Contemporary Fiction

Deep in the pine forest and over the foothills of the mountains, a log cabin persisted. It appeared quaint beneath the towering trees, but, upon closer inspection, it possessed a weathered dignity. Half a dozen chimneys protruded from the steeply slanted roof, and they held a certain prestige despite their crookedness. The wood walls were dark with lingering moisture from a century of rain and snow, and dripping icicles adorned the eaves. It didn’t have electricity or internet service or any of the modern conveniences people rely on, but those things are utterly unnecessary.

Oh, dear! I should not prattle on when there's a story to tell. Please pardon the rambling regards of a bygone man; I cannot help but long for things lost.

This story does not revolve around the lovely log cabin, or the wet winter, or myself, but that is all you have heard!

Within the cabin, two people had a string drawn tightly between them. They pulled and tugged and did not budge, and the cord remained taut as a bowstring.

The girl's name was Alaska Grove, and she had dark, dusky hair that fell in gentle ringlets to her waist. Her eyes were a keenly bright copper and shone with fiery resolve. How the pretty thing came to know the boy, I do not recall.

The boy in question was a descendant of mine, and you'd know it by his rugged good looks and his penchant for storytelling. Jasper Kimble was his name, and it was a fine one at that. He had unruly mahogany hair in need of trimming and fair skin. His eyes were often stormy, but he was more easygoing than his expression implied.

Now, about the string. Why were the pair pulled tight?

A single silver ring constricted Alaska’s third finger, but it gripped both of them with unforgiving manacles.

Alaska often would sit at the rickety table in the unfurnished kitchen, watching the ring as if it would catch fire if she glanced away.

Jasper would linger just out of sight, regret and love mixing into a bitter concoction of emotion. He didn’t dare give it a name because it would surely demand something of him, to break a promise, a promise in the form of a silver ring.

They did not sit and talk anymore, they did not laugh or play. But the ice spreading between them was better than the fire that raged when the words came.

But around the corner, Jasper could no longer bear the silence. “I’m going to the store.”

“It’s snowing.” Alaska’s voice was faint around the corner.

“It’s not that bad.” The regret began to spark, and Jasper wished he hadn’t broken the ice.

“What do you even need at the store?”

“I just want to get out of the house.”

“It’s a waste of gas.”

“I can’t stay here anymore.”

“Neither can I.”

The string pulled tighter between them, rising from the pit of their gut to a knot in their throats.

The words came out in a rush, almost exhilarated on Jasper’s lips. “Why don’t you come with me?”

“I can’t.”

The pressure doubled, and both began to crumble and burn.

“Can’t, or won’t?”

“I just can’t, okay?”

“You haven’t been doing anything.”

“Have you?”

“No. I’m about to.”

“Why bother?”

“Why not?”

“It’s wasteful.”

“We’re both wasting away in this rotting cabin.”

“That you wanted to move to!”

“I thought you would like it here!”

“Well, you thought wrong.”

Silence descended, and they could almost hear the crackling of the fire.

Alaska wondered when they’d last sat together. Here they were, arguing from separate rooms. Her eyes fell on the silver ring. Together, but apart. Isolated, but infinitely bound.

She could suddenly feel Jasper’s gaze on her back, and it felt like a thousand pounds had settled on her shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

Alaska flinched. “No, I shouldn’t have snapped at you. You can go to the store, but it’s a long drive. I don’t know when they close.”

“I don’t need to go. I can stay here.”

Her finger traced her name on the table. Alaska Groves. Alaska Groves. Her finger faltered as a new thought entered, a future. Alaska Kimble.

“It’s fine.”

But it wasn’t. Jasper and Alaska both knew it.

The floorboards creaked as he came to sit beside her, taking her slender hands in his and obscuring the ring from view. “We haven’t gone on a date for a long time.”

Her breath whooshed out of her, a fresh pain budding within. “There’s nowhere nearby.”

“I’d be willing to go for a long drive.”

Even though she couldn’t see it, she was acutely aware of the silver band when she replied, “Okay.”


They were silent as they trundled down dirt roads in a pickup truck, watching the delicate flakes of snow tumble by. They didn’t say a word when they saw the city lights twinkle between the trees.

The sun had set when Jasper parked outside of a cafe. He smiled lovingly at the squat building, but Alaska sank with dread.

“I think it’s closed,” she objected.

“Don’t you remember? We had our first date here?”

“I remember.”

Jasper glanced at her, worry flickering in his eyes. “I’ll go see if it’s open.”

Alaska felt the ring burn on her finger, and she quickly decided that she would follow him in the cold.

Snowflakes caught in her hair, and it came down faster and faster, collecting in drifts in the withered grass.

She reached out to catch them with her left hand, and the silver ring gleamed in the winterish, moonlit glow. Her fingers ached with cold, and she was compelled.

While Jasper peered in the foggy window of the cafe, Alaska slipped the ring off her finger, the string broken.

When he turned and smiled ruefully, Alaska mirrored his expression. “Well, you were right. It looks like this place is closed for the night.”

She intertwined her fingers with his, feeling free for the first time in nine months. “It’s okay. It’s nice to be out of the house.”

Jasper seemed to glow when he saw her smile, and Alaska felt a prick of guilt. They sat on an icy metal bench, and he chuckled as he gazed at the spiraling snowflakes. “It seems so stupid that we were arguing and avoiding each other earlier. I was making myself miserable.” He squeezed her hand. “I’m much happier when we’re together.”

He began to lean in for a kiss, and, when she met his lips, he didn’t even know they were saying goodbye.

Alaska pressed the silver ring into his palm, knowing that she was extinguishing the last of their tiny fires.

January 22, 2021 16:33

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