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Fiction

Escape

We’re sitting on wooden folding chairs on my little balcony overlooking Duluth. It’s the first truly warm day after a long winter. Spring had teased us in April, like it does every year, but there were two snowfalls after that. Now, at the end of May, the sun seems to be saying that it is here to stay, and the whole city is here to welcome it. Below where my brother and I are perched, hoards of Montrealers, freshly woken from hibernation, make the pilgrimage up Duluth towards the mountain and the first tam-tams of the year.

A French press halfway filled with coffee sits on the small table between us alongside our coffee cups and the chocolatines, which he had brought. I take a bite of one and savour the chocolate as I stare at him and shake my head almost imperceptibly. He has his feet up on the rail and his head tilted back in the sunshine, pretending he doesn’t notice my judgement.

“You’re crazy,” I say once the doughy morsel has finished melting on my tongue.

He opens one eye and looks at me sideways, amused.

“Crazy? Me?” he says, feigning insult.

“Why would you want to leave the city now?” I ask. “You survived the whole winter just to leave at the best part?”

“This city doesn’t deserve you,” he says. “You’re much too loyal”.

I shrug.

“It loves me back. It’s just so alive in the summer time”.

“Too alive,” he says as he lowers his feet to the floor and turns to face me directly. “I can’t concentrate! I’ve been working on my novel for three years and I still can’t end it.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Everything!” he says, throwing his hands in the air in exasperation.

“God, you’re such a drama queen.”

He smiles. He always likes when I call him that.

“Well, it’s true. My characters are lost, isolated in the middle of the forest. But here I am, trying to write in a crowded cafe with you or someone else calling every half hour asking me to go grab a beer.”

“Speaking of,” I say. “What time does Reservoir open?”

“I don’t know, two?”

“We should go. Maybe they have the terrace open.”

“Yeah, that sounds good.”

We’re silent for a few moments as we sip our coffee, then Ethan throws his hands up again.

“No! This is what I’m talking about! It’s all too distracting. I need to focus and finish this fucking book.”

“Why don’t you just lock yourself in your room for the summer?”
“Why would that be better than going out to the country?”

I shrug.

“Fair point.”

“Look.”

He pulls a creased piece of paper out of his back pocket and unfolds it with intense purpose. On the page is a photo of a lovely little cabin with a stream and a grove of birch trees in the background. Underneath the photo the flyer reads:

Cabin — One bedroom, full kitchen, detached bathroom. $300 a month, summer sublease.

“Well, that price can’t be real.”

“It could be.”

“Have you called them?”

“There’s no phone number on the flyer, just the address.”

“Ethan!”

It’s my turn to throw my hands up.

“That’s so sketchy!”

“Whatever, Daria. It’s only two hours away. If it doesn’t feel right or its already been rented or something I’ll just come back”.

“Where is it, anyway?”

“Not far from Ottawa.”

“I’m going to make more coffee.”

I get up and Ethan follows me to the kitchen. As I grind the beans he rummages in his tattered backpack until he finds what he’s looking for and lays it on the kitchen counter. He waits as I put the water on to boil, then I turn around to take a look.

“What is this?”

“It’s a map, you fucking millennial. A real map.”

I roll my eyes.

“I know that. Why do you have it, you fucking hipster?”

Ethan looks down at the map and grins a romantic grin.

“Isn’t it beautiful? I found it at this little bookstore in NDG. That’s whee I saw the flyer for the cabin too, actually. You can have this one. I got two.”

“Thanks.”

He studies the map for a moment then circles a small area with a blue Sharpie.

“That’s where the cabin is supposed to be.”

“Wow, that really is in the middle of nowhere.”

“Yep.”

I look at the map for a while myself.

“I don’t think you should go.”

“I know you don’t,” he says. “I know it’s hard for you to understand, but you’re a musician. Being around people and being in the city is all part of it. I need to be a lone with my characters for a while.”

Two days later, I’m helping him pack up his car. He isn’t bringing much—some bedding and towels in case they’re not included; clothes; food for the first few days; four of his favourite books; and his typewriter, because of course Ethan is writing his novel on a typewriter. As we load his things into the car I talk incessantly about how the cabin has already been rented. I tell him that if anything feels the least bit weird or sketch to come home. I list the festivals and events he is going to miss. Finally, I tell him that I love him and that he is a true dedicated artist.

