He awoke to the sound of the kettle whistling. From the upstairs loft, he could hear her moving around the kitchen, opening and closing the cabinets, taking things from the refrigerator, using the appliances. If he craned his neck he could see her bare feet on the hardwood floor, toes painted red and blue for the fourth of July.
Outside, the sun reflected off the surface of the lake. Diamonds danced across the water, reflected off the canoe tied to the dock. Downstairs, she turned on the sink, and the smell of sulfur water rose up to meet him. He watched as she opened the sliding glass door and took a seat at the picnic table on the deck.
He made the bed, hunched over so as not to hit his head on the low ceilings, a mistake he’d made the night before after too many glasses of wine. Carefully, he climbed down the ladder and crossed the living room, waving at her through the glass before he, too, opened the door and sat across from her on the brown, splintering wood.
She smiled at him, asked how he’d slept.
“Fine,” he told her, and asked what time she’d gotten up. “I can’t believe I didn’t wake up when you climbed down the ladder.”
“I know. We should look to see if a screw is loose.”
“I don’t think repairs are in the renter’s lease.”
She took a sip of her tea and squinted out across the lake. “Maybe we should sleep downstairs tonight.”
“I’ll check the screws.”
He stood and went into the kitchen, put on a pot of coffee. She’d boiled water from the lake and left it on the stovetop to avoid having to drink from the tap. Before they’d realized the condition of it, they’d considered buying the house. She’d always wanted a house on the lake.
“Make enough for two, will you?” she asked, coming in from the sun. She dumped the remainder of her tea into the sink and rinsed the mug with the water from the stove. She turned and leaned on the counter. “What do you want to do today?”
He shrugged. “We could take the canoe out, go see if there’s a place to shore up on that island out there.”
“I have to run into town and get sunscreen. We could go see if there’s a place to get breakfast.”
He looked at her and smiled, then asked her to grab the cream from the fridge. “I’d google it, but I think my battery would die searching for the signal. I can check the scores while we’re in town.”
“I should call my mother.”
They drank their coffee while they dressed, both moving about the downstairs bedroom, the bed still perfectly made, opening and closing the dresser drawers. “Don’t let me forget bug spray too, OK?”
“Get eaten last night?” he asked.
“Alive. I have red bumps everywhere.”
They left the house unlocked when they left.
They found a diner that served breakfast until 10 and ordered more coffee. She got the eggs Benedict, and he the blueberry french toast. While they waited, he checked the scores from last night’s games on his phone, though the service was still excruciatingly slow. She went onto the front porch and called her mother. She told her what had happened. She offered to come pick her up.
She went back inside and sat down as the plates were being delivered. Steam rose off her eggs like mist. He drenched his toast in syrup.
“Is there a general store around here?” she asked the waitress when she came to collect the check. She received directions on a napkin. He got the address just in case they could use their GPS.
As they drove down the river road, through a town that could barely call itself that, she stared out the window, and he straight ahead. He followed the directions she gave him: turn left at the next stop sign, right at the park bench. When they arrived, she ran in and he stayed with the car running, playing with the radio.
Back at the house, after they’d applied a thick layer of sunscreen and bug spray, they went down to the dock and he pulled the canoe in closer. The ropes had been tied tightly, but the long stay in the water had begun to wear down the fibers. He wished he’d known to buy rope from the general store.
They each took an oar and paddled out across the water, he directing them toward the island from the back. He watched as the muscles in her shoulders moved as she rowed, the skin already becoming dark where the sun hit. He thought of the evening, what they would have for dinner to celebrate. He hadn’t seen any other restaurants they could go to. For a moment, he wished they’d stayed in the city, where this anniversary was comfortable. Where there was enough noise and cars and people to distract them both from what this weekend used to mean. He watched as her hair became moist with sweat and stuck to her back like leaves on cars after a rainstorm.
At some point, they both stopped paddling. The island was still far away. It had looked closer from the deck than it actually was. They sat in the middle of the lake, the water softly lapping up against the canoe, and he reached up to touch her shoulder but stopped himself halfway. Not yet, he thought, and leaned back against the stern.