From Prospice by Karen Kelly

There was still a light on in the kitchen. As she stood at the sink she could see her reflection in the window. She filled her glass and was about to turn away when a movement caught her eye. Someone was standing outside, watching her. Frozen, she peered through the reflection in the glass, trying to see. Then the figure moved into the square of light that fell from the window, and she had no trouble recognizing a form that had become all too familiar to her mind’s eye.

  Tru put a finger to his lips and then held it out and slowly crooked it twice, beckoning her to come out. Dinah turned and walked straight out the back door, still clutching the glass of water. Tru was in the shadows again, and as she approached, he took the glass from her hand and dropped it on the grass, where it landed with a soft thud. Then he took her by the hand and led her away, around the side of the house and across the lawn. Neither of them spoke. They had walked past several other houses when Dinah saw Tom’s car parked on the street. Tru opened the passenger door and she got in. As he started the engine, the radio was playing softly; Nat Cole singing “Nature Boy.” Dinah leaned her head back on the seat, not knowing where she was going and as happy as she had been in a long time.

  When they crossed the causeway onto Winter Island she was mystified, but content to remain silent. The only thing she knew of on the island was the Red Barn. Tru swung the car in a different direction, pulling up at a rocky stretch along Cat Cove, in the shadow of Fort Pickering. He parked the car along the edge of the gravel road and went to the trunk. When he came around to open the door for Dinah he was holding a woolen Hudson Bay blanket. Without a word, he took her hand and led her over the large, craggy rocks that lined the cove. The rocks were slippery, and Tru grasped her elbow firmly. Dinah could hear the surf gently lapping against the rocks. As they came around an outcropping she could see an enormous, flat rock illuminated in the moonlight. Tru jumped down several feet and turned to lift her gently onto the plateau. They stood for a moment, watching the play of the moon on the ripple of the water.

  Finally, he spoke. “That’s Jacob’s Ladder,” he said, indicating the pattern of light that made rungs of the waves, leading up to the sky. “My dad and I used to come here a lot.” He moved to spread the blanket near a smooth, stone wall that rose up behind them, then, thinking better of it, wrapped it around Dinah. They sat down, leaning against the rock. Their hands came together again. Tru’s voice was quiet. “After my mom died, my dad couldn’t sleep very well. Even after we moved here. So sometimes he would get me out of bed, and we’d come out here and look at the stars. Most of the time I fell asleep, and a couple of times it was almost morning when we went back to the car. I got kind of used to sleeping out here, in fact.” He looked into her eyes. “I haven’t been back here for a long time.”

  Dinah felt like he was trying to tell her something. She wasn’t sure what it was, but she felt like she understood part of it. “When my dad died,” she replied softly, “we would go down to the river and wait for boats to go by. I used to hope that somehow he would be on one of them . . . that there had been a mistake and he was really on his way home. I don’t really know what my mom was thinking—I guess she just liked the sound of the water flowing past.” She paused a moment. “Maybe she was wishing she could just float away.”

  As she finished speaking, Tru very gently put his hand on the back of her head and kissed her. The kiss was tender and sweet—intended not to ravish, but to revere. But the instant she responded he was helpless. He kissed her with a yearning so intense that Dinah felt herself swept away, spinning. She returned the kiss with an urgency that shocked her. He moved over her, pressing his body against hers, and she felt as though she might burst out of her skin. As she moved beneath him, a whimpering sigh escaped her lips. Suddenly, he drew away, dropping his head onto his forearm with a groan. He took several deep breaths, and then looked back at her. “What am I going to do?” His voice was tormented.

  Dinah couldn’t speak. She felt like there was a furnace inside of her, and she couldn’t think at all. She simply stared at him, breathing in soft gasps through her mouth.

  Tru closed his eyes briefly, with a frustrated sigh. “It would help a lot,” he said slowly, “if you didn’t look at me like that.” He rolled onto his back, staring up at the night sky. His hand reached over to clasp hers.

  Finally, Dinah found her voice. “What about Lana?” She couldn’t help it—she needed to know where she stood.

  His eyes didn’t leave the pattern of stars above them as he took a deep breath. He seemed to be choosing his words carefully, and his voice was strained. “I’ve never done anything harder in my life than try to stay away from you. And, obviously, I can’t. It wasn’t fair. I should never have let her back in my life. I just . . . I needed something else to think about. I thought I would lose my mind living in the same house with someone that I . . . that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, have. It was stupid. It didn’t work. I guess I never really thought it would.” He turned onto his side to look at her, propping his head on his hand. “I’ve known it from the first time I saw you. I never even had a choice.” He traced a finger along the side of her face, looking amazed at the sheer good fortune of being able to touch her.

  “But you acted sometimes like you didn’t even like me! I thought . . . I wasn’t even sure you liked me . . .” her voice trailed off.

  Tru laughed. “I didn’t think I could have been more obvious. Not that I wanted to be—I just couldn’t help it. There you were, just . . .” He gave a small, exasperated sigh. “Just, so . . .” He shook his head slightly, trying to find the words, but his vocabulary seemed to fail him, so he leaned in and covered her mouth with his. Then he tipped his head back and studied her face. “Just so you.” He smiled softly. “I used to imagine what you would taste like. But I have to admit, I underestimated.” He kissed her again, and then he became solemn: “And it looked to me like you were interested in Bill. God knows he’s interested in you. And he’s my best friend.”

  Taken aback, she looked intently into his eyes. “You’re the only boy I’ve ever wanted.”

  He gazed at her like Galahad discovering the Grail. “You need to be careful with that accent of yours,” he murmured. “It’s a lethal weapon. I think you could tell me to walk off a cliff and I’d do it.”

  “I’ll never tell you to walk off anywhere,” she ran her finger over his mouth, thrilled by the simple act of being able to touch the slight lift at the top of his upper lip that she had always found so achingly attractive. “Where were you tonight?” she asked softly. “And why were you standing in the yard?”

  “I went over to Lana’s house. I had to tell her it was over. After what happened in the pantry, I knew there was no way I could keep on trying to fool myself. And it sure as hell wouldn’t have been decent of me to keep on fooling her. As for why I was in the yard—” he gave her a wicked grin—“just lucky, I guess. You saved me a trip up the stairs. I was coming to get you.”

Prospice: The Novel