|The Love Nest
By Sharon Love Cook
The red Miata bounced over the frozen grooves in the narrow, snow-covered road. Vivianne turned the wipers on high, yet they
couldn’t compete with the heavy flakes tumbling from the sky. Whoomp! The left rear wheel of the little car sank into a rut. Vivianne
pressed her foot on the accelerator and was a rewarded with the high-pitched whine of spinning tires. Flumes of snow shot into the air
while the car nestled in deeper. She swore, shut off the engine and fumbled in her bag for a cigarette.
Once again she wondered what she was doing on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a blizzard. Why hadn’t she
insisted on driving to the cabin with Arnold? Why jeopardize her life just because he was afraid to be seen with her? Although her
boyfriend was considered a "shark" in the world of commercial real estate, Vivianne knew better. The man was a wimp, scared to
death of Lorna, his wife.
She lowered the window, tossed the cigarette out and glanced around warily. Towering evergreens lining the road shook in the wind,
their boughs heavy with snow. Behind her, the road vanished in a screen of white. She was alone in the White Mountains, appropriately
named. Not only that, her cell phone was useless. At least the cabin wasn't far away. She’d have to walk--and ruin her new suede
boots. Damn Arnold!
Before climbing out of the car, she stuffed her keys inside the visor. It was Arnold's fault she was stuck, he'd better find a towing
service willing to come out in a blizzard. She slammed the car door, zipped up her white fox jacket and began walking in high-heeled
Before long her feet were wet, her toes numb. Don't dwell on it, she told herself; instead, think about the blazing wood stove inside the
cozy cabin awaiting her. It was their love nest, as Arnold called it, a refuge where he felt safe from Lorna’s prying eyes.
She remembered his jubilant voice on the phone that morning. At first she assumed he was calling to cancel their plans. After all, the
weather stations had predicted a Northeaster. Yet Arnold was giddy: "Let it snow, baby! Lorna's leaving for Florida to 'think things
over.' This time, she’s willing to negotiate.”
Vivianne yawned. She’d heard it all before. “How do you know?”
“I overheard her talking on the phone. She’s hired a lawyer. He'll probably take everything I've got, but it’s worth it to finally be with
"Not everything, I hope," Vivianne said, her voice sweet.
Now she stopped to brush the flakes from her long dark hair. Through the swirling snow, the faint outlines of the cabin appeared
ahead. A ribbon of smoke rose in the sky. With a cry of relief, she broke into an awkward trot.
Outside the cabin, Arnold’s SUV lay hidden under a blanket of white. She spotted a shoveled path nearly obliterated by drifts and
followed it to the stairs. At the top step she paused on the deck to look out at the snow-covered lake. Pinpoints of light from a lone
cabin on the opposite side twinkled in the December dusk. It was like an old-time painting, she thought.
"Sweetie, I’m here!"
All her anger vanished upon seeing the fire burning in the wood stove and on the counter, an ice bucket holding a bottle of
champagne. Soft jazz played on the stereo. Maybe Arnold was out getting wood, she thought, although the pile was kept stocked by the
landlord. She slipped out of her damp jacket and kicked off her soggy boots. Most likely Arnold was doing something silly and
romantic, like hiding bottles of wine in the snow. Later, they’d make a game out of finding them.
With a sigh she collapsed onto the sofa. Pulling a quilt over her, she fell asleep.
She woke in the dark to voices coming from the stereo. It was a weather report interspersed with static and warning of gale-force
winds. She sat up and groped for her cigarettes. The fire had died in the wood stove. She looked around in the dim light. Where was
Shivering, she wrapped the quilt around her and got up, moving to the sliding glass doors. Outside, snow drifts had formed around the
lake. She peered at the dark ice: Was it frozen this time of year? Had Arnold attempted to cross it? She dragged on her cigarette,
remembering something else: the bear tracks they'd spotted last fall.
Her imagination was running away with her. Arnold's absence was easily explained. Most likely it involved Lorna. No doubt she’d called
with some desperate excuse--an accident or an illness. The SUV battery was dead so he took a cab to town and rented a car. He’d been
in a dither--Lorna had this affect upon him--and thus forgot to leave a note.
Yes, she was certain Lorna was behind Arnold’s absence. The woman was a classic manipulator while Arnold was Play-doh in her
hands. Vivianne felt no pity for Lorna, who owned a townhouse in Boca Raton filled with golf trophies. Vivianne, meanwhile, had to
make do with a studio efficiency above a Chinese restaurant. Not only that, Lorna had had 30 years with Arnold. Now it was Vivianne’
s turn to taste the good life. Hasta la vista, Lorna.
