She took him out on the lake in the early morning, just as the stars were blinking their last goodbye and heading for the Pacific Ocean. “My favorite time of the day,” she said. It had snowed the night before, but the plow had been out before dawn, and the ice roads were open. The lake was an unblemished field of white, dotted with fish houses.
They bumped over the ice heave on shore and then were driving on the smooth, blue ice itself—driving on water, she said. “We’re in house number 11."
She nodded. “Fourth left turn, three miles out. There’ll be a cone.” The houses were rectangular dots in the distance, several with a car or truck parked on the side.
“It looks like suburbia,” he said.
She laughed. She had been raised to drive a truck, a boat, a four-wheeler, and to hunt, fish and grow parsnips. He had been raised to take a cab or, in extreme situations, the subway, to the theater, to the symphony, to gallery openings. He took her to her first opera. She was taking him ice fishing.
They spent the day in the little house, a six-holer. She could have rented a smaller one, but she wanted to impress. She gave him sweet chai and a blueberry muffin to eat while she baited the lines, tied them to the bell that would ring when there was a fish on, and dropped each line down a hole in the floor.
He kept one eye on the hot plate, the other on her crouched over a pail of minnows, threading live ones onto a hook, dropping them in the inky hole of water at the corner of the house, noticing again how lovely this woman was, the sheen of dark hair gathered at the nape in a scarf, the smooth cheek, full lips, pursed now to hook a minnow without killing it.
The house was as warm as she had promised—propane—and smelled of hot milk and tea. She was sitting across from him now, hooks set, tea poured, muffin crumbling in her strong hand. Beaming. The only word for her. She was beaming, a star in the little house, a light, an aria, the only one he would ever need.