the dim light of the early morning, Matt made his way to the kitchen to
make coffee. He found
Trixie standing at the coffee pot, staring off into space with the same
vacant expression she’d worn for most of the last several days.
had been a long and difficult week for her.
Once she had finally broken down, all the feelings she had held
at bay for two years pounded and battered her.
She had spent many hours crying, and many more sleeping off the
emotional exhaustion. When
she was awake and dry-eyed, she would move about aimlessly, lost and
uncertain of where to go or what to do.
When she wanted to talk, Matt listened.
When she wanted to cry, Matt gave her his shoulder.
He was there to help in whatever way he could.
was starting to worry about Trixie though.
Since she could no longer contain and control her emotions, it
seemed she was letting them control her.
He had allowed her to wallow in her misery for a week, but it was
time to prod her along. She
needed to start moving if she was ever going to get out of this valley
are you up so early?”
hadn’t heard Matt approach, so the question startled her. She turned to him, trying to focus on the question and
formulate an answer. Even
that simple task seemed difficult and took a lot of effort.
“I couldn’t sleep.”
watched her as she returned to her task of setting the coffeemaker to
brew. Finally coming to a
decision, Matt grabbed her hand as she reached for mugs.
“I’ll finish this up. You
go get dressed. We’re
looked at him in confusion. “At
at this hour.”
see.” With a hand on each
shoulder, he gently turned her and propelled her towards her room. “Now go get dressed.”
by the speed at which she moved, Matt knew he had a bit of time to kill.
He replaced the ceramic cups in the cupboard and brought down two
large stainless steel travel mugs.
He placed a generous helping of her favorite flavored creamer in
one, and a small bit of sugar in the other.
Then he went back to his own room to get dressed.
removed his green silk pajamas, and pulled on a pair of jeans and a
warm, navy blue sweatshirt with the Wheeler International logo on it.
After slipping into a pair of comfortable boots, Matt returned to
the kitchen. The coffee was
finished brewing, so he filled both mugs.
He stirred the coffee, rinsed the spoon and placed it in the
dishwasher, then securely fastened the lids on the lightweight mugs. By this time, he could hear Trixie wandering back to the
kitchen, so he went to get their coats.
was standing at the counter, staring suspiciously at the mugs when he
returned. She noticed that
Matt was holding out her warmest winter coat, and she narrowed her eyes
at him. “Where are we
going?” she asked, studying the garment Matt offered.
he said again. His voice
told her to stop asking questions and just do what she was told. She thought she should be annoyed by that, but couldn’t
find the energy, so she just slipped her arms into her sleeves and
zipped her coat. Matt
handed her gloves and a hat, which she dutifully put on while he donned
his own coat. Then he
handed her a mug, grabbed his own, and used his free hand to take hold
on, Little One. You need
some fresh air.”
crisp, cold winter air did as much to waken them as the caffeine in
their coffee while they walked toward Central Park.
The nearly full moon hung low in the sky, its bright light
preparing to dip below the deep purple horizon.
Although sunrise was nearly two hours away, the world seemed
bright as day. They
wandered the paths through the park in companionable silence for a long
moon had set, and night had been replaced by the heather gray of the
pre-dawn sky when Matt settled them on a park bench on the western side
of Central Park Lake. The
chill was starting to seep into their toes, but neither noticed.
turned in his seat and placed his arm along the back of the bench behind
her. “So, tell me. What are you going to do about it?”
had been so deep in her contemplation of the ice on the lake that his
question startled her. Her
reverie broken, she slowly turned to look at him.
She met his eyes, confusion written all over her face.
bright green eyes shone with kindly concern.
“About this aching loneliness that’s killing you.”
turned abruptly away, squeezing her eyes shut to keep the pain at bay.
How did he manage to do that?
How could he barrel through her carefully constructed defenses
with so little effort?
you need them. The Bob-Whites are a part of your soul. You can’t go on without them like this.”
voice trembled. “I
can’t go to them.”
sighed. “I know it’s
hard, Little One…”
cut him off. “I have no
jaw dropped. It was several
moments before he could wipe the dumbfounded look off his face enough to
speak. “You’re kidding,
did this. I shut them
clenched his jaw against the anger he could feel rising up inside him.
