Here’s the other story I wrote during the power outage a few weeks ago. My image was tons of snow piling up outside. I was home alone as my husband ventured out on the icy roads to get gas for our hungry generator. Left alone, I wrote poetry and this.
The drought had left everyone lazy. No one was prepared for the big storm as heavy rains changed over to snow the night before. Lydia had never minded being snowed in. This time when the power, internet, and communications went down, anxiety took over. It was the first time in her life she was fully alone. The emptiness echoed loudly around her, bouncing off the carefully framed photos of happier times. When living in a forest had been fun. Now though, she had to survive what mother nature brought her while a stranger watched her from the tree line.
The stranger’s face was in the shadows, but his build and stance made her believe he was in his late thirties. He wore faded blue jeans, a red plaid shirt, a black vest, and a black stocking cap. This could describe many men in their small community, including her husband Bill. The red snow boots were dated and reminded her of the ones they used to own. Moon boots.
Her heart pumped misery through her body while her husband’s heart struggled to beat. He was fighting for his life at the hospital, and she was trapped here with a stranger watching.
This person had to know she was alone after the ambulance came. Then knew there would be no 911 calls after the power and lines went down right after the emergency vehicle left. She hadn’t bothered starting the generator because she was leaving — or she had planned to.
“Oh, Bill. I wish you were here. I warned you not to shovel the driveway. Pay the money and have the tractor do it. But no, you had to do it and look at what it did to your heart.”
She would not get that image out of him down on his knees, clutching his chest any time soon. All she had been able to do was keep him comfortable as he struggled to breathe. She barely heard him whisper, “I love you.”
Then they had loaded him into the ambulance.
“I’ll meet you there.” She had told the youthful attendant.
“You can come with us. The roads are icy.”
Oh, how she wished she had. But she wanted her car and a change of clothes, just in case. The power flickered off right after she threw a few items and her purse into the green traveling backpack. She checked their landline.
Lydia slipped on her coat, grasped her things, and locked the garage door behind her. She tossed the backpack on the passenger seat and slipped onto the leather seat in their new SUV. She inserted the key. Click.
“Are you kidding me?” She tried and tried, but the engine wouldn’t turn over.
Panic filled every part of her body. She had to get to her beloved husband. Slamming a useless car door, she stood at the end of the driveway, hoping to flag someone down to help her. No one drove by. Her one close neighbor was sitting on a beach, probably sipping a Mai Tai. The new cell phone in her hand kept telling her there was no network. Sorry.
She stomped back into the house and tossed down her backpack.
“Fine! I’ll walk.”
She layered on more clothes. Her new plan had been to make the long walk to Smith’s house. Nothing would stop her from being at her husband’s side. She picked up her backpack and threw open the door ready for her snowy hike. That’s when she saw him. Fearfully, she had stepped back inside, slammed the door shut, and locked it.
He had been there for an hour now, just standing in the shadows. She captured his picture on her cell phone but his face was blurry. Her camera with the telephoto lens had dead batteries and no way to charge them. The lens wouldn’t work. The binoculars only showed her a blurry figure.
Yet, there he stood like death was watching her, but it wasn’t her time nor was it her husband’s time. They still had places to explore.
Lydia allowed a small smile. “They must wonder where I am. I bet help is on the way.” That idea became her obsession since she abandoned her walk to the neighbor’s house with a stranger lurking outside.
Yet, reality crept back in. She had no idea if she was a widow or not. That thought was a gut punch, but she had to believe on some level, after 50 years of marriage, she would feel it if he was gone.
The snow kept piling up, and no one showed up to check on her. Luckily, Bill had just brought in an enormous stack of firewood a few hours ago. He always took care of her, but she wasn’t there by the time he needed her.
The man was still in his spot. Waiting.
“What are you waiting for?” In frustration, she grabbed Bill’s handgun and threw open the door. “What do you want?”
The man didn’t respond.
“If you come near me, I will shoot you.” She fired a warning shot off to the right. He didn’t know she had never hit the target when Bill insisted she practice shooting with him.
The man didn’t even flinch, which sent chills through her body that even a wood fire couldn’t touch.
That shadowy figure had become the edge of her world. She closed the door, locked it, and started praying.
“Please, God, help me and don’t take Bill from me. I couldn’t bear to lose him. I don’t want to be alone. Send me help.”
She wrapped her fingers around the sapphire and diamond cross Bill had bought her over thirty Christmas ago. This year he gave her a fluffy bathrobe and a new laptop. She got him a plaid flannel shirt and a new table saw. He always put unique jewelry in her sock, and this year was no different. A silver pine tree charm for her already heavy charm bracelet.
They had everything they needed, especially each other, and had never been apart since they met at her best friend’s wedding over fifty years ago and married six months later.
Her only regret was they never had kids. She lost six babies, and they decided it wasn’t meant to be. But with Bill, her life was full of joy and laughter.
She picked up the picture of her and Bill in Italy. They were standing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and pretended to hold it up just like everyone else did.
“Hang on, Bill, I’m going to find a way to you.”
“What? Who said that?”
She rushed to the window, relieved to see the man still standing there.
“I’m hearing things.” She shook her head when pain exploded inside it. Lydia grasped her head and sunk to the ground. “Great, a migraine.”
Too dizzy to stand, she crawled to the couch and pulled herself up. With a loud sigh, she collapsed on her side. Her teeth started chattering. It was like the storm was inside of her. She couldn’t get her left hand to pull the forest brown comforter over her, so she reached with her right hand. Her vision was dimming as it did with the headaches, but there was no burst of colors on the edges, only darkness.
She sucked in air, but it felt like it was coming from a straw. She’d never had a migraine this bad before. Of course, with the stress of Bill’s heart attack, who could blame her? The couch felt so soft, and she tried to shift her body flat but couldn’t. It was probably better she stayed this way until it passed.
The pain was subsiding, and she was so sleepy. Her tongue felt heavy, and there was a burnt smell like a piece of food fell on the woodstove. She could barely hold her eyes open when the man in the plaid shirt was right in front of her.
She opened her mouth to scream, but nothing came out. Then it all faded away, and it was only her and Bill. They were together again, and he looked so handsome in the red plaid shirt she bought him this Christmas. Lydia took his offered hand, and she felt his warmth.
“Everything is going to be okay, sweetheart. I’ve been waiting for you. Remember how we never wanted to leave the other alone? Our prayers were answered.”
Together, in their younger versions, they walked toward the beautiful golden light.
NOTE: Watch for special edition blogs this week. You won’t want to miss any of them 🙂
I’ll be working on replacing our DSL Modem in the coming days. All we can get living in the forest. But what I was sent by a certain phone company was worse than what I had, so I went back to the older one. When the old one works it’s decent as long as I don’t move it once I get it going. It has issues with its plug and where it plugs in, so I thought it was time to update it. Boy, was I wrong. So, will be sending the new horrible, even evil, modem back. That lost me a good part of my weekend. I will be trying other things, other than sitting on the phone with the company. During this period I will be down for several hours or perhaps a day or two without internet, although I doubt I’ll have the energy to get to it until after the coming week. We’ll see. If I disappear this is probably the reason. Lesson: New isn’t better.
Embrace your inner child by reading a good story! D. L. Finn