Audrey Morgan stood on a normally inaccessible ledge, at the edge, of Hollier Peak’s more precarious cliff jutties. Today, her birthday, she was determined would also be . . . her death day. She was simply fatigued with her life . . . and with its living. Curious how clearly the truth of realities come into focus, when soaked in the optics of a depression, she thought.
Lake Techaenin spread its wide cadent waves along a crag-indented beachline, fronting the Peak, far down below her. A butterfly breeze caressing her cheeks, in diminution of its earlier strength, was warming, in the cooling of the day. She smiled slightly in witness of the roasting sun leaving this world, into the darkening distant horizon of the lake, an appropriate metaphor for her imminent self.
Had she not done everything right? Had she not been a devoted wife and doting mother? Audrey, wrapped in relentless reflection, was exhausted by the apparent sham of it all. Her children, one daughter and two sons, had long left the family . . . had long left the need of her, and that shift in focus, at first disquieting . . . had creeped into hardened loneliness. Sure, of course, it was necessary for them to make their own way and she was proud of them. Melanie, the first born, a professional engineer and single mother of two. Eric, the younger boy, fulfilling a lifelong desire to be a veterinarian, and Leonard, an auto mechanic, with his second wife expecting their first child. Decent, honest kids living decent, honest lives . . . the best they knew how. But . . . to barely get a phone call, or letter, or visit . . . from . . . she had given . . . years . . . time, heart, and mind . . . well, what did it all mean?
The sun was now under, though the sky was still streaked with its remnant luminescence. Reds crowned in crimson replaced the bright blues. The lake’s hue deepened too, into a dark hunter green, providing a welcoming abyss, where troubles of this life could find rest. For Audrey, that prospect was sufficient enticement . . . in which to leap.
And how very much she loved her husband. He had been the only man in her life . . . high school sweetheart, actually. So much they had struggled together, several job layoffs or outright firings, long talks late into the night, shared worries, and mostly, their beautiful children. Now that he was finally retired, he had plenty of time to chase the church organist, and talk with buddies in dank bars; all the while thinking he was serving Christ, by showing up Sundays, at their local church . . . but, who was she to judge.
Leaping over the ledge . . . down, down, down . . . deeply, into the nothingness of Lake Techaenin.
That is what she saw herself doing, before catching glimpse of a tiny white dot.
Yes, there it was, just above the sinking of the sun. Audrey found herself drawn to it, as if by mental magnet. How attractive and mysterious it was to her. What could it be . . . white like that? Larger now . . . oh, oh, a bird . . . a simple bird. Half relieved, half intrigued, Audrey continued to stare, tracing the bird’s lonely path . . . in what seemed to be destined directly toward her. Then, there it was . . . at her feet . . . barely a leg’s length away . . . looking so sure, up at her. Audrey, for her part, was startled and stymied by the suddenness of it all . . . and somewhat shocked by the presence of this beautiful, pure white cormorant, there, beside her.
Cormorants, normally dark in color, were common on the lake, but this was an albino cormorant. Audrey knew enough to realize that being albino and having left the nest, it would be ostracized . . . for life. And more . . . no cormorant approached people. So, how extremely remarkable to have this rare bird with her now. And then . . . it left.
Dawn’s rays were serving the sky anew. It was morning, already? Had she been oblivious to the passing of the night? Had she been standing . . . what . . . for hours? That bird . . . gone . . . but, strangely still with her. Audrey sat down to rest on an obliging rock. In gaze of the lifting sun, she thought . . . maybe . . . just maybe . . . being alone . . . being on her own . . . beacons a new view . . . of a path . . . beckoning flight.
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