She arrived at night. The house was black and unoccupied, and the surrounding deep woods only seemed to add to the sense of total darkness. She quickly exited from the car, unlocked the door, and threw on the porch lights. The light was comforting, but it made her feel like she was on display for anything that might be lurking at the wood's edge. She emptied only what she absolutely needed from the car and hurried into the house, closing the door behind her. There wasn't much to do at the late hour, so she headed straight to bed. A bedside clock radio softly played the evening's news and the voices made the house seem less empty. Being so completely alone, it was a struggle to drift off to sleep, but eventually fatigue won.
She awoke to a beam of sunlight streaming into the room through the skylight. She had survived the night and looked forward to beginning her retreat time. Coming to the woods for a week alone was a bit unnerving, but she knew it was exactly what she needed.
She showered and put on some of the comfy clothing that would be her "uniform" for the week, and then she padded down the stairs to the kitchen. Once there, she made herself a cup of hot coffee and went out onto the front porch. The sturdy rocking chair looked so inviting and she relaxed into the warmth of thesunlight. Glancing out across the expanse of the front yard, soaking in all the colorsof autumn, it was only then that she noticed it...the empty gap in the trees. It had been far too dark the night before to see that it was missing. Where was the little tree?
copyright Kathy Burbank Cunliffe
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