A successful Winterfest was winding down. Presents had been opened, food had been eaten, and family pictures had been taken, so Adelise suggested her husband put the camera away. They were the only ones left in the room and she was tired of posing for pictures. She reached for the camera.
Adelise: What are you doing?
Asher: You’re tired of posing, so I’m taking candid shots.
Adelise: But we don’t need any more pictures and everyone’s left us.
Asher: We never “needed” any pictures.
Adelise: Stop messing around.
Asher: Why? I’m having fun.
Adelise: These are going to look awkward. You’re randomly pressing the shutter button.
Asher: I’m not and the pictures aren’t awkward. As long as you’re in the frame, they always turn out fine. But I have something to show you. Follow me.
He set the camera down and leisurely walked to the other side of the tree while playfully gesturing for his wife to follow him.
He’d been patiently waiting for the right moment to dangle mistletoe above her. The plant was said to bring peace, healing and love. They had peace and their relationship was healing, but love? It was hard to say. Feelings were complicated.
At least, it was clear that they had “like,” a lot of it.
Adelise had no problem with surprise mistletoe. If mistletoe were easy to comfortably conceal in a dress without pockets, she might have pulled a similar trick.
Asher: Let’s go up the tower.
Adelise: My room is closer.
Asher: The tower is quieter and its view is better. We’ll be able to—to talk with a view of snow falling over the river and city lights twinkling in the distance. It’ll be nice.
Adelise agreed to meet him up there.
The tower was Asher’s personal sanctuary. With windows on all sides and without any clear entrances, the tower had an unearthly quality that made it feel as though it existed outside of space and time. The soft candlelight, the way the windows framed the picturesque view of snow blanketing the city, and the near perfect silence added to the ethereal atmosphere.
But Asher and Adelise were preoccupied at the moment and neither gave any thought to the atmosphere.
Unearthly, unnatural, unsettling—Adelise didn’t feel, and hadn’t felt for a while, that Asher’s room was any of those things. Instead, it felt safe and warm. So when he gestured towards his “bed” that resembled a final resting place, she didn’t hesitate.
She might have hesitated if she’d known that his “bed” levitated and spun and that she’d be hurled from it along with Asher, but sometimes fun things get a bit wild.
They laughed and straightened themselves out. Adelise remembered the drink she’d brought for him to try. She’d experimented until she’d come up with something salty and metallic that she thought would appeal to his unique palate.
He was impressed. It was delicious, considering it didn’t contain any actual blood. He loved how clever she was, how she could converse with him knowledgably about pretty much anything, and while he had her to himself without any distractions, he wanted to hear about her latest interests.
Adelise found his enthusiasm for conversation cute and told him as much, “When you’re enthusiastic about something and you smile, your ears perk up slightly and it’s cute. I like it.” She paused before flirtily asking him, “What do you like?”
Asher: What do I find attractive?
Asher: Brown hair.
Adelise: Brown hair?
Asher: Yes, like Lavender’s.
Adelise: I see—I’m tired. I’m going to bed.
Asher: But it’s still early?
Adelise: I’m tired.
She wasn’t that mad at him. She was angrier at herself. Despite knowing what he was like (and who he liked), she’d delusionally fished for compliments.
She shuddered at her earlier intentions of opening up to him. There would have been little worse than standing in that tower desperately emptying her heart, exposing all her feelings, to try to drag certain words out of him when he would never say what she wanted to hear. Instead, he would probably say what she never wanted to hear. He’d confess to how much he had loved, still loved, and would forever love his dead girlfriend and her brown hair. If Adelise lost it and cried, he’d be shocked and she’d be forced to explain to him in unbearably torturous detail why she was upset.
She really wanted to return to cool indifference, something like friends with benefits. Being angry because he said he liked brown hair, being so upset that her chest physically hurt—it was awful and childish. She tried to get a grip by using the mirror to talk herself into a better mood.
Everything was fine! She had children who were happy and who loved her, a husband who worked hard, and all her material wants were satisfied. There were no problems. Her pragmatic teenage self would have been thrilled with this and would have only shrugged, “So what? I don’t care.” at the idea of her husband favoring someone else, especially someone dead.
So why was she so seemingly immature now? At her age! Exposure to others’ incredibly loving relationships had expanded her desires and given her hope that she could have that too, that such relationships were normal… and now her heart was breaking because her husband wouldn’t put her first.
She imagined her younger self yelling, “This is ridiculous! You’re acting as if he hates you. He likes you. You’re friends. If you care so much about such stupid things, then leave him and see how that works out. I can’t believe I became as ‘entitled’ as everyone said I was.”
But logic wasn’t helping. She didn’t feel better. She still wanted to hear her husband say he loved her so badly that it hurt.