Winter Rose

The storm that had been forecast for days finally arrived, and by the time he got to the grocery store, the lines were already long. He jostled through the aisles, stocking up on the essentials: organic milk, hearty oat bread, several kinds of cheese, wine of course, plenty of fresh vegetables, and all the fixings for her favorite meals. Oh, and he bought one more thing – a single rose. This he tucked under the windshield wiper of her dented but faithful Nissan as he drove past the clinic were she worked. She laughed when she found it later, its deep red pedals dusted white with the first, powdery flakes of the coming snow, as fine as confectioners sugar.

By the time she got home, he had the fire going, and as she pulled off her wet coat, he greeted her with a glass of wine and a kiss. “Welcome to your Friday, sweetheart,” he said, gently brushing back a wet strand of hair that had fallen down over her eyes. “I’ll have dinner ready in a jiffy. Do you want to watch the news while I finish up?”

“No thanks,” she said, pulling on a dry, thick cotton sweater. “It seems like a good night to be off the grid, don’t you think?”
He looked intently at her and smiled his answer. His face was lean, not handsome in the classic sense, but honest. “It’s a good face,” her father had told her after the two men met. “I like him.”

She lit some candles, sat down on a cozy chair in the large kitchen, and looked around the room. A Martin guitar leaned in one corner, its yellow spruce top finely cracked with age and glowing softly with the warm light of the fire. He’ll want to play that later tonight, she thought happily to herself. Either that or read. He always does.

Maggy, their golden retriever, pushed a wet nose under her hand to say hello, and then turned three times before curling up by the fire. The cat, whom they just called “cat”, sat like a plump, grey Buddha and stared silently into the flames. “A Zen master,” Eckhart Tolle would surely say of her.

It was a simple room, not cluttered, but cozy and full of meaningful things: pottery from their last trip to Italy, framed pictures of family and friends, a grandmother clock that had been in her family for generations, and of course, books. Lots of books.

She thumbed through one of them laying on the coffee table — a collection of black and white photographs – where it shared space with a golden confetti of paint chips scattered out like a sunny collage. She picked one up and read the name — “Burnished Sun” — a color they had seen and liked in southern Spain last fall. She pressed the chip to her lips, and remembered. Jazz played somewhere on a radio. Ella, she thought.

They could have more and better things, and she knew it, but they liked it this way. “Less stuff equals more fun,” he would always say, and she agreed with him. There was freedom, and beauty, in their choice to live within their means. They had all they needed or wanted, and no more.

“They say we’re in for at least 18 inches of snow, maybe more,” she said, watching his angular back lean over the stove, a red and white checkered towel thrown over one, square shoulder.

“Good! I love it,” he said in return, without looking back. “We’ll just snuggle up here and let it come. Give the fire a poke, will you? Then let’s eat. It’s ready.”

The fire blazed as she stirred it, but she put on another log anyway. She drained the last of her wine and poured them each another. He served the dinner: marinated flank steak, pan seared potatoes with fresh rosemary, asparagus roasted with garlic and olive oil, and a tossed salad.

They talked while they ate, about children, and grandchildren, about today’s news, and the places they still wanted to see in the world. It was easy talk. Like best friends. She liked that. Through the kitchen window she could see the snow piling up on the window sill. It was falling hard now.

Suddenly the lights flickered and went out.

“Uh oh,” he said, starting to get up. “Think I should start the back-up generator?”

“No,” she giggled, “I think you should finish your dinner. It is…” She looked around the room, and then back at him, his eyes bright and quizzical.

“Perfect,” she sighed.


Books by Brant

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