She arrives at a cottage surrounded by pine trees that smells like chimney smoke. She does not consider intention’s involvement with this destination. A dusty window reveals a near empty room. There is a stool, a bench, a basket and a bookshelf.

Initially she does not enter.

Clara strolls the perimeter of the small stone structure. There is a rocking chair on the front porch beside a potted plant and bouquet of orange chrysanthemums. She reaches for the flora with a yearning to touch life.

The texture of green stems and soft petals pressed closely to her chest is the best secret she can imagine. This seems to reveal everything.

Clara knows a lot of secrets. Not the sort to share.

The type to keep.

Her squinting focus swears the chair’s rockers roll before her eyes. She assumes if he was there, he would hold her and sway in a similar motion. Swing just slightly enough to offer the breeze a chance to bite the hem of her dress and remind her of being alive.

She enters the cottage through a red doorway.

Clara is balancing on a stained wooden bench looking upward through holes in the roof. The sky is changing. Sheets of charcoal with edges of indigo ribbons. Bursts of violet. Tangerine longing.

She kneels beside the basket and is surprised to once again meet her reflection. It is woven within a wicker interior. Contrary to the fluid beauty of the water she gazed into moments before, this picture is jagged and cracked. Fractured and hurt.

Her lips form words that do not escape.

She bends into darkness.

photo: Toffee apples never killed the blues by Jessica Tremp