Authors: Jordan Silver
I spent the rest of the day preparing for my trip. My last call to the P.I wasn’t very reassuring he hadn't found anything as yet, and I was starting to get worried.
He'd found the small town she'd grown up in but, there was no sign of her or her family, and no one seemed to know what had become of them.
That was my only lead. If that dried up I wouldn't begin to know where to look next. I'd told him to keep looking, money was no object and if I had to keep him going for the next five years, I would until I found her.
In this age of the Internet it scared me that there wasn’t even a whisper of her. I wouldn’t allow myself to think the worse, not even when things seemed at their bleakest.
It was the holidays, a time for miracles, and I was seriously holding out for one. I hit the road early in the morning, because I had a long trip ahead of me.
I didn’t bank on what being alone with my thoughts on the long ride would do to me. It was like watching my life replayed in Technicolor.
Things that hadn’t seemed so significant at the time were now very profound. Like the way she trusted me to hold her hand and help her across the steam even though she was afraid of the water.
Or the way she would laugh as soon as she saw me coming, like she was so full of joy she just had to let it out.
How had I forgotten those precious moments? How had they slipped away from the mirrors of my mind?
The Xmas carols weren’t much help either. Their gaiety and cheer made my heart sad that she wasn’t here with me.
And changing the station wasn’t much help at either since this far up in the country all that was on the radio was country or blues.
I was drooping in the last couple of hours of my trip and could barely stay awake. I should probably pull over and get a room somewhere since the snow had started to really come down.
But somehow I couldn’t, I had to get to my destination tonight, that strange compulsion again.
The roads were icy and damn near impossible when I finally reached the chalet. I felt that same rush of excitement, like I was going to turn around and she would be there.
The place was dark, except for the blanket of stars that lit up the night sky. I took a moment to look around, reacquainting myself with my surroundings.
In it’s place on the hill looking down at its neighbors, I had a great vantage point. From here I could see the light of the town down below and even the twinkling of Xmas tree lights.
I could already feel the tension of the past few weeks falling away as I lifted my bags from the trunk.
Treading my way carefully through the snow, I made it to the front steps where I got my first surprise.
There was a wreath on the door. It looked fresh, like someone had just placed it there. Opening the door I got my second surprise of the night, as my eyes fell on the decorated tree in the window.
"Mom." I smiled as I walked into the room. First things first, I have to get a fire going to ward off some of this cold.
Then I'll call mom and thank her for her thoughtfulness.
It wasn't long before my thoughts turned to her. The reason I'd traveled hundreds of miles. Was it hopeless? Was I making an ass of myself?
I couldn't let those thoughts intrude, couldn't give them any energy. I know there's a reason for me being here I can feel it.
I said another silent prayer, one of many in the last few days. That somehow, someway, I'd find her. It was the season of hope after all, that must count for something.
I warmed up in front of the fire before reaching for my cell to call mom. I wanted to call and badger the PI but he was probably getting tired of me.
I felt bad having him miles away from his own family for the holidays, on what might just be a wild goose chase.
My conscience had led me to tell him he could call off the search in another day and pick it back up after the new-year.
It was a bit disappointing that there were still no leads, but I couldn't find my happiness, at the expense of his.
Calling mom was bittersweet. I wanted to be there with the family, as I could hear them in the background, but I needed to be here in this place, the last place I'd been close to her.
"Mom, I'm here. I got your surprise, you didn't have to do that but thank you." I watched the snow come down outside as I spoke to her.
"Oh Julian of course I did, what sort of mom would I be if I left my baby boy without a Xmas tree?" Always the mother, I should’ve known she would do something like this.
"It's beautiful, they did a great job, but I’m sure you gave them blow by blow instructions."
"Did you check the cupboard and the refrigerator?"
"No not yet I just got in. What did you do?"
"Oh nothing, I just had the caretakers stock you up with the trimmings for a Xmas feast…is she there yet?" I had been on my way to the kitchen to check when her words stopped me short.
I caught my breath at her question, how did she...? No way, she couldn’t possibly. I got that strange feeling that has been with me for the last few weeks.
