Tessa stood near the living room window, staring through the cold glass. She hadn’t slept during the night. In the odd illumination that accompanies some winter snowfall, Tessa watched the footprints fill with snow.
Around six o’clock last night, when the shouting finally stopped, and the front door slammed, she watched him stomp away through the snow. Her heart filled with dread, and her face washed with tears that couldn’t find a suitable place to end. He left a trail of meandering footprints in the snow, his feet imprinting the snow with a line of steps reaching the road. He climbed into his friend’s car without looking back. After so many years, he was gone.
He’d slammed the door and left her alone many evenings in the last few years. She found herself worried with fear that he would find something outside in the world to keep him from returning. Even after he belittled her and made her feel worthless, she repaid his scorn with loyalty. She stayed up, sleepless, and consumed with being alone.
Last night, when the door slammed, Tessa jumped with fear. A few moments later, she also felt an unfamiliar sensation well up. Relief. She shook her head in an attempt to convince herself she was mistaken. The solar lights she carefully placed throughout the yard last summer glimmered against the white snow. As the light faded in the winter sky, she noted how beautiful they were. She also remembered how badly he mocked her for buying them. He pointed out that they’d make mowing harder. She felt a flicker of anger, considering he didn’t do any of the yard work. That the solar lights had charged sufficiently to come on at all surprised her.
As the night progressed, Tessa found herself at the window, the curtains held to both sides. His snowy footprints were slowly filling as the night progressed. The solar lights continued to shine.
Tessa returned to the window with greater frequency. The relief she initially fought filled her. As the footprints became almost invisible, her relief began to feel more like hope. She stood motionless at the window for at least an hour. Without realizing she could no longer see the imprint of her departed husband’s feet, she burst into tears. The snow fell with greater fury.
By four a.m., the solar lights went below the falling snow. The snow carried a bright yellowish bulb of light under the surface.
Shortly before seven, Tessa put on her snow boots, a pair her Grandmother gave her for Christmas fifteen years ago. She still had on her one thick robe. As sunlight began to strengthen, on a whim, Tessa went outside and took long steps into the snow, all the way to the street. She turned and stared back at the house. Suddenly, Tessa didn’t feel lonely. She stomped her way back to the house.
Impulsively, she took her cellphone from her robe pocket and took a picture of the buried solar light and her deep footprints in the snow.
Without a doubt, she knew her light would resurface. Her footprints would dissipate, but she’d remain.
For the first time, she felt at peace.
Tessa remained there, near the living room window, standing in the snow for a few minutes. She felt the magic of the moment hovering over her and whispering in a voice she couldn’t quite discern. When she went back inside, she made a pot of coffee.
Tessa took a cup of black coffee and stood in front of the living room window again. As she looked outside, the solar lights dimmed and went off. Her footprints remained.
Tessa smiled and took a sip of her coffee.