“I’m really proud of you.”

“You’re such a mush ball,” he says.

I grab him and give him a squeeze.

“I’ll call you when I get there, I promise,” he says.

I know he won’t, but I nod anyway and then watch him drive down the street.

Montreal settles into summer and indeed becomes wonderfully distracting. My days seem to be entirely determined by who I run into on the street. On my way to the grocery store I run into friends who just so happen to be meeting up with some people at the park and would I like to join? Afterwards I break off with a person or two and we bike up to grab lunch somewhere in the Mile End. There is always a show to go to and always someone new to see. The days are saturated in Sangria and the nights drowned in beer. I sweat in the sunshine during the day and sweat in the crowded bars at night. I know all too well that autumn will come fast so I have to keep moving. Sometimes, though, I pause and in those moments I think of Ethan. He hasn’t called me, but he didn’t come back either so I assume he has somehow settled into his cozy cabin life.

One rare quiet Tuesday night I sit alone on the balcony and watch the people pass bellow on their way wherever. I wonder how Ethan and his characters are doing. I hope it’s going well and that he is typing away at his typewriter furiously. I hope he looks up and out his window for inspiration and sees his characters playing out their stories in the Birch grove by the little stream. I hope he finishes each day with some solid pages written and goes to sleep quickly in the quiet. I hope his writer’s block really was the city’s fault because if it wasn’t I know that he’d be driving himself crazy all alone. Every minute with his fingers resting still on the keys would be torture. He’d be spending hours trying to get to sleep at night and hours trying to pull himself out of bed in the morning.

I’d better call Ethan, I think.

“Hey Siri, call Ethan.”
“Calling Ethan.”

There’s a brief silence, then a different robotic voice states, “The number you are trying to call…”

I hang up.

It would make sense for him to turn off his phone while he’s writing, so I take that as a good sign. Over the next few days I try calling multiple times, but each time I get the same message.

“The number you are trying to call…”

Each time I hang up slightly more annoyed. I hadn’t expected him to call me as soon as he got there, but it’s been almost two weeks now.

Only two weeks?

I stare at my phone feeling a little silly. Ethan and I have gone much longer than that without talking before. Still, for some reason he feels unusually far away.

My logical side coaxes me along through the next few days, convincing me there is nothing to worry about. Still, there remains a small tug at the back of my mind and he emerges into the front every once in a while, bringing a strange sensation with him. I deal with these moments through forcefully casual text messages.

Hey dude just checkin in

Sup? I’m bored.

Hows the woods?

Ethannnnnnnnn

Youre the worst.

Sometimes I just send a few tree emojis.

But then I get home late one night, a little tipsy, and call him.

“The number you are trying to call…”

As soon as I hang up I text him.

Ethan, this is not cool...I’m getting really worried. PLEASE call me back.

When I wake up in the morning, I’m more angry than worried. I decide not to text him or call at all that day, as if I am the one administering the silent treatment. I have practice all day so it’s not difficult until later and I’m waiting for my pasta water to boil. As I lean against the counter staring into space and trying not to think about him, the doorbell rings. I jump, as those who have grown up with cell phones tend to when there’s someone at the door. I even consider not answering, but eventually I open it.

“Hey!” Ethan says, beaming at him as he pushes through the doorway. “Sorry I’m late!”

He starts making his way towards the living room, but he when he doesn’t hear the door close he turns around. I’m still standing there, my hand clutching the door knob and holding the door open.

“What?”

“What are you doing here?”

“What?” he says again.

We stand in an awkward silence for a few seconds.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“I’m sorry… I had a late start and then there was traffic.”

I stand staring at him for what seems like a long time.

“Dude, at least close the door,” he says.

I do, then follow him into the living room. With each step my anger subsides and I begin to feel more relieved. He plops down onto the couch and I sit across from him.

“I didn’t mean today. I meant in general. I’ve been trying to contact you for weeks,” I explain.

