The Wine on Your Lips Is Ash on Your Tongue
by M. Bennardo
It was seven years until I saw her again. And then suddenly, without warning or notice,
after she had long since slipped out of my consciousness and even my memory, there she was.
I had driven down to the dock to meet the morning ferry from the Ohio mainland and sat
waiting with my taxi light on. I usually didn't bother doing that any more. The vast majority of
visitors to the island came only for the day, and most of them wouldn't make it past the row of
bayside bars that sat a short walk from the ferry dock, or at furthest the winery that lay a half-mile further up the coast.
It was usually a better use of my time to stay parked in front of my laptop in my home
office, with the Uber app open on my phone. But I was expecting a package from my editor that
day, and I was feeling jumpy enough about it to drive down to the dock to meet the mail. So as
long as I was there, I figured I'd put the taxi light on.
That would have been my explanation in any rational place. But the island was not a
rational place. It was a charmed place, as I had come to learn during seven years of living on
Lake Erie. More specifically, the island was liminal. Two-sided. Most of the time, things on the
island proceeded in a perfectly ordinary fashion.
Most of the time.
It was hard to be more specific about it. Perhaps because I was not a native of the place, I
had only ever glimpsed the "charm" obliquely, as if seeing its glow from behind an obstruction or
through a screen.
But as I sat in my taxi at the dock, a slow awareness crept upon me. I was not there just to
pick up the package from my editor. Somehow, I knew there was another reason I was waiting at
the dock that morning, and another reason why my eyes and attention kept wandering away from
the dog-eared copy of Spenser I had propped against the steering wheel.
The ferry spun clumsily in the harbor, turning around to point her ramp toward the dock. I
saw her standing on the upper deck, leaning casually over the railing under a cloud of trailing
I recognized her at once, and though I had scarcely thought of her in seven years it
somehow seemed natural that I should see her again--and somehow equally natural that he was
not with her. She stood alone at the railing.
No, not alone: the child was with her too this time. The child I had never met, except in
the womb. Presumably seven years old now--a tall, coltish girl with long straight auburn hair
and a serious expression on her face. She wore them both better than her father had.
As the ferry docked, I put my book away and watched for the two of them to emerge from
the ferry with their bags. They had clearly packed for a stay of at least a few days, and I did not
doubt for one instant that they would come to me. Why else would I have been there? And I was
"The same place?" I asked foolishly after I had helped them into the car. I was talking as
if she would somehow remember me from seven years ago.
"Rockside House," she said distractedly. I was glad to think she hadn't heard my question.
She didn't seem to recognize me at all.
But I remembered.