“Don’t say that,” he said softly. “Why would you think that?”
“It’s just this feeling, Brian. I just— I know I’m not going to make it past the weekend. I just know.” Her eyes closed, and her shoulders shook as she cried. She brushed away each tear as it rolled to her delicate nose. Soon her fingers were wet and glistening. She looked at him steadily.
Brian moved closer to her on the leather couch. He reached out to stroke her blond hair, but she leaned away from him.
“They made fun of me. They always made fun of me and now I’m going to die. And they don’t even know. What would they say if they knew?” She held her breath.
“If who knew what? Baby, nothing’s going to happen to you. You’re fine.”
“You need to tell them that I knew, alright?”
“Everyone. My family. Everyone I’ve ever met. Tell them that I knew it was going to happen and I had a dream about it. Then they’ll finally believe me. It’s the only good thing that can come out of this.”
Brian turned on the television and stretched his legs onto the vintage ottoman. He unhooked the first two buttons of his collared shirt.
“Babe, I just got home from work,” he said. “Can we talk about it later?”
“Oh yeah, sure, later.” She stepped toward the patio and opened the sliding door. “Later when I’m dead.”
The newscaster read the weekend’s weather forecast— sunny skies with a slight chance of rain in the afternoon. Brian muted the sound. He opened the door a crack and yelled to his wife.
“They say it’s going to be sunny!”
She was sitting on the grass with her legs sprawled out in front of her. The sky held bright wisps of cloud colored red by the sunset. One last ray of light rested on her angled face. The rose bushes surrounding their manicured yard withdrew into shadow.
“Your mom wants us to go, and I don’t see why not,” Brian said. He stepped outside. “Doesn’t it sound like fun? I mean, we haven’t been out to the ranch in a long time. We didn’t even go to the reunion last year.”
“Why not. It’ll be a good place to die,” she said as she plucked at the grass with her fingertips.
“Don’t say that—your skirt’s getting dirty. Don’t you want a beach towel or anything?” Brian walked hesitantly onto the grass, letting only the tips of his loafers touch the earth. He bent over and kissed the coiffed hair above her forehead.
“No. I don’t mind the dirt,” she said. “Not anymore.”
The next morning they left the sunlit halls of their estate. It was a two hour drive through cattle and farmland. He handed her a handkerchief to press over her nose. She wiped her eyes with it instead.
“You’re really upset about this dream, aren’t you?” he asked, glancing at her. “What do you think is going to happen?”
“I can’t explain it and I don’t expect you to understand,” she said, and she crossed her arms.
“Hey,” he whispered. “Lara, look at me.”
She tilted her gray eyes toward him. They were rimmed with thin, red lines.
“I love you,” he said, and then he looked back at the road.
They were halfway to the ranch, where the air smelled more like hay and less like cows, before she spoke again.
“But do you believe me?”
“You’re not going to die. Not anytime soon. Hey, try out the new camera. It’s right there in the backseat.”
She pulled out a heavy Nikon with a long lens. It was the camera all the professionals chose. He pointed out some of the features and which buttons to use. She took a photo of his hands on the steering wheel. The crack of the shutter made both of them jump.
Her parent’s ranch sat at the base of a beige hill, lined by meadows thick with wildflowers. They drove down the gravel road, beneath rows of blossoming pear trees. Pink petals drifted into the car. One landed on Lara’s lap, and she rubbed its velvety skin. Brian rolled up the windows.
The driveway was cluttered with cars. Her two brothers and her cousin had already arrived. Lara’s mother stood in the doorway. She looked hunched and gray beneath the tall, wooden arch.
“Oh, kids. I’m so glad you came.” She hugged them both. “Brian, you look fit. And you’re growing your beard out. And my little Lara. You always look pretty. What’s that in your hand?”
“Nothing, Mom,” she said, and she let the pink petal flutter to the ground.
Her father came out with a beer in his hand.
“Doesn’t that dress look lovely on her, honey?” Lara’s mother asked him.
“Sure does,” he chuckled. “What’re you doing with this guy?”
Everyone laughed except Lara, who only smiled and looked back at the car. She walked into the house arm-in-arm with her mother. Her father and Brian came up behind them with the suitcases.
The house smelled like her mother’s floral perfume. Her brothers emerged from the kitchen with their polo shirts un-tucked and wrinkled. Their cousin came down the staircase wearing tiny plaid shorts that choked her thighs. Everyone hugged and exclaimed how long it had been.
