This story is by Nicole Dwigans and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
She hung her coat on the copper coat rack, the hooks the shape of butterfly wings, and set her purse on the small table.
“I was just thinking this was becoming odd, even for you” Landon said, as he stepped into the hallway.
“Sorry, I couldn’t stop driving,” Winter replied with a weak smile. She looked at the watch on her wrist, rose gold with a mother-of-pearl face and no numbers. “She is asleep?”
“Yep, as of an hour ago,” her husband replied as he follow her into the living room. On the coffee table sat two glasses of wine. “I thought you might need it.”
“To celebrate the greatest fallout of my career?”
“It could be,” he replied as he reached of her hand, “the greatest revival.” Winters’ brows lowered. “I think I made a mistake,” she said quietly.
Winter laid in bed, her eyelids weighing a thousand pounds due to a restless night. Across the room, a grand painting hung on the wall that the morning light began to illuminate. The brilliant yellow and orange wings were so lifelike you could almost see them move and feel the breeze that a butterfly of such a size would make. While this was typically the part of the painting her eyes connected with, this morning they slipped a little lower, nearly to the corner. There, something so easy to miss, was a nearly translucent cocoon.
Landon rolled from his back to his side, wrapped his arm around Winter and pulled her closer.
Gently he kneaded her arm with his wide hand and eased her body from the rigor mortis that had settled into her. She snuggled into his chest and he let out a long breath through his nose as he kissed her temple.
Down the short hall, a small child emerged from a pink room. Her thick black curls sprung freely around her face. She wore white bunny slippers, one missing its whiskers. Her bright blue eyes, that matched her mother’s, peered into the open door of her parent’s room, to the lump below the sheets. In a loud
whisper she said, “Mama?”
“Morning Lilly.” Winter said with brightness in her voice.
Her little face was punctuated by heavy eyebrows that drew together.
“Where is Nanny Christa?” Her father reached over her mother and tickled her full cheek. “Papa,” she giggled leaning into his hand.
Winter pushed her long blonde bangs from her eyes and sat on the edge of the bed. “It’s you and me today.”
Winter’s hair whipped as she shook the blow dryer, her eyes looking off to some distant land in the mirror. She didn’t notice her husband who stood behind her, before he lowered his lips to the side of her open neck. A blue towel wrapped his hips. She watched as he gathered soap, a shave brush and his razor.
“Who was on the phone?” Landon asked.
She looked into a drawer, neatly organized, with eye shadow, blush and eight grey lipstick containers. “Frank,” she replied simply. “He said that we perhaps spoke a little rashly yesterday. Asked me to come up for lunch.”
One of Landon’s eyebrows lifted slowly, but he waited for her to speak again as his razor slid down around the side of his jaw.
“I said no.”
The corners of his mouth crinkled his cheeks. “Always so feisty.” He kissed his wife, leaving an imprint of shave cream around her mouth.
“He thinks that just because he is my boss he is right. He isn’t,” she paused and took a deep breath. “I thought about it all night. I used to love my job, love me. And now, my daughter is confused why her nanny isn’t here to greet her when she wakes up.”
He cleaned his razor in the basin of water, his brows lifting. Her chest rose and fell like a woman that just finished a sprint as she looked down, eyes searching her drawer again. She shook her head as if to clear it. “I’m going to take Lilly to the park.”
“It’s supposed to rain,” Landon replied, almost encouraging her.
“Is Nanny Christa coming too?” Lilly asked as her mother pulled on fashionable green rain boots. Winter shook her head. “Just mommy?” she asked as she squeezed her arms to her sides, ready to burst with an enormous smile.
“Just.” Winter replied. She knelt and zipped her daughter’s purple jacket trimmed in white flowers. The little girl’s tiny hand bloomed from the sleeve and reached up for her mother’s.
They walked in near silence, save for the sound of Lilly’s feet as she purposely scrapped them along. “I am going to be home with you more,” Winter said as she looked down to the pebbles the small girl kicked playfully.
Lilly yanked on her mother’s hand and lead her to the edge of a puddle. Her little knees bent deeply and she jumped six inches, the tips of her boots just touching the water. Her bright laugh encouraged the birds around her to join in a swelling singsong. The rain drops grew fat dotting the water.
Winter’s lips looked poised for reprimand, but instead melted into a narrow line. “Why did you do that?” she asked.
Lilly jumped again, this time further into the puddle. The water covered the toes of the yellow rain boots on her feet. “It is fun! Jump mama!” Winter did, her feet not touching the puddle. “Like this!” Lilly demonstrated and splashed water onto Winter’s pristine jeans that had never been put to the test of outdoor play.
Winter jumped this time with determination in her eyes. Tiny droplets bounced up. For a moment, her eyes misted and then she laughed, a hollow laugh that grew more lively as she continued.
“What happened to your boots?” Landon asked, hanging his bag from a bar stool. Winter stirred a pot filled with red sauce.
“We jumped in puddles.”
“Me. And, we ran in the rain,” she laughed with a vibrancy that filled the room like her daughters. “I slid down the slide in the rain.” Her eyes brightened. “Did you know when Lilly laughs, the birds sing with her?”
He turned his wife and cupped the sides of her face in his warm hands and kissed her like a man that had been denied his lady during a hundred year slumber.
Lilly ran to her father, an oversized paper clutched in her hand. “Papa! Mama and me colored this!”
“Oh, isn’t that beautiful!” her dad said. “This must be your mother’s amazing art work.” He pointed to a particular cyclone of color.
“Yours?” He scooped her up, the paper waived from one of her hands. “You also played in the rain?”
“And we sang!” she replied as she wiggled from her dad’s arms and disappeared from the kitchen.
Landon looked proudly at his wife as she shook pasta from a box into a pot of boiling water. “It is wonderful to hear such life in your voice. It reminds me… of you.” He looked across the room out the window to the drizzle. “Still not going to call Frank back?”
Her eyes gleamed as she tucked her hair behind her ear. “I’ve been so caught up in pushing my way to the top at work, and the normal patterns of life, that I nearly forgot what it felt like to be me. I knew, something was wrong but I didn’t know what it was until today,” she took a deep breath. “I am spending my days all wrong. I’d like to jump in puddles and slide in the rain a little while longer.”
“Really?” her husband said and then tasted the spoonful of sauce she held out. “That is amazing.”
“I poured it out of a jar,” she giggled. “But, it felt good to stir it on the stove instead of putting it in the microwave.” She shifted to her right foot. “I’d like to slow down,” she said kindly.
He wrapped his arms around his wife’s waist, kissed the top of her ear and whispered, “I am ready to slow down too.” He guided her to French doors that opened to a deck. The yard was trimmed in manicured bushes and trees releasing the last red and gold leaves.
“I would like to dance in the rain with you,” he said and spun her around.
“What are you doing?” Lilly asked from the door.
“We are dancing in the rain!” Landon laughed.
“I like rain and dancing!”
Her parents held out their hands.
Winter looked over her husband’s shoulder to her favorite tree, a sturdy maple. The last red leaf slowly pull away from its branch, nearly at the top of the tree. It twirled, rocked and landed softly on the bright grass. She walked down the stairs, across the wet grass and picked it up. “I think I will frame it,” she said. “It’s rather extraordinary, isn’t it?”
“Just like you, it’s rather extraordinary.”