“We’re stuck on the roof,” said the woman. “Bill, we’re stuck on the roof.”
“You mean balcony,” he answered.
“Didn’t you try the door before you shut it? Didn’t you check?”
“You were the one who told me you wanted it closed,” the man said. “That there were leaves blowing inside, on the carpet.”
The woman looked through the glass doors into their bedroom. “We’re really stuck. Call Simon.”
“I don’t have my phone.”
“No, call him,” she said. “Yell.”
“He’s too far away to hear us.”
“But there’s no one else around!”
“Let’s just sit and listen,” said the man. “I’m sure we’ll think of something.”
“I can’t believe we’re stuck on our own balcony.”
“Why don’t we just sit?”
“Did you have a favorite color when you were little?” the woman asked. “Or a favorite toy?”
The man shrugged. “I liked hide and seek,” he said. “I liked to run.”
“I collected toy horses when I was little, but that seems strange to me now. I can see myself playing with them, but it doesn’t seem like me.”
“But you do like horses,” said the man.
“I know,” the woman answered. “But it’s weird that I collected them. They were plastic. Brown and white. I drew horses all the time. I was obsessed. Maybe I should start riding again. What do you think?”
The man said, “I think we should finish the champagne.”
“This is the quietest quiet,” said the woman. “It’s so quiet, it’s loud.”
“Hush,” said the man. “I think I hear a car.”
“There aren’t any cars, Bill. There’s never any cars.”
“Well, I think I hear one.”
The man listened. Something got up out of the pond across their house and flew up into the sky. The man listened some more. He listened so hard he came up out of his seat a little. His muscles were tight from hoping that his wife wouldn’t break the stillness. And for a long while, she didn’t. It really was beautiful, if you shut up long enough to hear it. The things out there in the forest.
“This is quite something,” said the woman, pouring the champagne into their glasses. “Isn’t this something?”
“It certainly is,” said the man.
“We’re gonna need to be rescued.” She flicked something off her pants.
“Let’s finish our drinks. We’re still celebrating, Edna.”
“I think it’s kind of hard to celebrate knowing that we’re locked out. How’re we gonna get back in the house?”
“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.”
“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it,” the woman repeated.
“How often do you randomly encounter a bridge?”
“Not very often,” said the man.
“And it’s not very difficult, going across a bridge. It’s not something that you really need to sit down and think about.”
“I imagine it used to be much more of an occasion than it is today.”
“That’s true,” said the woman, taking a sip from her glass. “Like, it’s especially difficult on a horse. You know I’ve done it, right? Crossed a bridge on a horse?”
“Let’s enjoy the sunset,” the man said. “Let’s stick to the plan.”
The night hummed from the stillness. The man could make out hoots and screeches, but he didn’t know from what. He thought he’d like to know what those sounds were coming from, and that he should know what they were coming from, now that they lived in the country.
“You think Christine will come out for Thanksgiving?” the woman asked.
“I don’t know. Probably not.”
“But it’s our turn,” said the woman. “They went to Paula’s last year.”
“I don’t think they think it’s warm enough here.”
The woman nodded. “That’s true. But I’d still like to see them.”
“I know you would,” said the man.
“Can I tell you something, though? You’ll keep it a secret?”
The man nodded.
“I don’t like Robert. Christine told me one time he sat down and took a number two in front of her while she was brushing her teeth.”
“I wish you hadn’t told me that,” said the man.
“I know,” said the woman. “I’m sorry.”
It was cold. Too cold. The man saw his wife shiver.
“Aren’t you going to congratulate me?” he whispered.
“I don’t know,” she said, “should I?”
“I don’t have to go into the office anymore. Retired. Imagine that.”
The woman leaned her head against her husband. “Do you think we’ll get sick of each other being in the same place all the time?”
“I wish you’d just congratulate me.”
“Well, I have to wait and see,” said the woman. “What if we run out of things to talk about?”