When he felt he could maintain a calm voice, he began speaking. “I love my children immeasurably. I could forgive them anything, but I’m not blind to their
shortcomings. There is
plenty of blame to go around in this situation.
In all directions. No
one person is completely at fault.”
a small voice, she said, “I got angry.
Lashing out in anger is never okay.”
Tears ran unchecked down her face, and she hiccupped as she
choked out, “That makes me as bad as Jonesy.”
no!” The waves of shock
and horror that pounded through Matt took his breath away.
He pulled her to him and hugged her fiercely, as if he could
shield her from such dark and unspeakably ugly thoughts.
“Don’t you ever say, or even think, anything
like that again!”
they had so often during the last week, her emotions surged forth and
overwhelmed her. Wrenching
sobs racked Trixie’s body as she cried out, “But I did!
I used my anger against them!”
his protective embrace, Matt argued against this self-destructive train
of thought. “Everyone gets angry sometimes.
Everyone says or does something hurtful once in a while.
There’s a big difference between hurting someone with a few
angry words and doing what Jones did.
A goddamned huge difference!”
her crying eased a little, he spoke soothingly.
“You’ve got to stop thinking this way.
The bond between the Bob-Whites is the strongest thing I’ve
ever seen. The friendship is damaged, yes.
But, contrary to popular opinion, it’s not irreparable.
Just reach out.”
Call a meeting at the clubhouse?” she asked bitterly, her voice
muffled against his chest.
her mood, Matt chuckled. “I
don’t think that would work.” He
released his embrace and sat back so he could look at her, leaving one
arm around her shoulders. “This
is going to be a slow, gradual process.
It’s going to take time, sweetheart.
You’ll probably have to work on one person at a time.
But you have to start somewhere.”
big, beautiful, impossibly blue eyes stared up at him, searching his
face for understanding, forgiveness, acceptance, and support.
Much to her relief, she found all that and more.
No matter what, he would be there for her.
help me?” she asked, just to be sure.
he reassured her.
closed her eyes and took a deep, cleansing breath.
Matt smiled, knowing she was ready to begin her journey.
She just needed a nudge in the right direction.
He leaned in close and whispered by her ear.
do you see that?”
opened her eyes to see where he was looking.
He pointed to the horizon.
then, the first tendrils of the morning sun reached out above the trees
at the far side of the lake, caressing the landscape and bathing it with
soft light. As the yellow
rays reached the stark white snow and ice on the ground, tiny crystals
captured the light, magnified it, and reflected it in a breathtaking
multi-hued array of sparkling, dancing fireworks.
sat together and watched, completely enraptured by the beautiful display
nature had spread before them. When
the moment had passed, Matt, resting his cheek against the top of her
head, whispered, “Do you know what that was?”
sunrise,” Trixie breathed. Her
eyes still glued to the horizon, she asked, “That’s why you come out
here this time of day, isn’t it?
Because Maddie told you to ‘see the sunrises’.”
nodded. “Do you remember
what she told you?”
turned startled eyes to him. She
hadn’t realized that he had ever read the hard copy of the letter.
She should have; after all, she had left the folder sitting
neatly in the middle of the dresser Maddie had used, in the sick room
that Trixie had turned into something of a shrine to the dead woman.
Of course Matt would have seen it there.
part?” she asked.
emerald eyes bored into her. It
was vitally important that he convey this point.
“ ‘Don’t remain in this terrible place.
Open your heart again, and let joy return to your life.
Don’t give up on love.’
Do you remember that?”
turned back to look at the horizon, finally responding with a barely
waved toward the rising sun. “That’s
not just a sunrise. That’s
the first dawn of the first day of a brand new year.
It’s time for a fresh start.
It’s time to begin again.”
watched the rising orb shower its light across the land, banishing
shadows as it went. She
wondered if love was capable of chasing away the similar shadows in her
heart. As the sunlight
reached her, she felt a long-absent warmth touch her soul.
She turned to Matt and offered him the smallest of smiles.
He smiled back, broad and wide, knowing she was ready to begin
was the first moment she felt hope.