The following day dawned colder than it had been in weeks. Garrett and Carrie headed out early in the chilly morning to finish straightening up the fence posts. At first they worked in silence, but after they had a few posts completed Carrie noticed Garrett was smiling.
“Now what’s that look for?” Carrie asked, amused by the look on his face.
His grin widened. “Joyce seemed pleased you invited me to stay with the two of you.”
Carrie laughed a little, then sighed a bit before nodding, “She surely likes you Garrett. I’m sure she well expected us to be married by now. When I told her I was leaving was about the only time I’d ever seen her disappointed.”
Smile evaporating quickly, Garrett returned his attention to the last fence post.
Dang that was stupid. Carrie thought as she turned and picked at an insignificant weed climbing up the fence near her. Of course Garrett was more than merely disappointed by it all.
Garrett straightened the final fence post and knocked it down into the soft ground once again. “That ought to hold, as long as we don’t get anymore quakes, hey Carrie?” He looked to her when she didn’t reply. “Care? Are you all right?” She was looking a little ill now.
“Yeah… I’m fine,” Carrie let out a long, shaky, breath. “Garrett… I’m sorry. Sorry I left when I did. After school and all…”
Garrett put the tools away quietly, then turned to head back. He paused, glancing back at her. “It’s all right Carrie, you did what you needed to do. You don’t have to be sorry about it, I was worried but… you seem to have come out all right from it.” He headed back towards the house.
Carrie scooped up the shovel they’d brought along, just in case, and jogged to catch up. “You were worried about me?”
A small smile flickered across his face, “I was always worried about you. Most everyone around here has roots. Family and such they can fall back on when life gets rough. You seemed determined to detach from everyone around you, even me. Of course I was worried.”
Carrie thought in silence until they got back to the road. “I didn’t want to go without you, but I didn’t think I could bear it any longer. This place has too many memories. Too many bad ones.”
He turned his face to study hers, “So much they outweighed the good?”
Carrie looked out ahead towards the house and barn, “Yeah, I thought so. I figured if I could just get out, find somewhere else to be where I could make new memories, it would all be better.”
Garrett frowned and returned his gaze to the ground, “And was it better there?”
Carrie sighed, “No, not really. It was exciting, sure, there’s loads of amazing places out there to see. More than enough to keep you distracted for days. Weeks could even go by and I didn’t think about a thing from the past.”
Garrett kicked at a loose rock, “Nothing?”
“Well,” Carrie blushed while thinking back, “I always missed you. It was easy enough to forget everything else. But whenever it was quiet, whenever I thought I could relax for a bit, that hole was always there; waiting to swallow me up.”
Garrett had paused, standing beside a small shed near the house. He set down his tools by the door then turned to look at Carrie, “You really still missed me all that time?”
“Of course, Garrett, how couldn’t I? I loved you with all my heart…”
He scuffed his boot on the ground a bit uncomfortably, “And now?”
Carrie felt a small panic creep up though she didn’t know why it was there at all, she did still love him. Though perhaps she was trying to pretend she didn’t.
Garrett pressed a hand lightly to her arm, “It’s ok if you do, and it’s ok if you don’t. You don’t owe me a thing Carrie, I just want to make sure you’ll be alright.”
Carrie still was a mess of confusion, but she definitely felt better at those words. “That’d be one less hole to worry about…”
The words had left her mouth before she processed it completely. A new thought jolted into her consciousness.
“Hang on, Garrett…”
She stared out into the field. “What if there’s a hole?”
Confusion brushed across his face, “What?”
“In the wall… the barrier…” she waved her arm around, “Whatever this thing is around the town.”
Garrett turned to look out toward the field as well, “What makes you think that? It’s been checked, everyone’s been out looking at it.”
“Most of it, yes… but not everywhere. Not here. Remember the horses the first day, right after the earthquake? Before we even knew about the barrier? They were staring at that spot where all the cool air was coming from. And the other day, when I was riding Chess, I realized that’s right on that border going around the town.”
Garrett turned back to face her, eyes wider, “You think there’s a hole there?”
Carrie raised her arms in an exaggerated shrug, “Where else would all that air come from if there’s a barrier in the way?”
Garrett looked far out towards the northeast corner, “Maybe we should check it, see if it’s still cold there.”
She grabbed Garrett’s hand and pulled him around to the 4-wheeler parked at the side of the shed. “Come on!” They hopped on and sped off, driving straight out to the far corner.
Carrie drove to the spot where the horses had been standing and killed the engine. They both sat still for a moment, shivering. But though the late morning air was chilly, a frigid stream of air was blowing gently towards them.
“Huh…” Garrett mused as Carrie hopped off the 4-wheeler. She headed for the source of the air. As she got close to the fence, she closed her eyes against the stinging cold and took a step forward. Two more steps and suddenly a barrier below her foot broke with a crunch. Her eyes jolted open long enough to see snow, then she squeezed them shut again. She heard Garrett shout behind her, though his voice sounded faint and far away, then he crashed into her from behind. They stumbled forward several steps, but managed to keep from falling.
They both stood frozen, Garrett holding her against his front to keep her from falling. Carrie shuddered, frozen air chilling her in a matter of seconds. She shielded her eyes as she opened them once more and squinted against the blinding light. Garrett, apparently also blinded by the whiteness, cursed in her ear. As her eyes slowly adjusted to the brightness, she looked around, completely lost for words.
Before her stretched a snowy valley, with a few stands of pine scattered around, and tall mountains far beyond. A lake, blown clear of snow by the wind, sat in the bottom of the valley, its icy surface shining.
Garrett pulled her backwards and a few steps later they were back on her farm. She tried to pull free from him, but he held her, “Now hold on, I don’t know what the devil that was but stay here Carrie, don’t go back in there.”
Carrie looked at him and nodded despite the deep, intense curiosity now burning within her – she had to know what was going on.