Nance Knauer

A blue line of lake ice stretched out along the beach in front of Lu. Each time she stumbled, Tank caught her arm and pulled her up. She jerked away from his grip and stopped.

“How much further?” she asked.

“It’s not far. Maybe half a mile.”

“I don’t believe you.” She turned and started walking again. Gusts of wind from the south pushed at them from behind. An early thaw was under way and she was sweating beneath the weight of her parka. Stopping, she slipped it off while he stood beside her, silent.

“Can I have a drink?” she asked. He handed her a water bottle from his pack. She took a few swallows before tossing it back, then bent over and let her arms hang down in a stretch. As she straightened up, she noticed an old fishing shack ahead and, with shaky legs, she scrambled over the rocks toward the warped door.

Waves had coated the shore-side windows and roof with ice, but the entrance faced west and the door gave easily as she pushed against it. Inside, a table and two chairs took up most of the space. Tank nudged in behind her and their feet scraped against the sand on the floor as they sat down to take inventory. In one corner was a red plastic bucket and a lantern, and hanging from a nail on the wall was a padlock with a note stuck in behind it.

Lu stood up, grabbed the note, and read it out loud.

“Tank, hope this fits your needs for a rustic honeymoon cabin. Will stop by later this week to see how you're doing. Joe.”

Sinking back onto the chair with the paper still held in front of her, she squeezed her eyes shut, waited for a count of five, then opened them again. Tank’s voice scratched in her ears.

“Fishing ought to be good, what with the wind shift and all.” The door blew shut but the note still fluttered in a draft that blew through the cracks in the window frames. As the room grew darker, Lu continued to stare at her new husband.

“You going to light the lantern?” she asked.

“Yeah, sure.” Clinks and rattles followed as he searched the pack. “You got any matches?”

Through the window Lu could see the moon rising from the lake. She let the note fall and lowered her arms to rest on the table as she watched the moon grow smaller. Tank sniffled loudly against his sleeve and coughed.

“You look pretty,” he said.

Lu closed her eyes and listened to the waves roll against the rocks below.