“D, I don’t know what you’re talking about. We’ve been in contact. We organized this visit, didn’t we?”

“No, we didn’t”.

“Jesus, how much weed have you been smoking this summer?”

“A fair amount.”

He chuckles and pulls his phone out of his pocket. After a moment he passes it to me. It’s open to his text messages, our text messages, starting from when he had first arrived at the cabin.

Hey! Just got to the place. It’s beautiful here!

Towards the end is, indeed, a plan for his visit.

Hey I need some human interaction. Can I come stay with you for the weekend?

Of course! I miss you.

I toss the phone back to him. My mind searches and searches for the memories of receiving those texts, but they’re nowhere.

“You all good?” he asks.

He laughs, but I detect some underlying nervousness so I manage a grin.

“Yes, I’m fine. Sorry that’s so stupid of me.”

I lean in and give him a long hug.

“I’m really glad to see you!”

Ethan is tired so I run to the dep for some beers and we order a pizza. He tells me a bit about the cabin and how the owner is really nice. He lists off some things he has to do while he’s in the city, like buy ribbon for the typewriter and develop some photos. Mostly, though, we just tease each other and laugh, enjoying the breeze on the balcony. But as we talk, my brain continues to search for those text messages. I think about all the times I’ve texted and called him. I had thought about nothing else for days. Surely I would have jumped to answer his texts and calls with relief. Surely I would have remembered.

“I have to pee,” I say at a lull in the conversation.

I pull my phone out in the bathroom and go through all my messages. The ones to Ethan are all my concerned call me texts. I look for unknown numbers incase he had been texting from a new phone. Nothing. The only missed calls I have are from Hydro Quebec and that one guy I regret giving my number to. I blow a raspberry through my lips and flush the toilet. When I wash my hands I splash some cold water on my face and try to shake the confusion out of my head.

The rest of the weekend is lovely. We do buy the ribbon and develop his photos, but mostly we sit in the park, following the sunshine around the grass until it disappears. On his last night we go to L’Gros Luxe for tacos and bloody caesars and two drinks in he spills the beans on his novel.

“It’s going great, actually,” he tells him. “When I write here in the city my characters always seem so flat. I just can’t seem to make them interesting. But out there they’re just more…”

He pauses for a while and I sip on my caesar. Eventually I reach the bottom so I offer some help.

“Nuanced?”

“No, not nuanced.”

I flag our waiter over and order another drink.

“More like, special...I guess.”

He still doesn’t some satisfied with the word.

“It’s not like they really feel like real people. They have traits that I’ve never seen in anyone in the real world, these like mysterious personalities.”

“So how do you write them?” I ask.

“I don’t know, that’s the thing. When I’m writing they just kind of come to me but then I read it back and I’m just like what the fuck?

I laugh a little harder than I should, the caesars catching up to me.

“But yeah, it feels good. I’m happy,” he says after laughing at my laughter.

The next morning we both desperately need coffee—me for my hangover and him for the drive he had ahead of him. My kitchen is so bare that I’m even out of beans so we head to Santropol. I order two cappuccinos as he browses the shelves.

“Do you have le Montréalaise?” he asks the cashier as I pay.

“No, we’re out, sorry” she says.

“Do you think you could pick some up and send it to me?” he asks me.

“Yeah no problem.”

We grab our cappuccinos and head to his car. As we walk I start feeling uneasy and tell myself that I must have missed him more than I had thought. I stand with my arms crossed as he throws his bag in the back seat and stretches. When he’s ready he swallows me in a hug and kisses my cheek.

“Will you please call me when you get there?” I ask as he gets into the car.

“Of course!” he says, and drives away.

But of course, he does not call me. He doesn’t text me either. After getting more and more irritated for two days I eventually call.

“The number you are trying to call…”

“Fuck!” I yell, throwing the phone across my jam space where my boyfriend and I are sending the rainy afternoon.

“Jesus, Daria!” he says, appalled.

“The phone is fine!” I say, then go over to check.

I fiddle with my guitar for a bit while Dan rolls a joint. It begins to feel peaceful in the space again until I groan and continue talking.

