Driving down the narrow, winding two-lane road, was like being transported through a portal in time. A canopy of tree limbs reached across the lane, creating a green tunnel, muffling all sound save the melodic chime of the falls that ran parallel to the road. With her car windows down, she deeply inhaled the aroma of sweet mountain water and rich, oaken humus.
Idyllic as the drive was, the closer she came to the old manse, the tighter her heart felt. Anxiety niggled at her nerves as potentially horrific scenarios played through her mind. She had to anticipate every fault the dowager would find, poking at her like a purple bruise, uncovering those tender places she thought had healed. A single crack in her finely crafted facade would give the old woman the opening she needed to tear it all down. Picking at any old scab with her carrion bird talons, relishing the pain she awakened.
Still a mile from her turn off, she pulled over at a wide spot on the shoulder. Sliding over to the passenger side, she opened the car door. A jolt of cold, damp air washed over her, a baptism of holy water. Kicking off her shoes, she carefully navigated over the smooth river rocks until she stood ankle-deep in the rushing current.
As the icy water swirled and eddied around her, numbing her feet and legs, she wondered why she was answering this annual summons from her grandmother when she didn’t want to, and thinking of no good reason to go other than she was expected.
She looked at her watch and saw that she was officially late. Taking another deep breath, savoring the clean air, she sat down on one of the larger stone, where her legs could dangle in a cascading waterfall. She felt all her dread pour out, washed away with the falls.
The shadows lengthened, the night sounds mingled with the music of the river, and her defiance felt good.