"Mom?" My head was swimming and I had a quick case of vertigo for a second.
"I know you son. I've known for a long time that something was missing from your life, it just took me a while to figure it out. I traced it back to that summer. I'm so sorry sweetheart."
"It's not your fault." Could it really have been that obvious to someone else?
"I know, it was her dad, he was such a...but you kids were so young too, so I can't really blame him. I just wish our decisions didn't make you so sad and alone."
"Mom you're freaking me out here, I didn't even know that that's what it was until lately."
"Of course hon, you're a male." She laughed, her sweet tinkering bell laugh and I felt lighter, the way I use to as a kid when she would tell me that everything was going to be okay no matter what was wrong in my world at the time.
"I don't know what to say. I can't find her mom, I've been searching for weeks and nothing." I felt good to finally share that with someone. She was someone who loved me, but even more importantly, someone who had known that sweet girl all those years ago as well.
“I feel like I’m losing my mind mom. I’ve searched using the information I remembered from when we were kids.” It was only now as I was saying this out loud, that I realized how incongruous that was.
That after all these years I should remember everything she’d told me about her young life, when I couldn’t remember half of what my last girlfriend had shared.
Was mom right, had I been walking around a shell of myself all these years since I last saw her? Was she the cause of my callous way with relationships?
No wonder I always felt detached from anyone else. I noticed that mom was saying anything, which was unusual for her, unless she was giving one of us time to come to the right conclusion, which was usually hers.
“Oh fu…I mean, mom, I think I’m in love with her memory, with her. What if I can’t find her?
"You'll get your girl Julian, just have faith." There were tears in her voice and I felt the wetness in my own eyes. I think my heart was breaking for that lost love. For that beautiful that was destroyed before it had a chance to grow, to see light.
We may have been young then, but somehow the man that I am today, knew that whatever that was back then, was real. But was I too late? I felt sick panic crawl into my gut. Something I’m not too familiar with, since I’d been raised to take life by the balls.
"How can you be so sure? I'm not even sure any more. I don't even know what I'm doing here. I just had this wild hair that she would show up or something. Like one of those stupid Hallmark movies."
"Don't lose hope now Julian, if she's for you you'll find her. Remind me one day to tell you about a talk we had your Christina and I."
That tone in her voice held such promise that it made my heart leap. "You talked to Christina?"
"It was a long time ago son, one of those summers we spent up there. Leave it for now it'll keep. I'll pray for you two, you just keep hoping and believing, and we'll see what we see."
We chatted for a few minutes more before she had to go. Tomorrow was Xmas and she would be busy in the kitchen all night.
After the round of goodbyes and well wishes with the rest of my family, I went through the cupboards and the refrigerator to see what goodies mom had stocked.
She wasn’t lying; there was enough food to feed an army. One look at all the neatly wrapped deli meat choices had my mouth watering for a turkey and Swiss on rye.
I made my sandwich and chose juice instead of one of the imported beers that I usually liked. I wanted to keep my wits about me tonight, wanted everything to be clear.
Sitting at the kitchen -island looking out at the snow as it fell, all I could think, was that I can't believe mom knew, and wonder if the others knew too?
No, I don’t think so, that was just mom’s way. It’s how she kept on top of us kids all our lives, by being observant.
I wanted to know about this talk she’d had with Christina. What had they talked about? And what did it have to do with now?
After my little snack I cleaned up and went to look around the rest of the chalet. It had been a whole lot of years since I’d been up here. Mom and dad had visited a time or two while I was in college I think, but I’d never been back since that last summer.
I wonder if that was part of my problem now, the fact that I was basically banished from one of the places I loved most as a kid; the place where I now believe I’d lost my heart.
Now I’m being fanciful, Mr. Logical, the guy who dealt in numbers and statistics.
I puttered around getting reacquainted with the place. Everywhere I looked brought back memories. Things that were long forgotten were now clear, with each attached memory right at the forefront.
