“He has her scent,” Yaron said. “It’s a good sign.”

Birdie went through the yard and they followed the dog across the green, past the old Brady house, the first one built in Blackwell when the town was settled, where young Tom Partridge lived now. It looked different in the night, like a house she’d never been to before. They went round the yard, into the rear garden, the one that was never planted, for it had once been a burying ground. The dog stopped. Yaron knelt down again. He dug through the snow. The soil was red here, and there were climbing roses, frozen, buried inside a tall drift. Yaron accidentally pricked himself on some thorns and his blood dripped into the snow. Mary felt her heart leap. She wanted to move forward. Instead she backed away. The dog barked again, and Yaron scooped more snow. There was a scrap of fabric. Mary came to kneel beside him. She was trembling, but she forced herself to be steady. Yaron glanced at her, then quickly looked away.

“Oh,” Mary breathed. It was Amy’s poppet doll that they had sewn together only weeks ago. Amy was never without it. Mary sat back on her heels as though she’d been struck. The dog was headed toward the far end of the property.

Yaron stood and reached out his hand to Mary. She suddenly felt too young to be where she was, in the red garden on a cold, black night with a man she didn’t know. Freckles of snow were still falling. Later the wind would be fierce, but for now everything was silent. They could hear the dog trotting through the drifts.

“I don’t know,” Mary said softly. She wasn’t sure what she meant by her own remark. Did she mean she didn’t know if she could go on or where they should look? Or did she mean that she didn’t know what to think or feel?

“You don’t have to,” Yaron assured her. “The dog knows. All we have to do is follow.”

Mary took Yaron’s hand, and he helped her to her feet.

“Where are you from?” she asked as they trudged through the snow.

“We came here from Virginia. We’ll go west when we leave.”

The drifts were even taller here, so Yaron kept Mary’s hand in his to help her navigate the snow. His touch was so hot it was burning. They had come to the oldest apple tree in Blackwell. It was the only tree that had bloomed this season, despite the weather.

“Amy liked to play here,” Mary said. Then she fell quiet. She didn’t like the way she was talking, as if she already knew something it was impossible to know.


Yaron reached to snap a frozen branch from the apple tree and put it in his jacket pocket. “For my horse,” he said. “I’ll plant it where we go next.”

The dog ran back to them and bumped against Yaron’s legs. Yaron reached to pet Birdie, but the collie was already running ahead. They followed him for a long way, past the marshy acreage no one bothered with since it was of no use for pastureland or farming. Usually it was possible to hear the Eel River rushing at this time of year, but in the storm much of the river had been covered with a thin crust of ice. Tonight it was quiet.

Mary drew closer to Yaron. He was twenty-two or -three, a man of the world, whereas Mary had never been as far as Lenox. She’d never been outside of Blackwell, except for the times when her father had taken her on expeditions to Hightop Mountain, to look for insects and ferns and the scat of wild creatures that would reveal their diet. She felt like a stranger in a strange land, one of the people the pastor spoke of in his sermons, someone who had wandered very far from home.

The dog was padding back and forth along the riverbank, yelping. Then he stood in one place. Mary went to follow, but Yaron stopped her.

“Let me go,” he said.

Mary, who was unafraid of the dark, found she was now frightened. She watched Yaron lope over to his dog. He knelt down to pet the collie, speaking to him softly. Mary wanted to know what he was saying, she wanted to kneel there beside him. Yaron got up and threw a look behind him that troubled her. Then he plunged into the river.

It shocked her to see him disappear beneath the ice. Mary made a gasping noise even though she wasn’t the one who’d gone under. She felt that her heart had stopped. The dog raced back and forth on the bank, barking, beside himself at the disappearance of his master. Mary stood there for a second, then she raced to the river. Everything was going fast, the way clouds flew past in a storm, the way snow fell in a blizzard. Yaron was gone, with broken ice flowing in a circle in the place where he had dived in.

Mary stood at the edge of the river, her boots wet. She went deeper still, up to her knees. The water froze her to her bones. She could feel herself sinking into the mud. Through the ice she thought she saw an enormous blue fish. It was like the fish in a dream, the sort you can never catch. Then there was a shadow and the ice broke. Yaron surfaced holding the fish, which was her sister, dripping with water, blue in his arms.

Most Popular