“I just don’t understand how he can be so inconsiderate.”

Dan exhales sharply out of his nose.

“He’s an artist,” he says.

I’m an artist! I’d still make sure he knew I was okay if he asked me to. He knows I’ve been kind of worried about him.”

“You just don’t understand writers.”

I roll my eyes as far back into my head as I can.

“He said the novel is going well, right?” Dan continues. “He probably turned his phone off and poured himself into the writing as soon as he got there. Sometimes we writers just have to do that.”

“Dan, you write lyrics. And your phone is never off.”

I see hi prepare to defend the honour of lyrics so I turn up my amp and start to play, Ethan still on my mind.

The next day I mail him his coffee and include a note.

Here’s your coffee, asshole. Thanks a bunch for calling me. Incase you forgot, my number is 5147127789.

Your sister (Daria).

I feel rather satisfied when I hand the package over at the post office. And then that evening, because the universe has a wicked sense of humour, he calls me. I’m vacuuming my apartment for the first time since my inspired spring cleaning in April. It’s a beautiful day so I have all the windows open and I’m even moving furniture around to make sure I get all the neglected corners. As I am pushing the couch back against the wall, my phone starts to vibrate. I leave the couch in its diagonal position and dig my phone out of my pocket. My screen tells me that it’s Ethan calling.

No fucking way, I think to myself.

“Wow the all important Ethan graces me with a call,” I say when I pick up.

Ethan starts to speak, but his voice is muffled and crackly.

“Hold on, E,” I say. “I can’t hear you.”

But he continues to speak, his voice distant and distorted with just the occasional coherent word coming through.

“Ethan wait I can’t hear you!”

He continues on and since he clearly can’t hear me either I wait and listen. I notice as he speaks that his voice seems happy and calm. There’s no urgency, and he seems to just be chatting away.

“Wow, it’s amazing how long you can talk to yourself,” I say after a while.

But as I continue to listen, I notice another voice on the line. It’s just as far away and difficult to understand as Ethan’s, but it seems to be in conversation with him. Each time he pauses it begins and I realize that he isn’t talking to himself after all. Although I don’t understand what it’s saying, I can tell that the voice is female. More than that, though, it sounds extremely familiar. Something about its tone feels like I have heard it often and even intimately. Then, for a brief moment, the static clears and the voice’s laughter soars into my ear, clear as a bell.

“Hey!” I yell into the phone.

But just as quickly as it had disappeared, the static returns. My heart has started pounding loudly , making it even harder to hear. The laugh is still echoing in my brain anyways. It’s even more familiar than the speaking voice had been because when I heard it I had felt it. That was my laugh. Ethan and the familiar voice continue to talk for a while as I try to process my confusion. I listen until the connection was cut, presumably by one of them hanging up the phone. The sudden silence snaps me back to reality. Obviously it hadn’t been my laugh. I’m standing right here. It must have been someone I know, however. The voice was just so familiar. I put my phone back in my pocket and finish pushing the couch into its proper place. As I drag the vacuum into the kitchen I realize that despite the strange call, I’m feeling better about Ethan. He had seemed fine, whatever he was saying. Clearly the reception is horrible where he is, so it’s possible that he isn’t even getting my texts or calls.

The call satisfies me for days. The summer is getting hotter so I sleep in longer in the morning and wake up thinking more about the sweat that has soaked into my sheets than about my brother. A friend and I even leave the city to go camping at the beach in Oka one weekend. I think of him once while I’m there, but without any worry attached. I think about how nice it feels to be out of the city and that maybe he’s onto something.

But when I return home, there’s a package waiting for me. At first I’m excited in the way that only an unidentified package on your doorstep can make you. But when I pick it up and examine it as I unlock the door and step inside, I realize I do recognize it. It’s the package with the Santropol coffee I had sent to Ethan. On the top of the box where I had written his address, the words Return to Sender have been stamped in red.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I awake from an uneasy sleep the next morning to a phone call.

“Mom, it’s 9 am,” I say to my mother when I pick up.

“It’s Monday.”

“It’s summer.”

I feel her disapproval through the silence that follows but to my relief she moves on.

“Anyway, have you heard from your brother?”

