I haven’t visited this cottage that we bought ten years ago since the last time that I was here with Isabelle. She was wearing a blue dress with new strappy sandals and we laughed the whole drive over. I’d just gotten a promotion I had finally decided that I wanted. The sun was a warm caress as we dropped our bags in our room, the one with three walls of glass. I remember the way we plopped onto the bed as the sunlight streaked through her black hair, with hints of red and golden brown. I can still taste the mix of her mint lip balm and the chocolate chip cookies that she baked before we left.
As I step out of the car, I think about how different this trip is from that day three years ago. The sun is still shining, but the cottage feels so much less welcoming. Even as I step into our bedroom, I only feel cold despite the golden sunlight pouring in from the wall to wall windows. I place a palm on the blue silk pillowcase, but I know that her scent doesn’t linger here any longer, because she insisted on cleaning everything before we left, so that we would always come back to a fresh, clean space.
With a deep sigh, I head to the kitchen for a glass of water. The cabinets are painted a pale pink that she fell in love with around the time that we were doing renovations here. I open up our mug cabinet, the one filled with mugs from our favorite cafes and coffee shops that span the globe of all the places that we travelled together.
I grab one of her favorite mugs, the color of the Atlantic Ocean on a slightly cloudy day, painted with soft, fluffy pink and white clouds by her best friend. I fill up the mug with water and drain the cup in a single go and when I bring the mug down to rest on the wooden counter, I see the notepad we used to write out our grocery lists, but the page isn’t blank or filled with mundane grocery things. I see the curves of her g’s and the waves of the dashes she uses for her t’s and it absolutely fills the page. Over the last three years, I hear her voice and I feel like I always just catch a glimpse of her, as if she just left a room every time I step into one, but here she is, on this notepad.
It’s a beautiful piece of stationery that we picked up from a shop in Japan, the paper handmade by the owner of the shop, a collection of 500 different batches from all the collections of paper that he’d released up to that point.
And with the words “hello, my love,” the page and the words blur together as my eyes well up with tears.