woke to silence. Thin lines of moonlight lay in diagonals
across the floor and rose in needles up the walls. She
listened for awhile. The only sound was the soft crush of
her hair against the pillow.
her legs from beneath the layers of blankets and let her
feet touch the chill of the hardwood floor. As she walked, a
line of moonlight slipped around one ankle, then the other,
ascending deliberately, scanning and measuring her body in
strict undulations. At the west window the moon caught her
fully, a slender white animal beneath the new winter’s sky.
north the terraced lawns twinkled with frost as from a
sprinkling of ground glass. To the south the meadow’s tall
grasses were broken, the stalks strewn like fallen soldiers,
the stumps standing like nails on the hills. Below and
before her lay the expansive gardens. The moonlight was
caught in webs of shadow beneath the bare rose bushes and in
chains of diamonds beneath the arched trellises. Beyond the
gardens the shadows converged in thick venous networks that
covered the forest floor and stretched down to the lake. The
black water held a solitary, struggling prisoner, the twin
sister of a star above. Beyond the circle of the horizon lay
the borders of the estate; within, the only movement, the
only sound, the only life was the faint beating of Sarah’s
wrapped herself in her white terry robe and stepped into the
matching slippers. The bed hardly looked slept in. In the
hall, the moonlight floated in slanting shafts between the
skylights and oblique rectangles on the wall.
still habit to pause at the children’s rooms. The light
glinted from a fleet-footed Mercury atop one of Kelly’s
trophies. Her stuffed animals waited patiently on the bed.
Kelly was doing well in law school; the holiday visits were
rare. Paul’s model airplane hung in a banking climb above
his darkened computer. He was flying his own plane now, from
one development project to the next. The last she had heard,
he was somewhere in Argentina. Jonathan’s first sculpture, a
lovely nude, reclined on a stand in the corner of his room,
as comfortable as the day he had put her there. He had been
so proud of that first effort, and rightly so. He lived in
the city now, with his wife and two young children, next to
his new studio. They hadn’t been out to see her in awhile.
Sarah had hinted that she might drop by, but Jonathan had
demurred. He was trying to finish something before a
deadline; they would be out again soon. Of course she
light in her office illuminated the neat stacks of papers.
It was the one light in the house that she left on at night.
After toiling into the small hours beneath its glow, it was
still there for her when she woke before dawn, a lightship
guiding her back into its harbor.
priorities filled three pages of yellow pad. The computer
was flashing an urgent message from the
Hong Kong office, and
wanted her to call immediately, before the close of their
business day. She found herself staring at the pencil on the
desk. She had meant to pick it up, but her hand was still on
the back of the chair. She switched off the light and looked
out the window. The sky had shifted to a somber slate-grey.
The silhouetted branches of a towering fir sagged in
anticipation of the coming snows.
library’s fireplace was blackened and cold. The leather
recliner loomed in the shadows. Sometimes, she could still
smell the burning oak mingled with the sweet scent of pipe
tobacco. The boys would be perched on the arms of the chair
with little Kelly nestled into her father’s lap, his golden
baritone holding them in rapt attention as he read. Last
year, Sarah had called the movers to take the chair away,
but when they arrived, she wouldn’t let them touch it. The
chair remained, the sole monument to the years. He had taken
his books. She had tried filling the spaces on the shelves
with figurines, vases and rarities.
drifted through the great room, her finger followed the edge
of the grand piano. In the kitchen she circled the island,
hearing the laughter of friends and the tinkling of
champagne glasses. From the oven had come the rush of heat
and the smell of baking bread; she opened the French doors
to the patio, and the cold splashed her face and hands,
spilling around her wrists and ankles, rising beneath the
robe, around her bare legs.
mist had settled about the gardens, wetting the frost. The
daily routine led down the walk of patterned stone to the
greenhouse, where reflexively, she turned to wind through
the boxwood hedges, following the serpentine route that
allowed inspection of each well-groomed plot. There was
nothing left to be done in the gardens. The pruning was
finished. The perennials were trimmed and mulched. The
tulips, larkspur and peonies had been tucked under. In the
vegetable and herb beds, the clods of earth lay belly-up to
the sky, awaiting the blanket of snow.
time she reached the back of the gardens, the shadows had
dissolved. The dawn’s silver twilight seemed to rise from
the earth itself, the moon only a paling wafer lingering in
the haze above. Along the path through the woods, the moss
on the trunks glistened with frosty dew. The carpet of dead
leaves and rotting branches offered up the crisp pungency of
decay. Ahead, the black water lay beneath a shroud of mist
that veiled the far shore.
paused at the gazebo. The swing hung empty and still at the
end of its chains. It was there that
Douglas had left her sitting, too stunned to cry. From the supply in the
covered bench she took a fresh towel and draped it over the
railing. Beside the towel she draped her robe. Below the
robe she arranged her slippers.
year, the ritual of her morning swim had extended past the
end of summer and on through the autumn months. She didn’t
know why. The water’s embrace was simply something she
needed, like the light on her desk. Lately, when she reached
the middle of the lake, she would float awhile, then let her
body slip quietly beneath the surface and slowly down
through the ever colder, darker depths. The feeling of mud
closing about her feet had sent her swimming for light and
air—but it was only mud, she had been telling herself, the
same as the stuff in her garden, beneath a rainy day.
to the water’s edge passed through the final feature of her
landscaping, a circular haven of evergreen. She was stopped
always been the stone bench on the one side, but she had
never found quite the right ornament for the view opposite.
Her first thought was that the sculpture’s style was
unmistakable—and then she couldn’t think anymore because her
body was straightening to match the bearing of the marble
figure, an ageless beauty in a summer dress, hands resting
lightly on the hips, looking out into the world with
strength, resolve and a peaceful joy. Sarah could feel her
son’s hands gently pushing on the small of her back, pulling
on her shoulders, lifting her chin. It was a perfect
likeness of her. It was her own lost soul, and as she stood
before the vision, it filled and filled her. The base was
engraved: For the woman who has everything. Happy
birthday, Mom. Jonathan.
been standing there a long time when the sound of a horn
came from the direction of the front drive, followed by the
shutting of car doors and the laughter of
turned and walked briskly toward the gazebo. There was hot
cocoa to be made, and muffins. As she tied the belt of her
robe, she glanced back to the lake. As soon as it froze
over, she would be out on the ice with the children,
teaching them how to skate. Smiling at the thought, she
tucked the remaining towels beneath her arm and turned
toward the house.
circle of evergreen, the first snowflake of winter drifted
down, turning in a fine pirouette. It came to rest on a
sublime marble cheek, and melted there.
Quent Cordair’s short stories have been
Atlantean Press Review. As a
painter, his oil portraits and other figurative paintings
are widely collected.
© Quent Cardair, all rights reserved