I sit up in bed.

“No, why?”

“Oh, I’m sure everything’s fine, but I haven’t been able to get ahold of him and I just want to know if he’s planning on coming for your father’s birthday.

“You haven’t talked to him at all?”

“I know he’s busy writing writing writing,” she says. “It’s not an issue I just wanted to see if you had heard anything.”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Alright, sweetie.”

“I can’t believe he hasn’t called you!”

“Don’t be dramatic, Daria. It’s fine. Go drink some coffee and calm down. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay bye, Mom.”

I do go make myself a pot of coffee but I do not calm down. Ignoring me was one thing, but ignoring our mother was just rude.

If he doesn’t show up to Dad’s birthday I’m going to explode, I think.

Considering how inconsiderate he’s been so far, though, him not showing up seems quite likely. So, in a flurry of bossy big sister motivation I decide to go get him. I grab the address he had given me for the coffee and open up the Maps app on my phone. I plug in the address but the ap can’t find it anywhere.

Shitty maps probably couldn’t find the Empire State Building, I think and open Google Maps on my computer.

Even the power of google can’t find the address, though, so I slam my laptop shut. I sit at the table in a huff and do try to make myself calm down. When my breathing slows, I notice the map Ethan had left for me buried under a pile of other papers on the table. I slide it out and open it up. I can’t remember the last time I had used a paper map, but there’s his location, circled in Sharpie.

It’ll be fine.

So, I get into my little Honda and head towards ottawa. Following the 50 is a breeze and when I take the exit to head north on 366 I can’t help but be proud of myself. Technology has not made me incompetent after all.

Take that, Boomers.

I continue north towards Lac-McGregor and manage to find the street Chemin de la Lune. It’s beautiful in here, surrounded by the trees and water everywhere. I slow down to admire the view but also because, according to the map, there should be a small road which will take me to the cabin. I drive slowly on for a long time, scanning the woods for side roads. Eventually, the road I’m on comes to an abrupt end at the shore of a lake.

Shit.

I turn around and drive back the way I had come. After a few miles I notice a little wooden restaurant on the side of the road with a sign that reads Restaurant de la Lune. I turn into the dirt parking lot and get out of the car. When I open the door of the restaurant an older woman greets me from behind the counter.

“Bonjour!” she says.

“Hi.”

“Table for one?”

“Um, no, actually, sorry. I was just wondering if you could help me.”

I pull out the map and point to the spot Ethan had circled.

“Well, you’re certainly close,” the woman says. “That must be right around here.”

“Great, that’s good news I’m looking for this little street that’s supposed to be around here.”

The woman peers at the map more closely.

“Hm, I see that but there must be some mistake. There are no streets off of this one.”

“That can’t be.”

“Sorry, cherie, there’s nothing.”

I stare at her for a moment, hoping for something else, but seh shrugs to reaffirm what she has just said. I fold up the map.

“Thank you,” I say, then leave.

I sit in my car for a moment and let the now familiar mix of anxiety and irritation wash over me. Eventually, not knowing what else to do, I decide to drive directly to my parents’ a day early. On the drive there I listen to This American Life to try to get my mind off of what has just happened but my chest feels tight the whole time. I decide to tell my parents everything when I arrive. But when I get there, Ethan’s car is in the driveway. I pull mine up next to his and walk through the garage into my parents’ house.

“Hello?” I yell when I get inside.

“Daria?” my mom’s voice calls back from the deck. “We’re out here!”

I head to the back and find my mom, dad, and Ethan sitting in the old deck chairs drinking beer.

“You’re early!” my dad says, getting up to hug me.

“Yeah… surprise!”

“You both surprised us,” my mom says with a big smile as I lean down to kiss her on the cheek.

“I see that.”

Then, turning to Ethan I say, “I see you made it after all.”

Ethan gives me a normal, goofy smile and hands me a Blue Moon. I grab it from him slightly aggressively and sit on the arm of my dad’s chair.

“Oh, it turns out,” my mom says, “Ethan had told me he was coming after all!”

“Oh really,” I say flatly.

“You know how bad I am with this new iPhone.”