She shivered, pulling the quilt closer. Whether Arnold returned tonight or tomorrow, the stove needed more wood or she’d freeze to
death. She sat on the sofa and reluctantly pulled on the damp boots and jacket. When she tugged open the sliding glass door, snow
Outside, she trudged through knee-high drifts to reach the wood pile. The blue plastic tarp was heavy with snow. She grabbed it with
both hands and yanked it off. Underneath lay a pile of neatly-stacked logs and laying stiffly on top of them, the body of Arnold. She
screamed and covered her mouth. Dark blood had congealed around a deep wound in the center of his forehead. Her lover’s eyes,
always so adoring, now regarded her with indifference.
She turned, her eyes darting everywhere. The trees surrounding the cabin were dense as a fortress, their branches creaking in the wind.
Above, a blue-white moon cast eerie purple shadows on the snow drifts, creating an alien landscape. The wind howled an anguished
lament as she peered into the darkness...
Later, she huddled near the wood stove clutching a metal poker, her eyes drawn to the sliding glass door. She longed to pull the drapes
yet couldn’t, in case something approached. The wind shook the glass and shrieked down the stovepipe. Every sound made her jump.
She needed cigarettes; she’d smoked her last but knew where to find more: Arnold always kept an extra pack of her brand in the glove
compartment of his SUV. Did she dare venture out? As she mulled over the idea, a cinder popped and she jumped, her heart racing. It
was no use; she needed a cigarette.
Once again she pulled on the dried and stiffened boots and wrapped the quilt around her Grabbing a shovel from the deck, she
moved to the top of the stairs. Below her, the SUV resembled a hulking beast under its coat of snow. Holding the quilt closed with
one hand and the shovel with the other, Vivianne descended the steps.
She dug around the driver’s door; finally it swung free. She pulled herself up onto the seat. Inside, the car was so cold, her breath
made white clouds in the darkness. She fumbled for the switch to the interior light; it was dead. Just as she’d suspected, the SUV’s
battery had died. At least I’ll have cigarettes, she thought, reaching toward the glove compartment. As she did, a hand clamped down
on her arm. Someone said, "Hello, Vivianne," in a voice flat and hollow.
She kicked the door open and leaped into the snow. Scrambling to her feet, she stumbled through the drifts down the hill to the lake.
The wind cut like a razor against her bare legs but she scarcely noticed, so intent was she upon getting away. The lake was her only
hope. If she could reach the opposite side, the house whose light even now cast its glow on the ice...
On the lake, a cold wetness seeped into her boots. She glanced over her shoulder. A dark figure struggled down the hill, steadfastly
following in Vivianne’s footsteps. She moved further out onto the ice. It felt sturdy underfoot; she broke into a run. The wind tore at
her clothes while tears froze on her face.
When she was halfway across, the rumbling began. Although the sound was muted by the wind, she felt the vibrations. The early-winter
ice was thrumming an erratic rhythm, its chords radiating across the lake. She ran faster, her breath ragged. She would outrun it...
The first crack tore the air like a lightning bolt. The ice buckled and bucked, coming apart with a great rending. Vivianne fell to her
knees. When she got up, another crevice appeared. She leaped over it and watched it widen. When one appeared underneath her feet,
she was too late. She fell, backwards, into the inky water, the sodden fox jacket weighing her down. Water filled her nose and rushed
down her throat. Soon she ceased thrashing...
Back on the shore, Lorna watched. When all movement on the lake had ceased, she turned and retraced her steps up the hill. The quilt
lay on the ground next to the SUV. How convenient, she thought, carrying it to the cabin’s deck where she spread it out at the base of
the wood pile.
The next step was tricky: lifting her husband’s body without creating a log slide. She braced her back and flexed her knees, a golfer’s
stance. In one smooth motion she lowered the body to the quilt. For a moment she gazed upon her husband’s frozen face and felt no
remorse. “Betrayer,” she whispered, rolling the quilt around him. Then she dragged the body across the yard to the SUV. The snow
provided a smooth passage. Finally, she hoisted the unwieldy bundle into the back seat and slammed the door.
Now she stopped to rest. The wind had died and the moon cast a silver sheen over the lake. On the opposite side, the lights from her
cabin glowed. She'd grown to like her little hideaway. After learning about her husband’s love nest, she’d rented the cabin because the
view was excellent. During the summer she spent many hours observing the love birds through her binoculars. She watched them
cavorting, naked as slugs, on their deck. From across the lake she heard their lewd, drunken laughter.
Finally, she went inside and going from room to room, tossed everything into a plastic trash bag. While emptying the refrigerator, she
spotted the champagne on the counter. Arnold had been in the process of opening it when Lorna had arrived, surprising him. She told
him what she wanted: a chance to talk before she left for Florida. One last opportunity to hear him say he was ending their marriage
of 30 years. It had been a good marriage--until Vivianne slithered into the picture.
