I vaguely felt a sting, as the nipping wind tore through a small rip on the knee of my denim jeans. One ear bud hung loosely from the top of my half-zipped hoodie. There had been some jazzy piece playing but I couldn't quite recall when it had stopped and the silence had begun. I was wandering empty streets, lost in thought as the sunlight slowly crept from the world. Somewhere in the distance elk could be heard bellowing out to potential mates, followed by an echo of responding dogs. In the distance a streetlight flickered to life; shortly the town would be sparsely lit with the dim glow, but I paid it no mind. I was mindlessly plodding along the cracked and patched street. She had been serious this time. Maybe she had always been serious... Gravel crunched beneath my feet as I made my way out of the familiarity of that small town. I'd never been out this way, never thought to, there was nothing of interest. A shoddy brown horse ninnied through the barb wire fence as I walked by, it's cry momentarily breaking me free from my own mind. I picked up a few flat stones along the edge and skipped them along the road. They veered off and disappeared into the grass along to me sides. Who did she think she was anyway? Telling me what I could or could not do? I came to an intersection of dirt roads and decided that without any real direction, straight ahead would be just as fine as any. Thick woods loomed ahead- outlined only by the moonlight. A large bird swooped over head, making tight circles above me. It was unnerving, but it was likely only protecting a nest of young. I had no quarrel with a bird of prey and left the area, although later I would throw away the large stick I had picked up aware of how silly I was being. She had said it was done... didn't she? Said it was beyond hope. Chances had run out and there was nothing left about it. I didn't believe it. The road turned from dirt and rock to mud and grass, but still I continued down the darkened path into nothing. There wasn't any point in turning around yet. I wasn't done organizing my thoughts. I had lied, sure. Repeatedly even. Small things always. Never anything important... but I think back to my mother telling me no lie has no consequence, no matter how small. Where had I decided that lying would be impressive? The road disappeared completely now. I was making my way through sparsely spaced deciduous trees with nary a care for the sharp branches scratching at me. I had cheated at the beginning... was that why? Messed up big once and fell into a trap of constantly trying to impress, no matter how? We hardly knew each other at the time, but I knew there was no such thing as playing the field. I lost her trust then and had tried to lie to regain it. Foolish mistakes of a youth. She was right. I wasn't mature enough to handle the commitment I had promised her. The ground opened up beneath me and I was sliding down a steep escarpment. I could feel my back being shredded by the tumbling rocks and exposed tree roots. My head hit something hard and my vision went black, but I could still feel myself half falling, half rolling. After what felt like an eternity I finally came to a stop, and slowly, bit by bit worked myself up into a sitting position. My head was still spinning and I could see stars, but it calmed down soon enough and I managed to stand. I had fallen maybe 20 feet down a steep cliff at the edge of a small lake, if it could be called that. Was really more of a swampy pond. I took a quick inventory and found my sweater had ripped, and I had a goose egg growing on the back of my head, but was otherwise just a little banged up and sore. I didn't fight fair. We fought alot and it wasn't fair. She would say something, and I would get overly defensive. I felt she was attacking me. She probably wasn't. She likely just wanted us to be happy. I blew that too. Didn't listen to her, and would turn everything into a large battle of wills. I had thought she was usually wrong, because I usually won. She didn't Lose, she just gave up. Sad that I couldn't communicate fairly. Was it my character that was flawed, or had I just never learned how to resolve problems? At this point, it was my fault I hadn't learned. I had been given countless opportunities to learn. I just never took them... I sat along the edge of the water and watched the dragonflies swoop around, nabbing mosquitos out of the air to take home and nourish their families. had I nourished my family? Maybe socially... I was always there. Interested in the goings on with their lives... but was I emotionally involved? Probably not as much as I could have been. Financially? Definitely not. I had gone from odd job to odd job, never holding down a steady career. Never giving her the sense of stability I knew she craved. I stood, and made my way to the flatest place I could time start my climb back up. I had done a bit of thinking, and I could talk now, I understood her point of view now. On the way back in could flesh things out more, but right now I had to apologize. A few roots made fine handholds and I eased my way back to where I had fallen. I didn't remember the path I had taken to come here, but I had a general direction and that was enough. we had been together a decent time now. 5 years was enough to get to know each other and accept the quirks. She was always quick to throw out something if it required more effort than she thought it was worth, and I was always trying to fix what was broken. A chair leg had fallen off a few weeks past and while I was out buying wood glue and new dowels, she had broken it down into small pieces and put it in the dumpster. Was that worth getting upset over? Probably not, no. The trees were far more dense than I remembered, and little moonlight shine through, making the way out far more difficult, as I kept tripping on fallen branches or prickly bushes. The going wasn't easy, but I was determined to get back and say how sorry I was. How ready I was to do better. hadn't I said that before? "I'll do better this time, just watch". I would do great for a while, and then eventually things would fall apart again. Over and over again the cycle repeated. Even after our son was born, nothing seemed to change... maybe even got worse. Our relationship seemed devoid of love and trust... now I realized it was at my hand, I had to fix it. I had to make it right. The tree line broke and I was at the edge of a corn field. I could see a road at the end of the field and made my way towards it. I was back to somewhere with roads. How did I ever even go so far as to leave it at all? My back was sore and I could feel the spots of blood stick to my shirt and unpeel from my skin with each step, but I had higher priorities. I estimated I was about 7 miles from town, I started a slow jog. She had threatened me with leaving before. She had said and done everything she could think of to get me to change my ways. To stop lying, to grow up and be honest with her, to become stable, to give her the rock she needed to build her life around. It wasn't that I was a rolling Stone, I was just sitting in sand. I came over a hill and could see the streetlights of our small town. I broke into a full run, I didn't have a moment to lose anymore. Life was going to be different! Our lives could be happy together again! If she could give me just one more chance it would be all I need to show her the sincerity of my revelation! how am I going to start? Should I say "I had a chance to do some thinking" and ease into it? Or just jump straight into it and show her my excitement? It didn't matter. It would come out and all would be well! Im on our street now, I can see our little white house with the small blue framed windows. My side is in stitches and my back feels as though it had been lit on fire and left to smolder, but I hurry on, and reach the doorstep. I stop and hover, my hand inches from the doorknob. this was it! This is the start of our happily ever! I turn the handle and walk inside, stripping from my ripped and bloodied sweater and kicking my shoes into the corner, I silently make my way upstairs to wake her, but so as not to wake our newborn baby. The house is dark and quiet. It is near midnight, I note, glancing at the clock hanging from the wall. The only audible sound it's soft, monotonous tick-tick tick-tick. I reach our upstairs bedroom and go to our bed, shaking the bundle that is my soon to be wife. My hand presses through to the mattress. It is only crumpled clothes and an old, dirtied bedsheet.