My mom breaks into a tipsy giggle and I stare at my brother.

“I called you, too,” he says to me.

“No you didn’t.”

“Dude, seriously?”

“I’ve literally been trying to get ahold of you since you left my place.’

“We literally talked on the phone.”

“What?”

“God, you have to stop smoking so much weed.”

My mom shoots me a look but hits him playfully in the knee.

“Oh, stop you two,” she says. “We’re all here now.”

“It was nice of you to come early, D,” my dad pipes in.

The next night is my dad’s birthday and my mom invites their friends over for drinks and burgers. Although my dad is the guest of honour, he plants himself firmly in front of the grill. My mom flutters from friend to friend and watching her exhausts me so I sit on the deck, leaning against the house. Ethan comes over and sits down beside me. I lean my head on his shoulder and we both watch our parents’ happy little world unfold.

“You know, I tried to go to your cabin,” I say after a while.

“Oh yeah? What happened?”

“It doesn’t exist.”

Ethan snorts.

“Seriously, the road it’s on doesn’t exist.”

“It’s a little hard to find but I assure you it exists,” he says. “You’ve always had a terrible sense of direction.”

I wish I could protest but he’s right.

“When are you going back?” I ask.

“Tonight, I think.”

“Really?”

“I mean, this is great and all…”

We both stare back at the party.

“You want to come with me?” he asks.

I raise my head off of his shoulder and look at him for a second.

“Yeah.”

After dinner we kiss our parents goodbye and hug the guests we know. Ethan gets into his car and I into mine and I follow him north out of Ottawa and back towards Lac McGregor. Soon we turn onto Chemin de la Lune, where I had just been a day before.

So I was in the right place.

We pass the little restaurant and drive just half a mile or so up the road before Ethan pulls off to the side. I pull up next to him and roll down my window.

“Why don’t you park your car here?” he suggests. “I don’t want it to get stuck.”

“Is it safe?”

“No one’s going to steal your car here.”

I roll the window back up and drive my Honda onto the grass. I get out, grab my bag, and hop into Ethan’s Subaru. I expect him to drive down the road a bit further but he immediately turns onto a small dirt road, muddy from recent rain.

“That liar!” I say.

“Who?”

“The woman at the restaurant back there told me there were no side roads!”

“Maybe she’s new to the area.”

“She didn’t look new to the area.”

“Maybe she doesn’t count this as a real road.”

As we bump along I think maybe I don’t consider this a real road either, so that’s plausible. I’m glad I left my Honda. We drive about ten minutes down the road and then Ethan pulls of and parks his car. I open the door and immediately breathe in the fresh, clean air. It’s dark so I can’t see much around me, but Ethan leads me to the cabin and through the door, which he has left unlocked. He turns on a lamp and the coziness of the cabin engulfs me.

“Ethan! This is amazing!”

“It’s cute, eh?”

“I’m in love.”

The warm yellow light of the lamp falls softly over a blue straw rug and an old but comfortable looking couch. There is a record player surrounded by old jazz records I’ve never heard of in the corner and a wall full of books. Ethan has his typewriter set up on the desk by the window and I notice a thick pile of pages held down by an orange ceramic coffee mug beside it. Ethan walks through a thin door frame and I peer by him to see a small, plain bedroom. He reemerges and throws me a knit blanket and a pillow.

“I’m pretty exhausted,” he says. “I’ll give you the grand tour in the morning.”

When he closes the bedroom door behind him I fall into the orange couch and pull off my jeans. My phone falls out of my pocket and onto the ground as I do so. I pick it up, unlock it, and decide I should call my boyfriend to let him know I won’t be around for a couple of days. I check the service and notice I have four bars.

Cool.

He picks up after a few rings and I tell him I’ll be home in a few days and that I’ll have to miss band practice. He tells me to enjoy and to tell Ethan he says “Yo.” We hang up and I quickly fall asleep.

In the morning I wake up to Ethan typing away at his desk. The air is chilly so I wrap the blanket around me when I get up.

“There’s coffee on the table” he says.

I pour myself a cup and take a big sip then say, “Good morning.”

“Morning!”

