Two hummingbirds swam in liquid air around the garish feeder. Sugary dew glistened, rubies poised for the fall. Each bird fought for ownership, never realizing the communal nature of the feeder’s design. One lit, took his fill of the saccharin elixir and, perhaps out of spite, chased the other high into the sky.
“We do that, you and I,” I said, standing on the deck of the cabin.
Daisy, beside me, followed the birds in their duel. “What? Compete for sugar water?”
I bumped her shoulder. “Fight for no reason.”
“That’s what sisters do.” Limber as a dancer, she lifted her boot to the railing and finished lacing. “Besides, I’ve always got a reason.”
“See? I give up already.” I located my jacket, blue with blaze-yellow sleeves, and stepped cautiously down the steps to the path.
“So, you want me to carry lunch?”
I turned and smiled, or tried to, a sharp pain in my side forcing a quick breath.
“You OK, Sis?”
I avoided her eyes. “I’ll carry the pack if you’re not up to it.” One of the hummingbirds buzzed up to my face, its wings thrumming, and began to poke at my flowered knit cap. “Shoo.”
“Yeah, shoo,” Daisy repeated. “You don’t want to drink at that bitter faucet.”
I walked away at speed, my disdainful steps answer enough.
“Hey, wait up.”
We threaded ancient white pines and lichen-covered boulders, troll’s shoulders we’d called them when young. Ankle twisters was the name I gave them today. I slowed my pace. I couldn’t keep up with my own irritation, even if on flat ground. After a few hundred yards I had to pause to breathe.
“Gettin’ weak in your old age?” Daisy didn’t stop. “What did you pack in this bag? It feels like a gallon of wine, and glasses to boot.”
I marveled at her nimble motion. She didn’t walk between the rocks, she pranced across their tops. “You fall, I’ll leave you here for the bears.”
“Bears don’t scare me. But old cougars do.” She looked around with a grin.
Brenton had left me a year ago. “Brenton was an asshole with mommy issues.” I resumed my hike, but at a subdued rhythm.
“Loved and lost, and all that?”
“Let’s just say he was good exercise.”
After an hour we arrived at the kidney-shaped lake at the base of a massive basalt cliff. Iridescent moss grew up to its shores and grey-skinned pine trees genuflected into its waters, broken at their waists by the house-high winter snows.
My sister skipped out to the end of a rocky causeway where she spun in a pirouette. “It hasn’t changed a bit.”
“Come help me set up lunch.”
We found a big fir tree and spread ourselves beneath its shade. She lifted out the canister and paused to read the inscription. “Tanna, I… Why now? I thought you were good with having Dad on your mantel.”
I ignored her question, waving the vessel to the side. “Look, I made those Sriracha deviled eggs and here’s some hummus, just the way you like it with lots of tahini and cumin.” I watched her eyes and knew her look of hunger. “Dig in.”
She gorged herself; she could eat until it would cripple a welterweight and do it all again in an hour. I’d packed water flavored with cheap red wine and home-made ginger snaps, the intent to distract her from the paisley styled canister I’d removed from view.
“That was scrumptious, Sis.” Daisy laid back and patted her belly, ladybugs crawled up her boots. “I could take Dad for a while…”
I sipped at my bottle, I’d eaten little. “He needs to rest. He can find Mom up here. You may not remember…”
“I remember just fine.”
I recognized the edge in her voice, the ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ edge.
“And there’s something else.”
“Gawd. What now?”
“Me.” I sipped more sang real water. “I want you to bring me…”
The tears started like a stream of crystal. Daisy crawled over and embraced me, her body shuddering.
“You’ll do that for me, won’t you?”
Her emphatic nodding was all I needed. “Yes,” she whispered, close to my ear.