Snow, falling silently all night, gathered in pillow drifts, and covered the blueberry bushes in front of Jennifer’s porch. For twelve hours, in the surrounding country, fall fled, and fell deep into winters sleep. As Jennifer woke from hers, she noticed the steely silence brought by the night’s capers, grateful it had held for their occupation of the nuclear site. Snuggling deeper under her comforter she lamented leaving her shirt, underwear, and socks outside the night before. When it got cold in her attic bedroom, she usually put those former items at the foot of her bed before sleep, so the next morning she could dress with the warmed clothes, which were closest to her skin.
Gritting her teeth and wondering what time it was. She slid out from under the comforter and walked rapidly to her dresser for red and black stripped wool socks, a white, long sleeved, thermal shirt and underwear. Dashing back, passing the desk, the clock read eight-fifteen. Safe under the bedclothes, she buried her garments at the foot. As soon as they were warm she put each one on and lay dressed under the covers for another ten minutes.
Gaining consciousness from her cold dash for clothes, Jennifer started to think about how she was going to explain her weekend. She was reluctant to let people know she broke the law, when “normal” college students were throwing up at keggers and subjecting fraternity inductees to tortures. What would she tell Peter? If he saw it on television he’d know. But, Peter didn’t have a T.V. Though he could have heard about her trip from someone like Petra, who resented her not riding with them that weekend. Jennifer noticed she was holding her breath. Inhaling deeply, she exhaled, her tension whooshing out of her lips. Practicing deep breathing from her yoga routine, she waited until she was calmer to exit the bed and put on flannel lined jeans, a sweater, and boots.
Descending the stairs, she could hear her roommates in the living room talking to someone – Peter! Jennifer stood one step up from the hall floor, her right foot hanging in the air, hesitant to touch down.
“Oh, I hear her. She’s awake,” announced Anne from the beyond.
Jennifer stepped down and rounded the corner though the hall into the living room. There was her long, tall, handsome man sprawled over most of the couch, Jillian in an armchair, and Anne perched on a wide upholstered ottoman. But fear gripped her, slowing her steps.
Peter jerked up and quickly came over to her, sweeping her into a hug.
“I’m so glad you’re O.K. I was worried when you didn’t come home from your road trip on time. You give those jerks hell!”
Jennifer was collapsed against him, but not relaxed. She was confused. What jerks, when? She moved her head to look at Jillian. Quizzing her with her eyes. Jillian smiled and made a small O.K. sign with her fingers. She relaxed a little against Peter. He rubbed her back soothingly for a minute and then grabbed her shoulders, gently pushing her away so he could see her face.
“I’m proud of you. You’re so brave. I could never have done what you did.”
Jennifer waited, as accolades reigned down from above, still tense, and vague of the details.
He looked entreatingly at her face, “But why did you think you had to lie?”
“I…I didn’t know your politics. I was afraid of alienating you.”
Jennifer began to cry. She gripped his sweatshirt sleeve and hung her head in shame. Disappointed once again she’d screwed up a relationship. Her longest was three years after high school. Then a year here, a six-month run there, and now a three-month long one with Peter added to her collection of failures.
Holding her closer, Peter said, “Look, next time you must be honest with me. We’re just starting out. In some way I understand why you didn’t tell the truth. You really don’t know me that well. We’ll have to remedy that. “
Tears dribbling down her cheeks, she couldn’t believe what her ears were hearing. Sniffing, she wiped her eyes on her sleeve. Moving back, standing straight up across from Peter, she saw he was beaming at her.
Wow, no guy had ever been so understanding or forgiving. She could melt into him right now. Her pouting mouth crumbled into a wavering smile as she lifted her face towards his beautiful brown eyes, deep with compassion. Jennifer was still feeling remorseful, as gratitude gained a hold.
“Want to join us for dinner tonight?” trilled Anne.
“Actually, I owe Jennifer a date. Would my little revolutionary like to eat at Mory’s this evening at six?” Peter teased.
Jennifer attended her Monday classes of Art History, Studio, and Glaze Chemistry. She noticed Roxy wasn’t present in Art History or Studio. Regularly checking her body’s center, she consciously monitored her breathing, to remain present during classwork. The male painters, sculptors, and architects flew over her head in the dark, as Dr. Freeman worked the slide projector and droned on about turn of the century Germany. During Studio, she recycled her clay scraps, and trimmed leather hard clay pieces. Tasks needing focused manual skill. Grateful for her finished glaze formulas in plastic bags within the lab locker, she liquefied, and applied them to ninety bisque-fired clay slabs. It was glaze chemistry grunt work, meticulous, and precise, no emotion involved.
The load of feelings she’d felt over the last four days had worn her out. She now craved a scheduled, quiet life. Well, maybe a shot glass of chaos once in a while.
* * * * * * * * *
After trout dinners, the couple went back to Peter’s apartment above the bike shop. They talked for hours. Questioning each other and gingerly stepping onto the slippery slope towards a deeper relationship, until Jennifer begged off. She was still sleep deprived. Promising she would spend the evening with him the next night, Jennifer donned her hat, coat, and gloves. Kicking drifts of snow, she walked the fifteen blocks home.