Out the back window I could see the bare branches of the trees that lined the path Christina and I would take almost everyday to go digging in the woods when we were younger, now covered with ice.
The memory of her infectious smile made my heart hurt, and that shy laugh that use to light up her whole face.
"Dammit Christina where are you?" I realize how improbable it is for a grown man to expect a Xmas miracle.
I'd stopped believing in those things a long time ago, but somehow this season, I wanted to believe.
I felt anger and pain and, desperation. I had no idea what was going on, why the sudden urge to find her. But I knew if I didn't my life would never be the same again.
I stoked the fire, made hot chocolate, did every, and anything so as not to go to bed. I turned on the radio because the music that had tormented me on the drive up now seemed like the best thing.
I watched the lights on the tree as they twinkled on and off until I found myself timing them. Outside the wind picked up and knocked against the windows as snow continued to fall.
In the end, fatigue dragged me down and I stretched out on the plush couch in the living room instead of going up to my old room to bed.
The place and been cleaned from top to bottom, and it looked and felt as if we'd been coming here all along.
It was hard to imagine that no one had been in this place in years as I pulled nana's old afghan over my shoulders, and with the fireplace burning bright, lights twinkling on the tree, and Bing Crosby crooning in the background, I fell asleep to dreams of her.
The loud sound startled me awake. My feet were on the floor before I even knew I was moving. Shoving my feet into my boots that were lying next to the couch, I walked to the window and looked out.
I could hardly see out the window because of the thick blanket of smoke that was now coming down even harder than it was earlier.
Getting as close to the glass pane as I could, I peered out into the night and there it was.
"Shit." Someone had run off the road, no wonder in this mess. I grabbed my jacket and ran outside. There was no one else around for miles.
As far as I could tell, this person and I were the only ones dumb enough to brave the weather to get up here. It was called a summer spot for a reason I guess.
I tromped through the snow holding my jacket closed and blowing on my hands. The temperature had dropped drastically, which was to be expected this high up.
The car, if you could call it that, was tilted slightly to the right, with the front smashed into a huge oak.
Whoever this was, if they weren’t too badly hurt, weren't going anywhere tonight, not in that at least. It looked to have been a wreck even before the date with the tree.
"Hello, can you hear me?" There was no movement coming from inside and with the snow coming down so fast and furious, it was hard to see into the darkened interior.
I pulled on the door handle, which of course was locked. "Shit I should've grabbed a flashlight." Oh well, it was too late to go back now, who knows what kind of medical help this person was going to need.
Speaking of which, I hope there was still reception on my phone with all this snow and wind. I battled the snow and that wind now as I pounded on the window.
"Hello in there, if you can hear me just flip the lock." Still nothing. I thought I heard a groan but that could've been the wind.
I tried the back door and got my first break. Leaning in and around I unlocked the driver's side door before hopping out again.
The person's head was on the steering wheel, looked like they'd been knocked unconscious from the impact.
Must be a girl, or a very young boy. The frame, what I could make out under the mountain of outer clothing, seemed small, and the hand gripping the wheel was fine boned and pale.
Being as careful as I could, I leaned her back. The first thing I noticed was the blood at her temple. And then I saw her face.
"Oh shit..." I wish there was some way to capture and hold for posterity, the gamut of feelings that ran through me in that moment.
Disbelief, joy, wonder, fear, but most of all, love. That was a new one, but it was the most prevalent of them all. I pulled her head to my chest, frozen in place and thought.
The biting cold snapped me out of it and I started trying to find a way to get her out without jarring her too much.
Every once in a while I’d look at her face, not quite believing she was here, and so beautiful. I think her face, pale in repose, will stay etched in my mind for the rest of my life.
It can’t be real, could it? “Baby?” I held her against me as I struggled with the seatbelt. My every move and thought seemed to be in slow motion.
I needed to find out just how hurt she was from that bump on her head, but one thing kept me calm when panic threatened to overtake me.
There’s no way that my dreams would’ve led me back to her, only to take her away from me. Not unless the aim was to make me lose my fucking mind.
“Baby can you hear me?”