Lara hated the forest road. But there was no other way home that wouldn’t add several agonizing hours to their travel time. In a few more miles, they would be nearing the logging turnoffs and the gas pipe-lines that lay outside the village of Mist. There, the road becomes even more dangerous with its railess edge vanishing into the black canyons below. She decided to watch for the mist, one of the many bizarre meteorological phenomena to be found in the area along the Nehalem River. Scientists believed them to be nephological quirks, or eccentricities of the clouds that hovered above the forest, but the locals believed them to be metaphysical miracles, as if a water sprite plied her watery tricks out of love for them.
She too loved the ghostly fog that carpeted the forest floor, grasping at the ferns unwilling to let go, or floating like an apparition that would swirl among the trees in a frenzied, macabre dance. But it was the mist that curled from the sky that she loved the most. And she needed the distraction, the enchantment of that water undine, to calm the fear that had become her familiar: squatting toad-like, ready to leap, as they ground their way along the wicked road.
A pain scrambled up her arm when she realized she was gripping the seatbelt so hard that she was cutting off the circulation to her hands and turning her knuckles white. She splayed her fingers, feeling the tingle of life return, and began to scan the sky for the cool blanket of vapor that would unleash and then disappear as suddenly as it began. She lowered her chin to her arm, which rested on the window ledge, and felt the damp air hit her face.
“Why do you always do that?” David asked, glancing toward her and then back through the endless black maw ahead.
“Open the window here.”
She didn’t feel like talking, but it was obvious that he did. She acquiesced, letting her voice roll out like molasses, “I think it’s beautiful,” she said.
The mist, as though on cue, suddenly released from the blackening sky, freckling her face, clinging to her eyelashes and the fine hairs on her arm. She watched it curl like a flag in a breeze and then vanish.
“What’s so beautiful about this horrid road?” He belted out a surprised chuckle. “Now you see,” he said, “I used one of your words: horrid.”
She had to jerk her mind back from its reverie. “That is one of my words . . .” her voice trailed off. It took effort to engage her mind. She could feel her thoughts shifting toward sleep, her eyelids leaden. Their spirited day of sight-seeing at the Portland Zoo was swallowed in the languor of the approaching night. But she had to stay awake for David and for their two small boys, asleep in their car seats, dreaming about trumpeting elephants, purring tigers, and fuzzy Panda bears.
She shivered, and drew in her arm from the opened window to brush off the glitter of water. She glanced at David’s scowling face as a branch crunched with a soniferous snap under the tires. The road was littered with debris from the morning rain’s wrestling match with the trees.
“Well . . .” he made circles in the air with his hand, an encouragement for her to continue, “what about it?”
She straightened and closed the window. “Not the road silly,” she said nearly swallowing the last word, “the mist. I think it’s magical . . . I love it . . . My very own Shakespearian faerie,” her words trailed off. She cradled her back against the door to face him, the emerald flecks of her eyes disappeared into the black hole of her iris. Somehow, she had to release the fear without finding refuge in sleep.
“I never thought much about it.”
In the low light of the dashboard, she stared at his gilded outline, at the curve of his arms and his thick, muscular hands clamped tightly around the steering wheel. She loved the way his hair curled around his ears like small eddies in tide pools. As they lay in bed at night, she would finger each one like an engram of their life together.
“You’ve never wondered about the mist? Why it does that here and no where else?” she asked.
“No,” he said. He started to laugh at her.
“Now how is that funny?” She crossed her arms and glared at him. He continued to laugh. “I teach my students to have respect for the power of water . . . Stop laughing at me,” she said with an annoyed tone, “I’m serious.” He tightened his lips in an attempt to stifle his laughter. “You, of all people, should understand its potent force. You grew-up here. You’ve known people who were . . .” she swallowed, “it gives life and it takes it away,” her voice skittered off.
He turned his face to her with an easy expression. “You think so deeply about things and I don’t. Never have.” He risked taking a good look at her. “I believe you think enough for the both of us.”