Naturally, Arnold had been shocked to see Lorna. Nonetheless, he’d said little as she tried talking sense into him. Silently, he’d worked
the cork from the champagne bottle. After her awkward speech to a stony-faced Arnold, she’d returned to her car. It was while driving
back on the snow-banked road that the image formed: Arnold had been in the process of opening a bottle of Dom Perignon
Dom Perignon! Throughout their marriage, the anniversaries, birthdays--even when she won the Women's PGA Championship--he’d
never bought Dom Perignon. Granted, she wasn’t the type who demanded luxuries. In fact, her practical nature had once appealed to
Thus her thoughts swirled like the snow falling around her, yet at the same time she felt strangely removed. When she’d driven 200
yards she stopped and backed up the car. As if powered by remote control, she got out and opened the trunk. From her golf bag she
removed a six-iron. This time when her husband opened the door it was she who remained silent.
The ice, under layers of snow clung like barnacles to the SUV’s windshield. Lorna attacked it with a plastic scraper, eventually clearing
a tiny area. She tossed the trash bag and its contents into the back seat next to the quilt-wrapped body and climbed behind the wheel of
the SUV. When the engine roared to life, she drove the few yards to the crest of the little hill that led to the lake.
Now the car sat poised at the top. Lorna smiled with satisfaction, imagining the SUV gathering speed as it rolled like a golf ball when
the greens were fast. She shifted into neutral and held the door open with her foot. But before releasing the brake and leaping out, she
spotted the head of her blood-covered golf club under the passenger seat. Stupid, she thought, stretching to retrieve it. As she did, a
rogue wind, a remnant from the storm, swooped down and slammed the door shut. The impact jolted the SUV. It lurched and
lumbered down the hill, picking up speed despite the snow in its path.
Inside, the ice-covered windshield offered no light. Lorna fumbled for the switch, forgetting in her panic that she'd disabled it earlier.
When the car came to a sudden stop, she was thrown against the dashboard. Dazed, she sat up and fumbled for the door. Though the
handle moved freely, the door wouldn’t open. She butted it with her shoulder and kicked at it with her heavy boots.
In desperation, she wrapped her hands around the golf club’s rubber-coated grip, swinging hard at the windshield. When the glass
shattered, it wasn’t cold night air that rushed in, but frigid lake water. She clamored into the back seat where her husband’s body, freed
from its shroud, lay stiffly. Before she could react, the SUV’s windows, responded to the mounting pressure outside, burst. A river of
arctic water poured in, drowning her screams.
The young man stood hunched at the side of the road, his thumb out to passing traffic. His face was partially hidden by the hood of
his sweatshirt. He'd been standing there for a half-hour. The few cars that passed hadn't even slowed down. Maybe the drivers didn't
like his torn jeans, he thought. People in the country were a suspicious breed. All he wanted was a ride, no questions asked. And though
he’d do better on the main roads, he couldn’t risk it, in case his mother had called the police.
He felt bad that things had had to end like that, but sooner or later something was bound to happen. In any case, his drunken
stepfather had hit him for the last time. This time he wasn’t going back. He pulled his sleeve over his throbbing hand. Maybe it was
broken. The old bastard had a jaw of steel.
When the wind tore through his thin clothing, he began walking. The wind was like his life--never giving him a break. He walked faster.
When it got dark he broke into a jog. Before long he came upon the narrow dirt lane. It was a former cow path, now a private road
leading to the lake .Similar roads in the area existed for city people with summer homes, rarely used in winter. Thus he was surprised
to see fresh tire tracks almost covered in snow. Why would someone drive here in a blizzard? Maybe it was a break-in, he thought, his
heart beating faster. He glanced around and ducked into the road. Probably it meant nothing at all, but at least he’d be out of the wind.
He hadn’t gone far when he spotted the snow-covered Miata. Slowly he approached and with his forearm, wiped the driver’s window.
The car was both unoccupied and unlocked. He lowered himself into the driver's seat. Inside, he blew on his numb hands and glanced
around. It was a sweet little car; its owner was obviously a slob. Old coffee cups, tissues and parking tickets littered the floor. When he
lowered the visor, a set of keys fell into his lap. He laughed out loud when the first key opened the glove compartment. Inside was a
stack of credit cards. He shoved them in his pocket and put a key in the ignition, muttering a prayer. The engine not only roared to
life, the fuel gauge indicated a half tank of gas.
Yet when he accelerated, the Miata didn’t budge. He got out and examined the sunken back tire. Hunching over the trunk, he rocked
the little car until the tire was free. Back in the driver's seat, he reversed the Miata the length of the narrow road. When he reached the
entrance, he stopped, the engine idling. Interstate 95 was two miles away. It would take him all the way to Florida. He knew from
watching TV that Miami was the place to sell a car. With the money, he could start his own business repairing motorcycles. He was
good with bikes, people said.
He slowly let out his breath. Maybe his guardian angel had taken pity on him. Maybe for once in his life he’d gotten a break. In any
case, he wasn't going to hang around analyzing the situation. When the road was clear, he swung the Miata into the travel lane and
slowly accelerated. Moments later he turned on the headlights and watched for the signs ahead.