Irvine stood on the end of the peer in the late evening, just as the sun hit the water’s edge, turning the lake gold and crimson. The lilac sky deepened into velvet-purple while the late summer trees, beyond their height of seasonal green, appeared almost russet against the orange-yellow halo emanating from the last, stretching rays of the sun.
He turned his gaze to the rustic log cabin with its four glowing windows. Steep steps led to an open porch with rocking chairs set strategically on each side, comfortably distant but still companionably close. Large, eight-pained windows, one on each side of the front door, welcomed visitors with their stalwart symmetry. A smaller window glowed from the attic bedroom, and a long side window kept the backdoor company. A small side landing branched to the right onto a back deck overlooking the lake and to the left down to the water.
Peace settled over him as gentle waves lapped against the grassy shore dotted with boulders from bygone eras. His two-person canoe rocked ever so slightly, a stout rope anchoring it close to the shore. Smoke spiraled from the chimney as the sound of his wife’s humming wafted through the open windows. The clatter of plates and cutlery being set on the table and lake fish sizzling in the fireplace set his mouth watering in happy expectation.
This was the life he had always wanted but could never afford. Till now. How ironic to realize that desperation had forced him into the very dream he had always considered elusive, a mirage that would evaporate the moment he got close. Yet here he stood, in the kind of landscape artists depicted in paintings, and desperate men hung on their walls, hardly ever daring to stop and consider their beauty, much less a long-suppressed hope.
“Time to come in, honey.”
Marie, ever practical and usually cheerful, never made a show of her marvelous deeds. Creating delicious meals from simple ingredients was definitely one of her most useful skills. But it was her unruffled acceptance of the upending of their lives that he prized above all else. If she hadn’t come, hadn’t accepted his irreversible decision, his dissolution would have been complete.
“Honey?” His wife stood in the doorway, a silhouette in the night against the lantern-lit interior. “Are you okay?” She was drying her hands with a towel, embroidered with colorful owls because she had thought that would look bright and make their daily chores more fun.
Love filled his heart to bursting. He had to fight back tears. Not tears of grief, though there had been so much tragedy to deal with for so long, he wasn’t sure if he could ever cry it all away. “Yeah. I’m okay.” He held out his hand, hoping she would see his action as an invitation and not clinging need.
She came to him and took his hand, but swiftly enveloped herself into his embrace, clasping him around the middle, her head resting on his shoulder, facing the still lake. “It’s so peaceful. I don’t know if I’ll ever get enough of this.”
He clasped her closer, glad and warm and safe. “So, you don’t regret coming here? Giving everything up?”
Her soft chuckle assured him more than words ever could. “Regret the noise, the traffic, bustling crowds, meetings with long agendas and short tempers? Plastic everything? Fast food and hurried pace? Never tasting, seeing, or feeling anything in the whirl of constant distractions?”
He wanted to smile, but her words hit too close to home, reminding him of his failures. He was the fix-it guy. The hope for sanity in an insane world, function in the midst of dysfunction. Despite training and years of experience, his words, his wisdom, his hope, and even his faith were driven into the vortex of a world he could not save.
“There are still good people and plenty of wonderful places out there.”
“They are dying.”
Grief stabbed him deep inside. Yes. He knew that too. “We all are.”
“But some of us will live before we die. And there’s the difference. That’s what you said when you told me that you had to quit your practice and move far away, get out of the monster’s grip before it ate you alive. I could see it inside me, chewing up my soul. I may have been busy, but I wasn’t blind. That’s why I agreed to come. You weren’t the only one facing a miserable end.”
An owl hooted in the tall oak behind the cabin. A coyote answered. Buck, their hound dog, rambled from the back woods and took his position next to Marie, primeval protector that he was.
Pain and grief drained away, replaced by the calm enjoyment of earlier.
“Without the big income, simple is now our way of life. No eat-outs, new furniture, fancy electronics… Just us, nature, work, and making a gentle home in a ruthless world.”
She laughed outright this time and patted his chest. “You Tarzan; me Jane!” The lamp light brought out the shine in her eyes as she peered up, smiling. “As long as I can do my editing and turn everything in once a week, I’ll keep my company happy and my skills sharp. Plus, the absurd sentence fragments should give us plenty to laugh about on cold winter nights.” She shrugged out of his embrace and headed for the door. “You’re a better counselor than ever before, and families need your patience and wisdom—now that you’ve found them again.”
“Online isn’t the same as face-to-face.”
“Your face is there, just not in person. The more important thing is that your mind and heart are alive—unbroken.” She stopped in the doorway. “The fish and fries are ready. I even made a cobbler from the fresh berries I collected. You’d better come soon, or Buck and I will eat every last bit.”
The dog rushed into the house as if he understood every word and had high hopes of his doggy dreams finally coming true.
Irving sucked in a deep breath of the glorious night air and went inside to dinner.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 17 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page
“There are many excellent stories in this collection.” ~McEvoy
“The collection creates an evocative set of life scenarios that explore good intentions, real-world situations, and acts of quiet love, desperation, and redemption.” ~Diane Donovan, Editor, California