Rebecca walked down the hill, her shoulders hunched, and her head drawn in low on her neck. The cold February wind stung her eyes, caused them to tear.
How would it feel, she wondered, to be free of love, to belong wholly to myself?
She thrust her hands deeper into her coat pockets as the cold gusts of wind pushed against her body. She should not have come, she told herself again. “Why not?” the voice inside her head countered.
“HE might come,” she argued.
“So, are you afraid to see him?”
Rebecca stopped suddenly, for she had reached the bottom of the hill. Her breath caught in her throat. She shook her head savagely, to no avail, for the tears came anyway. The lake shimmered with myriad points of sparkling jewels as the winter sun touched its surface. The forlorn shapes of bare branches reached for the brightness of the sky, a cloudless, pure blue that met the edges of the lake. It had always captured and held her senses, inspired her creativity, fueled her imagination. It was her place. Reluctantly, she turned her head toward the house. Dare she mount the steps and go inside? Would her defenses come down the moment her feet crossed the threshold? Would she be unable to walk out and leave it again?
A movement near the house caught her eye. A squirrel scampered along the ground, made a flying leap to the trunk of the huge oak beside the porch and raced toward the top branches.
The pain caught her off guard, for her heart raced with the force of it. The memory was sharp and clear. The smell of wood smoke from the fireplace, the golden autumn days that drew them out into the woods. The squirrel nest. Day after day they had watched the activity of the pair of frisky parents as they prepared their nest for yet another set of youngsters each spring. Now the nest was forsaken. Just like herself, she thought. Just like the house.
“You could come back,” the voice suggested slyly.
Yes, she agreed. I could come back. I could overcome all that has happened here. I’m stronger now. But even as she talked so bravely, Rebecca knew she was whistling in the darkness of her own fears. She knew she could not trust her heart to agree with her better judgment. She knew her heart had deceived her destructively too many times.
She felt herself forcefully drawn toward the place of her downfall, the place of her weakness over her own flesh. As though in a trance, she started up the steps to the porch, the familiar worn wood of the railing somehow warm in spite of the cold day. Even as the spirit within screamed in protest, Rebecca reached for the door knob..