The note was stuck under the windshield wiper of her car. There were often notes stuck there --- notes written on scraps of brown paperbags and the backs of envelopes. She knew what they were before she even read them. She knew when she looked out of her window and saw one stuck there waiting for her. How silly, she thought, how typical. How cute.
It was bright, sunny, frigid Christmas morning with a flurry of sparkles in the air, little fairy sparkles somewhere between ice and snow. She had coffee and cookies. He loved cookies.
The road down to the lighthouse is one of her favorite drives. A narrow road that winds and twists --- while she is driving her cell phone rings. It's her sister who says “Merry Christmas, what are you doing?” She tells her that she is driving down the road to the lighthouse. “Tell me what you see," her sister says, “describe it to me.”
Well, she says, the ocean is very blue and there are whitecaps with little bits of ice. There's a wind and when the wind skims across the whitecap the sea-spray blows back and catches the sunlight and rainbows dance up and shimmer in the spray. There are a couple of lobsterboats coming back in and they have ice on them too. There's not a lot of snow but the ground is all white. On the far shore the rocks are covered with ice and it sparkles when the sunlight touches it. I can see the stone tower of the Cardinal's Villa rising up above the trees. And there --- she points as though her sister can see --- down there is a castle.
“What kind of a castle?” her sister asks, “what color is it?”
It's gray. Made of gray stone. It's a Norman castle with towers and battlements and a Rose Window that shimmers when the sunlight hits it.
“I wish I was there,” her sister says. “I hope you have a wonderful day.”
She puts the cell phone back in her pocket and turns the corner past the pond where the swans live. In Spring they will be there with their babies, little balls of fluff floating gracefully under their swan-parents' protective watch. There is always one little wanderer, one who strays too far, who tries to go his own way too soon. He is her favorite.
The houses here are old and elegant. They are made of stone and have towers and turrets and stained glass and ornate iron gates. The road is lined with stone walls overgrown with ivy now blackened and frozen. There are bittersweet vines with some bright orange fruit still showing through the papery leaves. The beach roses are chattering in the frigid breeze and the beach plums that replace the bright pink flowers are coated in ice. Everything is beautiful. Everything sparkles and twinkles.
Where the road forks there is a small brick gatehouse. She takes the road to the right of it. The trees are thicker here but she can see the glitter of the water through them --- stone arches on the walls, wooden doors ornamented with old brass. She knows the people who live in this house. He is a well-known writer. She has had dinner there.
She drives past the tree she loves, all gnarled and twisted and battered into madness by years and years of winds whipping over the harbor. A beach, a marsh --- a marsh where she has seen all kinds of birds on other trips down this road to meet him. The branches of the trees are like black lace against the bright blue sky. Through them she can see the first flash of the lighthouse. She smiles. Her heart dances.
The gravel crunches under her tires as she turns into the parking lot. She sees his truck parked at the far corner of the lot under the watch of the tall white lighthouse. And there he is standing on a rock in front of the breakwater --- black sunglasses, hands in the pockets of his black leather jacket. He never wears gloves. It's useless to tell him to.
She parks beside his truck and thinks this is the most beautiful Christmas morning anyone has ever had. He is walking toward her. There is a fine dust of snow on his big shoulders and in his moustache. He leans down to open the car door.
“Merry Christmas,” he says.
Merry Christmas to one and all. May your day be sweet.