Thursday, September 5, 2013

Violins and Fireworks

The footpath was sometimes so narrow though the woods that my husband Joel and I had to hike single file. We each pulled along a wheeled suitcase stuffed with enough clothes so that we could spend three nights and two days in the wilderness.
"Almost there," Joel said. "I see the cabin."
My heart beat a little faster.
We broke into a clearing.
"There it is!" Joel said.
Smiling, I gazed at a little log cabin nestled beneath towering pines, their scent floating in the air. A picnic table, gas grill, and lawn chairs sat in front of the cabin, all provided by Foxwood Lodges. Fifty yards down a grassy hill, Eagle Lake sparkled in the late-afternoon sunlight, the sky above it a deep blue.
Joel took a breath, inhaling the fresh air. "What a great idea you had."
"I told you, we had to do something to get the chemistry back. Married twelve years. Remember when we first met? Violins and fireworks!"
He draped an arm around my shoulder. "Even after we were married, you created butterflies in my stomach. Big ones. I couldn't wait to get home from work."
I felt myself blush a little. "We had some awesome times, didn't we?"
"Beyond awesome," he said, and grinned. Then, "Look, here's the keys to the place. You open up, and I'll go back for the groceries."
"You sure you can manage alone?"
"It's why we brought the kids' wagon, right? The brochure said the place was secluded."
I watched my husband—tall, broad-shouldered, and handsome—scurry along the path into the woods. After we were married, four or five times a year, we'd take time out from our jobs, jump into the car, and spend a fun day together. Sometimes something as simple as a barefoot picnic in the park, later tossing a Frisbee back and forth. But after three kids arrived—Sandy, Becky, and Tom—those let's-play-hooky days dwindled to zero.
I pulled both suitcases up to the cabin's front porch, unlocked the padlocked pine door, and stepped inside, catching a woodsy scent. The cabin was a single room that included a kitchen area with a sink, refrigerator, cupboards, and a four-burner stove. A brass bed with a bright patchwork quilt on it crouched in one corner. In another corner, what looked like a closet, I discovered, was actually a bathroom, complete with shower. The place was totally perfect for the get-away Joel and I wanted.
I checked my watch. Four-thirty. The kids would be home from school. I needed to call to assure them their dad and I had arrived safely, we loved them, and missed them already. I fished my cell phone from my purse, plunked down at the table, and dialed home. My mom and dad were staying with the kids. I talked to each girl for about a second. They were in a hurry. Grandpa was taking them to softball practice in five minutes, but neither one could find her glove. I told them both to check under their beds. I was still gossiping with Mom when Joel started lugging the cooler into the cabin and the boxes of groceries.
He frowned at me. "What are you doing?"
"Checking on the kids. Talking to my mom. I haven't talked to Tommy yet."
"I thought this was a time for us."
"Joel, I'm letting them know we're okay."
He shook his head. Smiled. "We haven't gone to the moon, Ann. We're only a hundred miles from home."
"Just a minute, Mom," I said. "I can't hear."
I eased up from the table, slipped outside into the late afternoon sunshine, and caught my breath. The sun, perched above the trees across the lake, had painted the sky with bold strokes of pink and purple. Down near the dock, ducks paddled and quacked along the shoreline. Beautiful. I sat down at the picnic table, cell phone clutched to my ear.
I reminded Tommy that he could take a bath by himself, he was a big boy now. Brush his teeth. When Mom came back on the line, she said that Mrs. Olsen, and elderly widow down the street, had suffered a heart attack. An ambulance whisked her away to the hospital at about noon. No word about how she was doing.
"That's terrible," I said. "She's such a lovely lady."
I talked longer on the phone than I should have, I admit. But when I finished and hurried back into the cabin, I never expected to see Joel hunched over his laptop computer, papers strewn across the table.
My mouth dropped. "What's this? Work from the office?"
He looked sheepish. "I thought if it rained all the time..."
"It's not raining, Joel. Rain's not even in the forecast."
"I just wanted to gab a minute, first chance I got, to organize this data."
We fell silent.
Without a word, without being asked or without complaining, he gathered his papers off the table and shuffled them into a manila folder. He shut down the computer and tucked everything into the laptop carrying case.
Before he zippered the case, I said, "Give it to me."
He handed me the case, and I stuffed my phone in with his computer and folder.
"I'll be right back."
"Where are you going?"
"Light the grill—I think we've both made a major mistake."
Five minutes—tops—is what it took me to tromp through the woods back to our Suburban and lock these evil distractions inside the vehicle. Back at the cabin, we grilled lemon-pepper salmon steaks and onion slices, and baked two potatoes. We drank a glass of red wine with supper. We watched the sun, a red ball, finally sink behind the trees. 
We built a bonfire in the fire ring in front of the cabin. We sat next to each other in lawn chairs by the blaze. Under the moon and stars, we held hands.
"Lovely night," I said. "Just what I'd hoped for."
He squeezed my hand. "I wouldn't want to be with anyone else."
"But I almost blew it today," I said. "I'm so sorry."
"I'm to blame. I promised myself I was going to leave all that paperwork home."
Joel stoked the fire with a long stick, and sparks danced off into the night.
I snugged my chair closer to his.
"Those sparks remind me of fireworks." he said, looping is arm around my shoulders, kissing my neck.
And I said, "I think I hear violins..."

The End

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