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And honestly, it could have turned out worse. I still have visiting rights with Rachel and I’m not completely destitute. The mountain house is beautiful and I can live there until I can sell it and then I’ll go somewhere new, and warm and…easy.

In hindsight, everyone can see signs that their marriage was deteriorating long before either party was willing to admit it. There were the increasingly late nights at work, snide comments about my unkempt appearance and my questionable mental state. It wasn’t until Rachel entered her teen years, that Steve started using her against me, claiming I was scaring her, implying I was unfit, that I’d ruin her somehow with my madness.

I don’t have proof that he was having an affair, but my lawyer’s subtle implication of it had very quickly won me the mountain house, so it must be true.

The mountain house looks bigger than I remember as I pull into the driveway, but now, of course, I am one instead of three. I wonder how I’ll fill up all that empty, silent space.

I don’t have much to unpack so I’m already bored and on edge by five o’clock. The living room windows look out towards the snow-covered woods and everything looks beautiful, serene. I close the blinds anyway, intent on pushing the evening to a close so that I can take a sleeping pill and go to bed and dream of nothing.

Bright morning sunlight penetrates the hastily closed curtains in the living room and I wake up on the floor with a sharp headache and a mouth that feels full of moss.

I stumble down the long hallway to the bathroom and avoid looking at myself. After drinking out of the tap, I let the cold water run all over my flushed face.

I take an antidepressant, then shrug and take another one and decide to get out of the house for some fresh air. My boot makes a pleasant crunching sound as I break the pristine surface of the snow.

I walk about a mile and I’m surprised, as I always am, at how disorienting it is to be so utterly alone for miles and miles.

I’m cold and my feet are going numb, but I’m almost to my favorite part of the property; a clearing with a small pond. As I approach, my appreciation for getting out of the divorce with the mountain house intensifies, especially because I know Steve is angry about it. He loves this place.

My glee is disappearing as I look at fresh footprints in the snow in front of me. They dance around the edge of the frozen pond and then retreat back into the woods.

I hustle back home and lock the doors and double check that they are locked again. It’s five o’clock again and I guess I lost some time today because I don’t remember being out that long.

Dinner is tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich and the warm food is comforting. I take a pill and open a bottle of red wine and by seven o’clock I feel better. I have leftovers and I decide, somewhere in the blur of my semi-consciousness, that I will bring a thermos of hot soup down to the pond for whoever was down there.

At least that’s what I think my brain must have reasoned out because here I am at the pond in the dark, placing Rachel’s old Disney Princess thermos on the snow. I look around, flashlight trembling over the darkness.

“Enjoy,” I say half-heartedly to no one.

The next two days are replicas of the first and I am astounded anew each time I go back to the pond and find the thermos emptied of its contents and then carefully closed back up.

This morning I woke up to find the front door ajar. I close it. Lock it.

I walk to the pond with the refilled thermos. Had I noticed the five little toe indentations topping the foot prints before? Whoever it was, was barefoot.

I’m in bed early tonight and I have to take a double dose of the sleeping pill so that I can stop my mind from doing cartwheels.

In my dream my eyes are open but it’s all blackness. I’m confined in a box that gets smaller and smaller until it’s crushing my nose and my eyeballs and I can’t breathe. There’s a guttural growl from a few feet away and then I can see a pillow moving away from my face, floating up and away from me.

Steve is there next to the bed, holding the pillow in one hand. The other hand is flailing around wildly.

There’s something standing behind him. It’s all fur and darkness, but I can see how massive it is and it’s twisting Steve’s neck with enormous hands until I hear an echoing click like a twig snapping in the woods.

Steve’s loose body thumps down on the floor and when I look way, way up I see whatever it is looking back at me. A clawed hand places the princess thermos on the end of the bed and then it’s walking away with heavy footfalls that shake the house.


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