Chapter Story – Part One
Cold etched its way across the windowpane, intricate snowflake drawings under a microscope, while the wind and snow whipped and whirled outside. The winter-art spread, similar to salt dispersing watercolor on a canvas as I traced my finger along its ever-increasing pattern.
The freezing pane stung the tip of my finger. I didn’t remove my finger or alter the pressure of skin against the chilled glass; I wanted to endure, not give up. Too many said I’d given up too soon already.
I should’ve saved him, reached further, held tighter, even jumped in and drowned with him. Anything would’ve been better than this, they said.
Me alone and him dead.
I pulled my wool sweater tighter about me. The wool’s scratchy fibers prickled my neck as my eyes searched the white void. I pressed my finger harder against the windowpane until my finger grew numb.
I waited, though I knew not for what. Time to end? Sebastian to come home? Me to jump into the freezing water with him, break through the ice like he did, to never be seen again?
I panned my eyes over my small kitchen, a kitchen that used to be ours. The kitchen was small with only a few things: a pot belly wood stove; a small icebox in the corner; a candelabra with three lit candles sitting on the worn wood table; a forgotten teacup brimming with cold tea, reflecting the candle’s light.
I moved to the table. The winter-art’s sting resonated at the tip of my finger and reminded me of him even more. His body was frozen now, lost somewhere at the end of the line, submerged under ice until spring, when the absent sun would return and liberate the earth from its hibernation.
His body would not be restored as the earth would be. Nothing could restore what was wrenched away, stolen, discarded with little thought to his worth or value.
Pictures of him shuffled like a deck of cards in my mind: his face clean-shaven; the slope of his neck under my hand; his sweet hazel eyes glinting with humor; the way his fingers curled with mine while we walked to town; his voice as he whispered my name; the brush of his lips alongside my ear.
Deep gouges on the table, left from years of rearing generations of ancestors, felt like deep ravines of time and memory under my hands. I pressed my fingers into them, trying to bring forth all that they harbored. My hands ached to touch his stubbled jaw, to swoop my fingers down his chest to his waist, to lay my lips upon his man, to taste him again.
Tears should well and burst out of me, but I’ve used all that was given to me. There are none left, just this gaping jagged hole of loss and regret. I released my pressure on the table, resigned to never feel again, and blew the candle out.
The night vanquished the light in an instant. The darkness saturated the air and stuck in my throat; the weight of it was as my soul was, heavy as a coffin filled with death.
A knock at the door startled me. Who could be out on a night like this?
I stood quiet, watching the door as if I could see who visited, and waited for another knock. Seconds ticked past, then another knock sounded.
“Sarah?! Are you home?” A man’s deep voice reverberated through the thick oak door, accented with banging, louder and stronger.
I jumped where I stood and stepped backward.
Morgan? Couldn’t be. He was dead, lost with my sweet Sebastian.
“Sarah. Open the door. I’m freezing, girl,” he said, his voice lower, softer.
I hesitated, my hand partway reached out, not sure if I should open the door. They said that ghosts wandered the night sometimes, looked for revenge and mischief; they rarely, if ever, came for anything else.
I rushed to the door and wrenched it open. Morgan, snow-covered and shivering, fell to his knees over the threshold. Wind swooshed inside, stunning the air with its painful chill and frozen bites of snow. I yanked on his arms and dragged him forward enough to close the door. He fell forward onto his belly.
“Come closer to the fire,” I said and dragged him to the potbelly stove. I flung open the stove’s hatch and threw in pieces of kindling, blowing gently as I did to fuel the amber coals to flame. The slim sticks of wood ignited, and flickering light infiltrated the darkness. I shoved several larger chunks of wood in, hoping the warmth would thaw him.
I crouched down to Morgan, now noticing he whispered to me, his right hand motioning me to come to his lips. I turned my ear to hear him.
“Sebastian is alive,” he said.