It looked as if the storm was going to last awhile, but Isabel didn’t mind because it usually helped her to focus on the task at hand and finish without lapsing into a daydream. If it was sunny, forget it. She was a goner. Sunshine just fueled her daydreaming and she could sit there all day long in front of a blank page with her wheels spinning, going nowhere. But then.. she supposed that meant that her ideas were born on sunny days, and grew up, when it rained. Maybe that’s why she always found herself so productive when she returned to this place. She had a good mix of both and her garden just flourished. She liked the metaphor anyway, and decided to add it to her notes. Might be useful in a book someday.
Jack had managed to get them back to the station just as the fat drops of rain started to fall and they made a beeline for the truck, laughing, as he had somehow ended up totally soaked for the second time in two days. He dropped Isabel at the Lodge and went up to the cabin to change and make a few phone calls. He thought he might take a quick nap too, considering the weather. He hoped that Izzy was wrong and the storm was only passing through so that he could spend some time exploring in the woods before sunset. He planned to head down to the dock afterward to watch the sun go down. If it stopped raining and the clouds stuck around, it would be amazing, and he didn’t want to miss it, but he hadn’t slept well the night before. He really could use a bit of rest before then.
Putting on some dry clothes, he rubbed a towel briskly over his hair. Toppling onto the sofa, he pulled a cushion under his head for a pillow. He fell asleep quickly and dreamed of Annie.
She was standing in front of him in the center of a ballroom, dressed elegantly in a black chiffon gown with gold rings at her shoulders. They had been dancing, slow and close, comfortable in the way onlylong time lovers could be. He looked around in search of others, but they were the only two people in the room. He relaxed into her, holding her hand over his heart and covering it with his own. Diamonds were dripping from her ears and onto the floor and she pulled away from him, attempting to gather them back up, but they were turning to stardust as soon as she touched them. She looked up at him in confusion, trying to tell him what was happening. Her mouth was moving as if she were talking, but there was no sound coming out. He kept straining to hear her, bending forward, his ear toward her mouth, but the harder he tried to get close, the farther away she moved, dragged away by some magnetic force of the universe. All he could hear, was wind. Something was very wrong and he called out to her, desperately grasping her fingers as she slid away from him. The chandelier over his head fell from the ceiling, shattering into tiny crystals, and scattering across the floor between them. He turned away from her briefly, to find them rising up and surrounding him, a million shards of light. He reached out to scoop up a handful, letting the glitter slip through his fingers like sand. She was far ahead of him now, way off in the distance, holding her arms out and calling his name. But it was only a whisper and he was mesmerized by the stars, his feet quickly sinking into the sparkling dust as it fell from his hands.
The thunder outside rattled the cabin and the rain pounded heavily on the roof above him, coming down sideways in sheets, but he was completely unaware. The wind howled through the trees and they swayed from side to side, the tops nearly touching the floor of the porch. He rolled over onto his side, one arm flung over the end of the sofa, falling deeper into the dream. Annie was following someone in front of her, pleading with him to wait and clinging to his arm. Every time she looked back at Jack, he seemed to fall further away and he fought hard to stand his ground, yelling for her to just let go and turn back. The wind whipped up around her and stars glittered in her hair, her gown flowing out around her as she mouthed, “I will always love you,” smiling peacefully. He begged her to stay, but she kept moving forward and disappeared out of sight, stars parting like a curtain and closing behind her. She’d be visible again briefly, in the space of a heartbeat, and then she’d disappear into the darkness, only starlight in her wake. He fought harder to pull his feet up out of the dust and started to run, but she faded and then vanished completely right in front of him. Suddenly everything went still.. placid as a winter lake, completely frozen over. The stars exploded soundlessly…and there was only light all around him, clean, white, clear. She was gone.
He woke on the floor of the cabin, shaking and on his knees. He was totally drenched…again, and he was not amused. The rain had blown in sideways through the window and had soaked the couch and the floor but it had stopped at some point, while he was still sleeping. Millions of tiny water droplets outside on trees and furniture and wood surfaces were slipping off and plinking onto the ground, like a tiny water symphony, soaking in and releasing the unmistakable scent of earth finally quenched. Rays of sunlight were pouring through the trees, chasing shadows and lighting up the floor around him. It grounded him and he began to relax, laying down on his stomach, forehead against the cold floor, palms flat on either side of his head. The muscles in his back were tense and taut and he looked like a wildcat waiting to spring. Slowing his breathing a little at a time, he took in huge gulps of air at first, swallowing against the pain, fighting it. He glanced at the clock on the table and saw he’d been sleeping for two hours and the late day sun was creeping toward the back kitchen wall at a fast pace. He got up and shut the window making his way to the bathroom for some towels. He was still breathing heavily and his heart felt like someone had stomped on it repeatedly and tried to rip it out of his chest when he wasn’t looking.
The nightmare was always the same. Cloaked in stardust and diamonds, it glittered with the promise of her, only to rip her away into darkness, every time. He put his head in his hands and sat down on a chair at the kitchen table for a long time, wishing he could somehow turn back time and bring her home.
He decided in that moment that he didn’t care how wet everything was. He yanked his jacket from the peg by the door, a little rougher than intended. The hook came off the wall and clattered to the floor, jangling his nerves further. He swore under his breath, slamming the door behind him, hard. He sat down on the steps and pulled his boots on, lacing them with a sharp tug at every level. He was so tired of feeling like this. He was angry but he didn’t even know who to be angry at. He couldn’t be angry with Annie… she wasn’t even here and God only knows what she was going through. He couldn’t be angry at the woman he’d spent the past thirty hours with. She barely knew him. And he couldn’t very well be angry with a God he no longer believed in… so he turned it inward.
Standing up, he kicked the stone wall in front of him hard, wincing as the pain hit his toes and traveled up his leg, but doing it again twice before stomping off into the woods above the cabin. He chose the steepest embankment he could find and started climbing. It was rocky and because it was still wet from the rain, it was also slippery. He fell several times on his way to the top, scraping both knees and a forearm but he kept on going, ignoring how they were both beginning to throb. His legs were burning but he pushed himself harder and faster, knowing he was out of shape. He moved deeper and deeper into the woods and eventually stumbled into a small clearing where some kids had left evidence of their stolen adventures from the night before.
A waterfall was roaring somewhere in the distance and he followed the sound until he stood at the base of it, finally stopping to let out a primal howl of release. He sounded like a wounded animal. A deer pricked up her ears at him, but remained still, looking at him gently through the trees and understanding instinctively that he wasn’t a threat. He let the tears fall then, looking into her big doe eyes and weeping unashamed, until he was spent. Only the forest looked on, the trees gently rustling in the wind, embracing him without judgement. On the ridge above the waterfall, a lone wolf-dog braced herself and answered him, lifting her face to the sky and howling a mournful cry in response to his own. When he stopped in surprise to look at her, she made her way carefully over the rocks, stopping at his feet, to lick his hand.
“Maya?” he whispered, running his hand over her head. Isabel’s dog whined softly in answer.
Jack scanned the woods around him, suddenly realizing she had to be there. And she was. She was standing behind him, tears streaming silently down her cheeks, holding onto a birch tree, white bark against the bluest sky.