Hey Folks! I’m sorry this didn’t make it up Friday, but I did not have anything going on in terms of internet or phone reception up in the mountains where I was staying this past week. So I’m giving you a Monday treat. 🙂 Beating the Monday blues? Grab a cup of coffee and have a seat. Welcome back to Hollow Tree. ❤ – Isabelle
The rapids traveled the angry water of the river bed with ease, looking as deceitfully delicate as ribbons carried by a summer breeze. Rain fell from the sky in sheets so thick you could hardly see anything but a blur of colors past your nose, the way it was wont to happen in late summer. I sat at the edge of the pier, my toes just barely brushing the top of the freezing waves below my feet, my dress soaked straight through so that it was nothing but another layer of skin.
I didn’t bother to check my watch. It didn’t matter what time it was.
He wasn’t coming. No amount of waiting would change that.
I found blissful freedom in the camouflage the raindrops provided for my tears. Their cool, hard plops against my head, my arms and thighs, numbed the pain of my own foolishness.
It was this place, with its ghosts lingering in the tall grass. If I listened hard enough I could still hear the giggles from the canoe below the dock, feel the quiet, whispered secrets blown against a waiting ear, smell the bonfire and roasted marshmallows of nights spent slumbering underneath the stars.
Youthful hopes and dreams kissed onto coins and stones, tossed to the bottom of the river and carried away.
Optimism had never looked good on a girl like me. A grown woman crying and rain soaked at the edge of a pier bordered on pathetic.
It didn’t help that my mother watched from the second floor window of the old house, wishing and hoping with all her might that he’d come on his white horse and be the hero I’d waited so long for.
“You’re not getting any younger, Jenny,” my mother would say. “I want grandkids before I die.”
But she and I both knew the men I dated weren’t prospective fathers. They weren’t even prospective boyfriends. They were ways to bide the time, to quell the loneliness, until this moment, until I found completeness in my other half.
“You were twelve,” she would say, when I reminded her of promises made so long ago. “And Dylan was a good boy. Do you really think some other woman hasn’t scooped him up by now? You should have called him, Jenny. You should have told him how you felt.”
Except I was terrified. Doing that would mean risking losing him completely.
“We talk, Momma. We keep in touch.”
“And you tell him everything except what you should.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Until he calls to tell you he’s fallen madly in love and ready to build a family… with someone else.”
Now, sitting alone, I wondered if she was right. If the stupid little promise made on a late summer night meant anything more than two words spoken and forgotten between friends, tucked close together under a huge jacket, the only thing keeping us dry in a torrential summer rain.
Like this one.
“On your 21st birthday,” he promised. “No matter where life takes us after high school, after college, we’ll meet here, on the pier and figure out our future together.”
Or our future alone.
I pulled myself up off the pier, my dress heavy, my hair no longer able to keep up its weight and drooping out of the braid it had been in.
It was time to move on. Time to grow up.
I sloshed back toward the old house, watching as my mother disappeared from the window, a handkerchief pressed to her lips, her eyes red.
I’m sorry, Momma. I’m hopeless.
I stopped at the front door and took one last breath to remember the strong scent of fresh grass and summer rain. My hand clutched the handle. It turned.
I sulked inside, quietly dripping my way through the house and locking the bathroom door behind me. Warm water poured from the shower head. It didn’t do much to stop the shaking.
I’m not sure how long passed before I mustered up the energy, the courage necessary to open that bathroom door. It felt like eternity. It might have only been an hour.
I tiptoed barefoot across the wooden floors toward the country kitchen. I saw Momma’s back first, smelled brewing coffee steaming on the stove.
“Don’t say it, Momma,” I said, without prelude, coming further into the room. “Just don’t say it.”
My mother moved aside. Behind her a shadow took shape, long torso and broad shoulders.
I held my breath.
The deep grey of the sky made it hard to see clearly. But I didn’t need to see him to know his voice. That voice that crept under my skin and made me tingle right down to my toes.
His smile spread across those beautiful lips. The summer rain pounded on the roof. I rushed him as though I might tackle him to the ground. Instead, his arms wrapped tight around me and I felt him inhale, breathing in my scent. For that moment alone, every pain, every broken heart, every failed relationship and lonely night was worth it.
He whispered into my hair. “I’m sorry I’m late.”