A continuation of The Jetty
He never spoke of that evening, of his brief dissappearance, of the photo. He didn’t even mention the pillows, which she had stuffed into a large black garbarge bag, tissues and tears sticking to her cheeks and her hands and her fingertips as she had frantically cleaned their room on that momentous evening.
After that night, things changed between them in the strangest of ways. At once, the world seemed both completely altered and remarkably the same. There was a tension ignored, a magnetic force that had pushed them apart and yet, overwhelmingly, kept them together.
Danny disappeared as one might leave consciousness and fall into a deep sleep, physically present at the apartment, in their home, in her life, and yet completely not there. He would neither bring up the incident, nor ignore it completely to let their relationship continue as before.
And then the months passed and the seasons changed. As burnt-orange leaves began to cloud the sky, turning greens to browns to empty branches, little bursts of colour began to emerge in their relationship. While sharp icy chills commandeered the city’s commuters into oversized snow coats and dark wool scarves, a new warmth found its way back into their home.
She wasn’t sure exactly what had changed, but the unspoken tension slowly thawed. She noticed that his kiss was no longer mechanical, that she no longer held her breath each time he left for work, subconsciously worried that he may not return.
One night, while in a particularly jovial mood, Danny ordered her to put her feet up and watch a movie. He set about cooking dinner, a small feast of vegetables roasted to perfection, rosemary lamb, all drizzled in a minty sauce. He ironed his white work shirts and folded her colourful collection of sweaters, humming softly and providing a running commentary of the chick flick she was now consumed in.
Every now and then he let out a generous laugh, a real laugh, right from the depths of his belly. She relaxed back in leather couch, legs curled up under her, fingers folded under piles of blankets to keep warm.
Two nights earlier they had gone out skating. A week before he’d bought her flowers. Of course, the flowers had promptly died the following day when the water in the vase froze over, but still. Rather than reading into it as some symbolic representation of what was going on between them, they both got the giggles. As she stuck the vase under warm water to thaw the ice and remove the blossoms, he came and kissed her on the forehead, promising to buy her more when the weather was less brutal.
As Danny seemed to return from unconsciousness, waking up again to life and love and her, it was her turn to unravel. She had slowly come to hate that 6″x4″ matte image and what it had done to her relationship. Pulling the frame off the wall and replacing it altogether by a small painting of an old car, she had removed the photo of the lake and the jetty. In the midst of cleaning up the feathers and the pillow cases she had decided to keep the photo, sliding it into a small wooden box she kept hidden at the back of her half of the wardrobe.
Amongst other things, the box held an old letter from her great grand father to her great grandmother, both now dead, but their love still alive in the crinkled pages of the tattered note. There were a pair of baby booties from when she was a child, her birth certificate and an old passport. The padlocked box also contained the secrets of her past – a newspaper clipping, the police report, a comforting and tear-stained letter from an dear friend.
She had always been the one with the hidden past and Danny had been her knight-in-shining-armour. Her secrets lived in that old box, but they weren’t just hers anymore. Danny knew each of them, one by one and by name. His gentle spirit had beckoned each of them out of her, slowly at first, during the first year of their relationship.
Over time, she opened up her heart and her past and he walked through it with her. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy at all, but his strength became her strength and together they found freedom.
Not once had he opened up about any painful portion of his life. She’d always assumed that was simply because no pain existed in this gentle, joyful man that she had come to love. ‘How naive,’ she thought now.
She had been confused at first, then desperate to know what this photo represented and why it caused such a powerful reaction in him. And yet, as much as she wanted to know, she could not muster the courage to question him about it. His sharp silence on the event spoke enough, volumes more than she wanted to know.
And this is how they became what they are now.