He’s cheerful but he seems to be on a roll so I take my coffee outside and walk towards the little stream. It’s not hard to see why Ethan had been so uncommunicative. Even just steps away from the cabin I feel so alone and far away from the rest of the world. I drop my blanket in a pile under a birch tree and spend the morning splashing around in the water and drifting in and out of sunny naps in the grass. When I wake up for the last time I decide to go put on some clothes so I grab the blanket from the ground and head back to the cabin. Ethan is still sitting at his typewriter when I get inside but when he sees me he leans back and stretches.

“You hungry” he asks.

I am, so after I change my clothes we make some sandwiches then head back outside to eat them. The blanket comes with us and we sit on top of it in a shady spot in the stretch of woods closest to the stream. When we finish eating he closes his eyes for a while and I take pictures.

“Which one should I post?” I ask, holding my phone up to his face and swiping between photos of a bluebird, the stream, and the treetops.

“They’re all good.”

“No seriously.”

“I honestly don’t care, D. You’re just going to post whichever you want anyway.”

I think for a moment, then edit the photo of the tree tops, admiring the way the light filters through the leaves as I turn up the brightness. In a few moments it’s posted. I stare at my phone for a few more, scrutinizing the picture.

“What kind of trees are those anyway?”

“Which ones?”

I point at the cluster I had taken the photo of.

“Maple.”

“No they’re not.”

“Yes, they’re maple.”

I get up and walk over to one of the trees. The bark is a similar texture to a maple’s, but it is a curious red colour so deep it could almost be called purple. I bend down and pick up a fallen leaf off the ground. It’s perfect heart shape about the size of my hand.

“This is not a Maple tree,” I call over to Ethan.

He sits up in exasperation.

“The old man renting this place to me said they make syrup from the sap in February.”

Looking more closely I do notice a silver tap protruding from the trunk.

This is no Maple, I think, but decide not to pursue it.

The rest of the weekend I lounge among the Birch and not Maple trees. I listen to unfamiliar records and read passages of books I’ve never heard of while Ethan writes. On Sunday night Ethan drives me down the dirt road to my car and gives me a hug goodbye. I get in and pick out an album to listen to on my way back. When I’ve chosen I turn around to wave at him but he’s nowhere in sight.

That was quick.

I feel calm on the drive home. Seeing Ethan’s little life in the woods has made me realize that there’s nothing to worry about. I get home feeling refreshed and the feeling stays with me as I sleep and through the morning. I have an early band practice so I wake up and head to the space, stopping at Santropol for coffee on the way. When I arrive I’m still in a good mood and I greet my bandmates cheerfully. Their response quickly changes the mood.

“Where the fuck have you been?” Dan demands.

“What? At Ethans!”

“Well you could have let us know,” he says.

“You missed practice on Saturday,” the bassist pipes in.

“Dan, I called you on Friday and told you I was away,” I say. “We talked for like ten minutes.”

“No you didn’t!”

“Are you calling me a liar?” I ask, frustrated.

My voice has risen at this point so to diffuse a bit Dan lowers his.

“I was super worried.”

I change my tone too but I’m still confused.

“You knew I was fine,” I say. “You liked me insta post.”

“What are you talking about?”

I take out my phone and open up INstagram to show him the post. When I go to my profile, though, the post isn’t there.

“That’s so weird,” I say.

“Daria.”

He’s looking at me with a mix of pity and frustration.

“I have to go.”

I turn to leave and no one calls after me. As I walk away I call Ethan.

“The number you have called…”

“Shit.”

I call again and this time let the message play out.

“The number you have called does not exist. Please try again.”

“What the fuck?” I yell into the phone.

I get into my car and after a few minutes I realize I’m getting onto the highway.

I have to see Ethan.

I drive fast towards Lac McGregor and onto Chemin de la Lune. I pass the little restaurant and drive slowly, looking for the dirt road that should be to my lift. I drive ten minutes then decide I must have passed it so I turn around and search to my right. When I reach the restaurant again with no success I pull my car up onto the grass and get out. I walk along the edge of the trees searching some more but there’s nothing. Eventually I sit down with my back to a tree and stare into the woods.