handing her a tomato. She laughed and accepted the gift. She had no idea why, but she went to the deli and asked for half a pound of bologna. She hadn’t eaten that since she was nine, but maybe Maya would like it.
It was a long drive back to the Lodge so she turned on one of her playlists. She had several that she had given color titles and she knew she should probably choose one that was Yellow or Red, but instead, she picked “Blue.” She wondered why she always made that choice when she was feeling melancholy and then realized that it made some kind of weird sense, if her music was the soundtrack to her life.
Her thoughts drifted to a man and his motorcycle and she didn’t even try to banish them. She let them ride at will over her weary heart.
She saw the truck first and her heart skipped a beat as she scanned the property. She found him swaying gently on the porch swing that was hanging by a squeaky chain next to the front door, boots firmly planted on the ground. She cut the engine and could hear the windchimes above the whispering pines through her open window. There was a brown bag full of groceries on the seat beside him and one on his knee. Maya was laying at his feet chewing on a bone. Isabel got out of the car and pulled her one plastic bag off the passenger seat feeling a little silly for what was inside. When she slammed the door, Maya moved to greet her, but Jack leaned forward and said simply… Stay.
When he looked up at her, she was smiling… and something in him came undone.