“Great, how about we take a picture? I want to try this baby out,” Brian said with the new camera around his neck. “All of you first. Get together.”
The flash made Lara’s eyes water. She grabbed the camera from him and made him stand between her parents for another photo.
“When are we doing the campout?” she asked.
“It’s either tonight or tomorrow night,” said her brother. “Why don’t we do it tonight, since it’s so nice out?”
They all agreed and gathered their backpacks. Their excited voices echoed over the polished wood floors. Lara’s mother handed each of them a sack lunch, which they stuffed in among their sweaters, I-pads, flashlights, I-pods, speakers, solar chargers, pajamas, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, tents, and toiletries.
“You all come back if it rains, okay?” her mother said. She adjusted the necklace of black pearls she wore daily.
“It hasn’t rained in a few months, Mom,” her other brother said. “We’ll be fine.”
“See you tomorrow, then,” her father said. “Be careful.”
Lara hugged her parents tightly. She kissed each of them on the cheek and told them she loved them.
“Look at us,” her cousin said when they were marching across the fields. “We’re just like kids again. Except Brian’s here.”
Brian grabbed Lara’s hand and squeezed it gently. They were both sweaty beneath the late afternoon sun. The wind blew over them and brought with it the tired rustling of songbirds. A robin pecked at the dry ground beside them.
By the time they reached the base of the hill, everyone was ready to set down their heavy packs and take a break.
“Brian, I don’t want to go up there,” Lara said. She buried her face into his chest.
“You can’t be that tired already. We need to see the view!” He rubbed her back.
She stared at him, unblinking, for several seconds. Her face was at once pale and ruddy, and there were purple circles beneath her eyes.
“Did we really need to bring so much stuff?” she asked.
“Come on, let’s get to the top before the sunset. We have to keep up the tradition, guys,” her cousin said.
The five of them began their summit. Tall, crunchy grass brushed against their knees, and the occasional oak tree offered shade. Lara coughed. It came from deep within her chest.
“You can do it,” Brian told her. “Almost there.”
They crouched low, pushing their knees against the sharp incline. Finally, they reached the top. Forest and field stretched into nothingness. Hills in the distance made blue waves against the horizon, and at their feet lay the dark reflections of clouds.
“We’re up so high,” Lara whispered.
“Picture time,” Brian said. He positioned them along the edge of the cliff with the sky at their backs. “Perfect.”
Lara knelt down at the rim. She looked closely at the cracks in the rock. Spongy mosses grew out of them. Brian sat next to her.
“It’s so beautiful,” she said. “I could live up here, right on top of this hill. I could watch the sky, and the birds, and the plants, and the fields, all of it. I could watch all of it forever. Now it’s too late.”
“Don’t worry. Nothing’s going to happen. Just enjoy the view.” He set the camera down and kissed her.
“I just felt a raindrop!” her brother yelled from the other side of the hilltop. His voice was strange and hollow in the open air. It seemed to come from the low clouds.
The wind changed direction. Fat raindrops stained the dirt.
“Let’s go back down,” her other brother said, squinting.
Brian leaped up and held out his hand for Lara. She stood gracefully. They walked toward them with their hands clasped together. Then he pulled away.
“Wait,” Brian said. “I forgot the camera. It’ll get ruined!”
He ran toward it just as the rain crashed down in its full force. The ground grew slick and sodden. The air was thick with freshly formed mud.
Brian slipped. He skidded over the coarse edge of the cliff with the camera clutched in his hands.
The others watched. They were so entrenched in gray mist that they weren’t sure what had happened. Lara stepped closer and peeked over the edge. Brian looked at her through the fog, but he couldn’t see his wife, nor the rain behind her. He closed his eyes just seconds before he crashed to the soil with a soundless thud. Then he lay there in a twisted heap, and the clouds moved lower and covered him up.
She wanted to scream but she couldn’t. Tears mingled with the cold drops of rain. They ran in hurried braids down her cheeks. She dug her fingernails into her scalp, and she shook her head.
“No… I didn’t think it was him,” she managed to say.
“Lara, what is it? What happened?”
Lara closed her eyes. Then she said, “I was right.”
“Don’t say that,” he said softly. “Why would you think that?”