Jason and I watch the morning news as we get dressed to go for a walk in the snow. There is a warning of a coming storm. The weatherman says a foot of snow could fall tonight.
“Did you buy gas for the–” I begin to say, but the last word won’t come to mind. I try inserting different words in my head to see if they fit: gas stove, Toyota, lawnmower-no, not the lawnmower during winter. My body shakes with frustration, and my head begins to ache when Jason suggests:
“Yeah,” I say, “the snowblower.”
“It’s ready when we need it,” he says.
“Okay,” I say, and I relax again as we finish getting dressed.
Our snow pants make a swishing sound as we walk through the snowy hills. As a nature photographer, Jason has his digital camera at the ready, snapping pictures at different intervals. We come to a hill with pine trees on both sides of a snow-packed gap, perfect for sledding. He takes me by the hand.
“Why don’t you sled down?” He says.
“Your butt. Snow pants work as well as sleds.”
I sit on the packed snow, and he gives me a gentle nudge. I slide down the hill, playing at being a kid again. I hear the camera shutter clicking as I glide past the pine trees, the smell of pine fills my nostrils, and I feel my red hair floating behind me. Jason slides down the hill to meet me, and I playfully scream when he hits me in the shoulder with a snowball and bits go down the neck of my coat.
“That’s so cold!” I say.
For the moment, I forget about the panic attack and frustration I had earlier at the house.
Back at home, we warm our feet by the fireplace while our snow clothing steams by the heater. We eat tomato soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches, and then I lay my head on his shoulder, breathing in his sweat and cologne.
Later, I wake up on the couch with a headache. I hear the wind outside and Jason walking around upstairs. I rub the sleep from my eyes with the back of my knuckles. I pick up the camera to see the newest pictures he took. I cycle through the images, and I feel a lump in my throat when I see a picture of Jason kissing another woman.
Jason comes down the stairs and sees me trembling.
“What’s wrong?” he says.
I stare at him for a moment, and I can feel myself begin to hyperventilate. The sight of him makes the lump in my throat want to vomit out. The reality I created for us, loving each other, is a facade. I am not sure what to think, but I know I do not want to be around Jason right now. I drop the camera and quickly unbolt the front door, and more breath leaves my lungs as the biting cold air hits my skin when I open the door. I stumble into the piling snow, and I realize I am only in my flannel pajamas and wool socks.
“Come back!” Jason says as he chases after me.
I turn to face him, “Why didn’t you tell me?” I yell.
“What are you talking about?” He asks.
“The woman in the picture. Who is she?”
All he does is stare at me.
“Who is she!” I begin to cry, and the tears freeze on my cheeks.
“Lydia, come inside and let’s talk.”
My replies are held back by teeth set in a painful clench. My frustrations swallowed and muted.
I turn to run, ignoring the cold. A thick blanket of snow shines through the surrounding trees. I stumble and fall flat on the snow and feel Jason’s arms grab around my waist as he drags me back into the warmth of the house, my legs leave a trail in the snow that will be gone by morning.
Back inside, he holds me tight in his arms as we sit against the wall. I am both disgusted to be held by him and glad because his embrace has been my comfort for so long. He holds up the camera and shows the picture to me, but I try to avert my eyes from the image.
“Please,” Jason says gently.
I inhale deeply and look at the small screen. I see the red hair on the woman who looks all too familiar. I see it each day I look in the mirror.
“It’s you, Lydia,” Jason says. “We took that picture last week, remember? It’s you.”
Header photograph: By Lumijaguaari (Uploaded by Lumijaguaari) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons