Amelia lay awake in her queen-sized bed, watching the shadows flicker on her ceiling. In the place where there was now a pile of pillows, once lay her husband of twenty years. Although the divorce was Amelia’s idea, and the disintegration of their marriage was primarily her doing, she was having difficulties coping with the isolating nature of being newly single. Her friends supported her, but sided with Doug on the matter. Same with her family and therapist. No one’s opinion varied. He was in the right. She was in the wrong.
Groaning at this thought, she turned onto her side and watched the curtains billow from the night air. The source of the moving shadows. She lay there absentmindedly, watching night turn into dawn turn into day until a single tear dripped onto her cheek. Before it could mark her pillow, she raised herself out of bed and let the teardrop fall to the floor. With quick movements, she opened the curtains and stared blankly at the colorful autumn leaves.
Change had come. But the winter that follows change was fast approaching.
She left the bedroom and walked into the bright kitchen that was now solely hers. With shaking hands, she made a cup of coffee, threw on a scarf and heavy jacket, and walked down to weathered dock that Doug’s sister was supposed to repair this spring before she ended their marriage with a final, climactic blow. A blow she still felt in her chest when the memory resurfaced.
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and let the dock move her in sideways undulations. The same wind rustling her curtains was disturbing the lakes surface. Crossing her legs, she guided herself into a meditative state with the affirmation: I can make my own calm. Gradually, the chill wind and jerky movements lost their strength as she focused her senses on the cup of warm coffee in her hands. She sat in a meditative state, mechanically drinking, until a forceful breeze hit her face and redirected her thoughts back to the day she requested a divorce.
He was sitting on the bed, pleading with her to not give up on him. He had managed to stay in an open relationship with her for ten years, at her request. He had dealt with her ‘artist’ turmoil, keeping her financially stable throughout various job losses, career changes, and creative paths. He had left behind his desire to be a father so that she could continue with her selfish ways. He had agreed to purchasing a house in the middle of nowhere when she decided the city lifestyle was no longer her scene. He had loved her- still loved her- unconditionally, despite her reckless, affectless ways.
He told all those things to her; yelled them at her. It was one of the only times where she saw him fight for himself. But it wasn’t for himself. It was for their marriage. So she had to push him to it; push him in a hard way. Impulsively, she screamed at her then husband that she slept with Earl, his best friend from Middle School whom he revered.
His eyes were red from crying at that point, but she had never seen him look at her with such clear insight. It was as if a twenty-year veil had been wiped clean from the salty water dripping from his eyes and he could finally see truth again. The tears stopped, the sobs subsided, and he gave her one long icy look before leaving the house and their mutual lives behind him.
It was a premonition of the winter that was still to come.
A week later, she was notified that Doug had been served the divorce papers. As there were no kids involved, the relatively painless divorce was finalized by July. She took the house and her freedom, he took their dog, Bone, and left with his reputation and savings intact.
As Doug was wealthy, her lawyer encouraged her to fight for more. But as she no longer cared for anything they had, she didn’t care to fight. She signed the papers and a month later returned from a yoga retreat to an emptier house. It was the same day she found the courage to listen to a voicemail that Earl had left on her phone. He was livid, calling her profane names and vowing to never speak to her again.
She didn’t blame him. The affair was her doing. He had rejected her until he finally gave in to her persistent advances. She was never one to back down from what she wanted.
And yet, she never understood the reasons behind her wants and needs. She might have gone for Earl because she cared for him, she might have gone for him because of the excitement an affair would bring to the trite reality of middle-aged complacency, or she might have gone for him because she knew it would be the catalyst for a divorce.
In any case, although she fought for her immediate desires, she had no long-term desires. Therefore, she had nothing meaningful to her name or legacy, and nothing meaningful to reach for.
At this, she placed the coffee cup down by her crossed legs and laughed. The cold that was numbing her nose and cheeks began to numb her open mouth, traveling down her throat to her lungs. She wanted to numb the rest of her. Carelessly, and in view of those at the windows of their lakeside houses, she began to strip, removing all but her underwear. As she stood up and walked to the edge of the dock, she gave a sardonic chuckle, slid the remaining cotton fabric down her legs, and dove into the choppy water.
The chill entered through her skin with a bitter welcome.
Perhaps her winter had already come.