Feeling a mix of triumph and defeat, Denver arose the next morning and checked out of the regrettable motel before proceeding to the cold, hard, unfeeling road. So many trees. Though they did their best to merge into a solid, uninspiring wall, she thought of all the life housed within each. So many different stories to tell. The road also brought to her attention a significant amount of death. She tried to pretend the deer carcass she just passed was a beige sheet that had been tossed out but unless it was tossed due to being covered in blood, that was highly unlikely.
Somewhere between two and five in the afternoon- time was so very relative now that she had no one to answer to, no benchmark for measure- a vague sensation of elation began to wash over her. Unable to attribute it to either the gas station breakfast burrito or her lackluster coffee, she pondered its possible origin.
Surely there were small victories to celebrate- freedom from the chains of a life left behind, newfound confidence and boldness that flew in the face of what she had always expected and known of herself- but there was something more to this, something a bit otherworldly about what she was feeling, as if it were being loosed in her bloodstream like a narcotic. She found herself singing In the Garden of Eden aloud, at the full height of her ability, which was middling at best.
She approached an unassuming exit, the first in some time, dismissing it and continuing on in the distracted enjoyment of this newfound bliss. But, much to her surprise and dismay, no sooner had she reached the next exit, it was gone faster than it had arrived. Whatever it was, she was now deaf to its beauty, its colorful tones, its warmth. She felt perfectly ordinary once again. No, worse- like a vessel that had once been filled that is now empty, devoid of what made it whole. Distraught, she continued on, attempting to repair the damage with song and caffeine, but the inexplicable feeling of loss was too great, like a love that could have been. The one that got away.
As soon as she was safely able to, she turned around and proceeded back, taken prisoner by forces unknown. She felt foolish, but if she had come this far, what was one more indulgence?
Preservation, nestled comfortably between two mountain ridges, was populated with just north of 500 permanent residents, according to signage celebrating Denver’s arrival.
The trappings of wealth abounded without being garish, she noted as she passed each property, which appeared to be at least five acres apart from its neighbor. Yet the town still somehow managed to convey coziness and safety versus isolation and seclusion. She drove slowly past huge rustic log cabins and veritable castles made from what looked like large river rocks. She would wager that the inhabitants of these glorious abodes, besides being in possession of fairly large amounts of money, were also the creative minds behind the designs. Each house had so much personality it almost radiated the love that went into creating it. Or so she sensed.
As she took in the windmills and fountains, unique statues and elaborate landscaping, she felt the pang of a childhood memory. A summer spent in the mountains with her maternal grandmother. But no sooner had the thought come, it left, replaced with the giddy intoxication she had experienced prior to being guided here. What was this sensation and what was its source? Were they pumping out some kind of aromatic?
Then she saw the garden and knew without doubt that this was exactly where she was being called.
Besides being perfectly designed and manicured, the house was ringed with the most exquisitely beautiful flowers Denver had ever seen- orchids of a wild and exotic variety. She wasn’t altogether unfamiliar with the flower. She had regrettably killed a couple over the years and so now resigned herself to admiring most plant (and animal) life from afar. But there was something alien about these, quite diametrically opposed to the tastefully contained, monochromatic order of the rest of the home’s exterior. Without thought, she parked in the road, the wild direction of her tires staging a silent protest at her impromptu flight of fancy- and got out to get a closer look.