A cool, dry November breeze slapped against the outside of the wooden house as the western sky roiled orange and red.
Yet, it wasn’t just the wind outside that rattled the wavy windowpanes.
“You’ve been gone since before sun-up, and now you come traipsing in here covered in mud and cockleburs?” Wanda’s voice boiled with rage and disbelief.
Lanny tried not to cringe. Just stood there inside the front door, feet spaced shoulder width apart, hands behind his back, head hung — weathering the barrage.
Peter wasn’t quite so tactful. The dog groaned and trotted off to the kitchen where he hunkered down behind the potbelly stove.
“And now you won’t even look at me!” Wanda took two strides toward her husband and looked him up and down. “I know you’re hiding something, Lanny!”
Lanny could feel the fury burning in her eyes even before he raised his head. But he he knew it wasn’t truly anger that ate at Wanda’s soul.
It was loss and frustration and fear and uncertainty. The summer had been harder than any they’d known — floods chased by drought, crops mostly swallowed up in harshness.
Losing a harvest was devastating, but watching their only son ride off to find his own way in the world, not knowing where he’d end up…well, that was unbearable for Wanda. And for Lanny, truth be told.
Finally, he lifted his gaze and found his wife’s red eyes.
“I was just out checking the edges of the property. Making sure we’re ready for winter.”
Wanda huffed. “It doesn’t take twelve hours to walk our land, Lanny. And there’s not much to get ready for winter this year. No crops to bring in. Probably none next, either.”
Her hopelessness stabbed at Lanny’s chest.
“Out beyond the southern fence,” he began, not addressing her objections directly, ” I noticed that the prairie was still green in places.”
“Well, I decided to follow it for awhile, just to see what was out there. I never walked more than a hundred yards in that direction before.”
That day, he had walked a mile or more, mesmerized by the swaying green grass and the occasional tree, most of them still holding onto their leaves.
“And?” Wanda said, shifting her weight, planting her hands on her hips. “What did you find?”
Her patience was gone. Lanny understood. He was near his limits, too.
And, well, there had always been the chance that he would never stop walking when he set out that morning.
Then, off in the distance, across the rolling prairie, the unusual rock outcropping had winked at him. Intrigued by what secrets it might hold, he barely noticed the hour it took him to cover the distance.
And when he arrived? The impossible — a red rose bush, in full bloom, right there on the edge of winter.
“Hope,” he said finally, presenting the bouquet of wild roses to his wife.
Wanda’s eyes grew redder still, but her face softened, and she smiled — just a bit — through here tears.