It was just the beginning. A new weekend filled with possibility had finally arrived. Hope fluttered in their hearts. This was finally their chance to go to their favorite place, a place of warmth and happiness, of ease and comfort. They had dreamed of this place for years. This could be their day! One day they would not have to return. They could escape forever into this safe and cozy corner of the world without worry of ever losing it or venturing desperately to find it again.
The place was simple. It was small, made of sturdy brown logs with warm light inside. There was a glowing fireplace and a long red couch. On the couch lay a folded yellow and orange quilt with a gray and white cat curled upon it. In the dining room was a red wooden table accompanied by finely carved wooden chairs with dark blue cushions. On the table was a large red cup of hot cocoa with whipped cream and marshmallows and steam rising, melting the cream from the bottom.
A woman was there in the kitchen cooking. She was older, her hair streaming with every shade between brown and gray and a youthful glow in her rosy, ample cheeks. Her sparkling smile lines were ready but resting calmly near the far corner of her eyes. She was waiting excitedly to talk and laugh with them, to enjoy her wonderful food and play her delightful board games. She knew that they were just around the corner. She always had faith in them.
They woke up early and filled up all the seats of their four wheel drive, their packs ready for a long hike. The motor turned on in the morning dark and they backed out of the driveway, making a subtle disturbance in the surrounding suburban slumber. They watched through their windows as the white houses turned into fields to ponds to forests. They drove together through the trees, making their ascent along a windy mountain road, the dark dusk slowly fading into day. They did their chores, they paid their bills, they did their errands. They had spent the week preparing for this…just as they always did.
Off the right side of the road, they saw an iron gate painted white with its door opened outward. They slowed down the car, pulled up next to it and made their way out the car doors to approach the gate. It pulled them in. They were caught by the gate’s wonder, its curiosity and familiarity. Here they were, as if for the first time.
They felt very lucky to be there, to see that the gate was actually open today. They were that much closer! It had been weeks, months since the gate had last been open for them. They smiled at each other with hope and gratitude and made their way across the threshold.
They stepped onto a dirt road shadowed by tall evergreens. The sun was shining bright above them. It was noon already. They picked up their pace. No time to take pictures, no time to talk, no time to eat the huckleberries or enjoy the pink and yellow wildflowers. They had to stay determined and keep their focus if they ever hoped to reach their destination.
Sweating, they climbed higher, elevation peaking, steepness increasing. Blisters were forming near their heels and toes, their backs and feet growing sore and weak, noses and shoulders turning red. Taking a break for water they looked up at the sky. The sun could no longer be seen. They looked at their map. They were still several miles away. They decided to trek on further.
A couple hours passed by. The light was changing at a faster rate. A chilly breeze gave them goosebumps and the world was a shade of gray blue. They were not even halfway toward their destination and it was getting dark. To go forward would mean to walk in the dark with the very real possibility of getting lost. That frightening thought left disappointment seeping into their faces. They were vulnerable in those woods and didn’t want to feel it. They thought it would be safer to turn around and find the car. Another day they would wake up earlier, another day they would walk faster, another day they would be more prepared and finally get there before dark. They blamed themselves for not being equipped enough, smart enough, fast enough to reach their favorite place, the place that they dreamed about going to every day, hoping that this week would be different.
They looked back at the dark trail winding up the mountain, its mysterious disappearance into the shadows. They stood there for a moment, wistful and heartbroken, sadness filling their shoes and emptying their hands. The road back to the car seemed unusually long. The weight of exhaustion and lost hope made for a slow crawl. Relief filled them once they collapsed inside their car, sighs releasing, expectation deflating in their seats.
They drove off into the twilight, the zaffre sky glowing deep behind the swiftly moving midnight clouds. They glided through the scenery, watching the fields turn to sidewalks and boxes. Drifting in and out of sleep, they pulled up into their driveway and stumbled to the front door. They collapsed onto their long purple couch with their green and blue blanket sprawled over them, their black cat rubbing their feet. They sat at their black marble dining room table and drank a cup of herbal tea from their white mugs.
Music roamed from a bedroom where a young woman with white hair, tan skin, and wise gray eyes played her kalimba. She was relieved to see them back at home, though her happiness was hesitant. It was comforting to feel their presence, but fear poked her whenever she felt their sorrow. Every week she hoped that they would stay, that they would want to be at home creating her favorite place with her. She never wanted those weeks to end and every time their journey ended full circle she was grateful.