Through the streaked windowpane, the morning was an unrelieved, almost uniform gray. Dingy and sad. Appropriate. Fog turned the nearest trees gray, and hid the rest, the descent into the valley, the mountains across the way. It made things disappear. Farrah realized she wanted to disappear.
She reached for her coat, lifted it off the hook, then set it down again, crooked. It was a bright red with blue details; the blue the color of the ink he had written in. The red was too cheerful, and the blue—no. She went to the closet and pulled out the silvery grey cloak she’d bought for Halloween after watching The Lord of the Rings.
She settled it around her shoulders, letting the deep hood shroud her wet face. She joined the delicate leaf clasp, remembering the books, remembering how the elves left the mortal world, when its strife and sadness became too much for them. It was a long trip to that shore—she needed lembas.
She rummaged in the closet, rejecting Ritz (too commercial) and Keebler (wrong type of elves, too cheerful. Besides, she thought the sweetness would choke her). Nothing was perfect, so she settled on Bug Bites. She’d bought them for her—no, his—nephew. They were abandoned goods, just like her. And butterflies and dragonflies and ladybugs, well, she could imagine even Tolkien’s solemn elves wanting their lembas to be things of beauty. She tucked the box into one deep sleeve and set out, leaving the door ajar.
The day was silent. She walked until the house faded to an indistinct form behind her and closed her eyes, listened. The silence was not empty; it was dense. It drifted into her, stilling the echoes of all their recent fights, quieting even the echoes of his voice, speaking the words in the letter, until they faltered, and lay smothered, quiescent.
She stood there, invisible, silent, grey. A part of the fog.
Slowly, the day brightened. The fog started to burn off. She stood at the top of a steep hillside, the fog in the valley twisting and dancing in beautiful, fanciful shapes.
Farrah realized she could stand on the hillside, wait for the sun to come out, to make things real and distinct. Clear and sharp. Go inside, call a divorce lawyer. And the rest of her day would be real, and ugly.
In front of her was beauty. Peace. Ethereal silvery waves—though it was all illusion, mist and shadows. Nothing she could touch, nothing she could rely on. Like she’d thought she could rely on him, she thought bitterly.
She took a few steps forward, descending to where the mist rose dense above her knees, and higher in tatters and spires . The hillside was steep and wet, going forward would be dangerous. She couldn’t see her feet, couldn’t guess where her footsteps would take her. There would be no one to save her if she slipped, no one to catch her if she fell, save herself.
She opened the box of lembas, took out two pieces of waybread, looked at them as if they were omens. A caterpillar and a butterfly. Perhaps they were.
Perhaps tomorrow she could bear to go back, to deal with the ugly aftermath of her yesterdays.
But today—today the path to the grey shores lay in front of her. Today she would leave all of her troubles, all of the mortal world, behind.
She stepped forward, gently, drifting downward amid the curls and drifts of fog, welcoming the silence, and the danger, and most of all, an ever-changing beauty she could never grasp in her hand, only in her soul.
Photo by red_trillium of Pinepig Studios. Donation hat painted by me.
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