My breath crystalizes upon exiting my mouth. The temperature is well below freezing but I do not want to go inside. I reach in my inside pocket and pull a Marlboro; I strike my lighter and take a drag.
Next to me, walking and pretending to smoke, is my sister's best friend. Our clandestine flirtations no longer remain covert in subtle hints and meanings. They are now laid out before us like a Thanksgiving spread - open to anyone who cares to dine.
We walk up and down the dirt road that leads to my home on Chena Hot springs Rd. I know that I shouldn't be talking to her, but there is something about her that draws me in.
Our conversation is light; how is school, work, life at home? We inquire as to future goals, future hopes and the ultimate; What does it all mean.
She is beautiful, in her purple coat, arms across her chest, her black hair moving in time to our steps. Her legs must be cold through her torn jeans, but she doesn't seem to mind.
For more than an hour we walk up and down the hill, cutting a rut so deep that surely the next car to pass will become stuck in our traversing as much as we are in our conversation.
Suddenly the tempo changes. Some how I have offended her. She wont come out and say it but her attitude has changed, she is further away from me by more than a step or two.
I do my best to wrangle her back, but it's to no avail. She is angry.
Her anger isn't so much directed at me as it is towards what I am saying. I am sure I was being more than a little self effacing, not with any humor included.
Even then she hates me talking poorly about myself. Yet we continue to walk, up and down, up and down. Our trail is well worn.
I pull out another cigarette and offer it to her. She bridges the gap between us and takes it. I try to light it for her, but she prefers to do it herself. An independence that never went away.
Eventually we find ourselves walking down closer to my drive way. We still use the woods to obfuscate us, but we linger closer to home. I can see the light from my porch.
My sister's voice breaks the night as she calls for her friend.
I know that our time together is over…for now.
"Go," I say, "Your friend is calling you." I didn't want her to leave. I want to hold her hand; I want to hug her; I want to kiss; I don't want her to leave.
I start to call out to her as I watch her darkened form step out of the darkness of the cold Alaskan winter night, but I know it is too late. The illumination of the porch lights are already washing over her. Someone had raised the lights on our show.
Till next time then.