Through the spring, Douglas and Louise, Penelope’s sister, spent more and more time together. When the first real heat wave of summer struck, Louise took off for a week somewhere cooler. “I’ve got moss between my toes,” Louise joked. “It dries out fast in this summer heat. I just need a week or so on the damp side of the mountains and I’ll be rejuvenated.”
Douglas found himself missing her in a way he hadn’t felt since Marilyn. He tried to call her only once a day, so he wouldn’t frighten her, or himself.
It didn’t work.
A hard, small knot of fear lived in his stomach for the hours between phone conversations. He couldn’t untie it, no matter how hard he tried, except by hearing Louise’s voice.
Douglas stretched his lanky frame on his bed, window open, trying to grab a few hours of sleep after this very hot day, waiting for the air outside to sigh itself into the coolness that followed sundown by an hour or two. He’d talked to Louise at dinner time, so he faced another eighteen hours before he would allow himself to call her again.
The sky glowed a deep blue on the western horizon. Nearly ten o’clock at night, and still that lingering bit of reflected light: the joy of living in the northern hemisphere in midsummer.
A mosquito buzzed somewhere in the room. It’s the females that bite, and the males that buzz, Douglas mused. Or is it the other way around? Or is the whole thing an old wives tale? His brain was too muddled by hot, sticky, sleeplessness to recall, and his body was too heavy to move toward his computer to Google it.
Is life just a series of hot nights, filled with buzzing mosquitoes and loneliness, an endurance test, offering brief cool breezes to keep us from giving up?
Or is life truly itself in the cool moments of comfort and companionship, with a few mosquito bites just to remind us to be grateful for its loveliness?
Pondering this philosophical dilemma, Douglas fell into a fitful sleep. When he awoke, he called Louise and asked her to marry him.