The weather was just perfect. My oar chipped the river. The river greeted me. The sun winked over the tree line. My shoulders, my arms, I moved in smooth equal strokes. My life fell away as I paddled from my troubles. Faster and faster I went.
This morning I was stiff. I pulled off the covers and my whole body protested the early morning.
I wanted to curl into Tracy’s back. I wanted to sleep until Crystal and little Tommy woke up. I wanted to make monster pancakes. I wanted to see Tracy smile at me over her coffee. Things have been so much easier lately.
But Tracy wasn’t asleep. Her body was hard, each muscle tense. I went to hug her and I froze thinking of what I could’ve done or said.
Then she grew liquid in my arms. Snuggling in my arms, Tracy kissed me.
“Hey aren’t you missing prime canoeing time?” Little kisses trailed down my neck.
“I thought about canc—“
Her body stiffened again. “But you said you really wanted to go.”
“Yeah but I can go to the river next weekend. Corey is available next week any ways. It’s our anniversary baby and we could get started earl—“
Suddenly my wife sat up and turned away. She exhaled harshly. Stung, I tried to read her back fishing for the right words.
“Baby I don’t understand.”
Careful not to touch her I got closer. Our bed is a tightrope. To my surprise Tracy leaned her back into my chest. She turned and kissed me hard. Hungrily, She pressed me back into the mattress.
“Ryan, honey, I want you to go so you can come back sooner. You take such good of us, of me. I want you to have your time.” Her hands roamed under my pajamas. I held her face, my high school sweetheart, my first love.
On the river I churned. My muscles warm. Faster and faster I fly over the water steaming towards what. Happiness? I’m speeding away from what? Being a failure. I shook my head. The sun stood proud over the tree line. I’d calculated how far to go up river to get back for lunch with the family.
Someone is on the shore near my point of no return. It’s Corey I think. He looked dead eyed. I yelled hello. He’s looking at me but not. Corey and I go back to pre-K. We know each like brothers. He introduced me to Trace for god’s sake and we’ve been through thick and thin and I’ve never seen him look like this.
Shit I thought the kids. Someone is hurt. I paddled towards him. Cell service is spotty on the river. No one is ever really up here this early. Corey must’ve been looking for me. He’s a good friend. He’s family.
“Hey my man what’s going on? What is it?” I was frantic. I saw the river rock in his hand. I saw my best friend’s arm raise and swing down hard. I grabbed, I fought, I think. I’m not sure. I saw my friend, my wife, my babies. I’m going faster and faster up the river. A Darkness leaked into the corners of my eyes. My wife. My best friend. Black waves rushed across my eyes.