“I don’t know,” said the man. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
The woman rested her head on the man’s shoulder as he stared out at the sky. He had always thought of the night sky as blue—deep blue, like an ink stain—but tonight he saw it black. There hadn’t been any sounds for a while and the cold was really something. The man had a thrill inside him. He felt like he could spring.
“We’re not going to die out here, right?” asked the woman. “Or go into hypothermic shock?”
“We’re going to be fine,” the man answered. “I have a plan.”
“I don’t want to hear it,” the woman said.
“I’m going to get up on that roof and climb down the gutter. Then I’ll go into the house from the garage.”
“You’ll kill yourself,” said the woman. “And then what’ll I do?”
“I don’t know,” the man said, staring at the mountains. “There’s a chance I won’t fall.”
“There is,” she said, “but it’s a small one.”
The man looked out at the darkened hills beyond the balcony. He felt like he could leap off and nothing bad would happen. It was that kind of night.
“Let’s tell each other a secret,” said the woman, snuggling up against him. “You’ve got to hold me tighter. I’m dying of cold.”
“You want to sit on my lap?”
“Don’t be silly,” the woman said. “Why don’t you start?”
“I don’t have any secrets.”
“Well, that’s a lie. Everybody’s got some.”
“But I don’t,” said the man. “I don’t sleep well if I do.”
“Does that mean you’re gonna tell about Robert?”
“Who in the heck would I tell that to?” he said. “It’s disgusting. I wish I didn’t know.”
“Geez!” said the woman. “Well, I’ll start. This one is embarrassing. When I was in fifth grade, we were given pen pals in the fourth grade. Of our own school! We were supposed to send a gift for Christmas, worth up to five dollars. So I put a five-dollar bill inside an envelope and sent that. I got in lots of trouble. They sat me down and talked to me like I’d done something really wrong. I mean, I didn’t know this girl! I didn’t know what the heck she’d want for Christmas! I figured she could buy some candy. The teachers made me feel embarrassed about my parents, like it was their fault that I thought it was okay to send her the money. It still makes me feel rotten to think about it, isn’t that weird?”
The man said, “I can understand the thought process behind sending her five dollars.”
“I know,” answered his wife. “But it still made me feel rotten.”
They sat quietly for a while. She put her hand in his.
“You’re not really going to climb up on the roof, are you?” she asked.
“I think so,” the man said.
There was some wind. And then no wind. There was a sound—it was the wrong season for a frog. The man felt angry with himself for not knowing the noises.
“I wish you’d tell me a secret,” said the woman. “Just one.”
“I don’t have anything.”
“Make something up.”
“Fine,” the man answered. “I know you’re a cheater.”
“I know you cheated on me last Christmas with Roger. Not at the party, but with him. I know you did.”
The man’s wife made a clicking noise in the back of her throat.
“Now you’re just being silly,” she said.
“Maybe,” the man answered. “Are you?”
“Of course I am,” she said. “Of course.”
Groups of minutes passed. Ten minutes. Five. The man wondered if they could make it until daylight. Once the morning came, things would be different. A car would come by in the morning, for sure. But it was cold.
“I need to pee,” said the woman.
“So do it,” said the man. “Go back there. It’ll drain through the slats.”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to,” she said.
“I won’t turn around.”
The woman got up from the chair and walked to the back of the balcony.
“All right,” she called. “Don’t turn.”
The man listened to her zipper going down. And then he heard her pee. He turned around and grinned in the dark. “You did it,” he said.
When she came back, they decided to switch chairs. The woman thought she could come up with a solution if they changed places.
“I do have a secret,” she said in her new chair. “It has to do with yours.”
“I don’t want to hear it, Edna,” the man said.
After a while the woman got up from her chair. She said she had to pee again. She said that she was trembling. “Bill?” she called, from over by the door, “I don’t think it’s locked.”
Her voice sounded strange. Like in a foreign language.
“Come over here and jiggle it. I think it’s just stuck.”
“It’s locked,” the man said. “I tried it.”
“No, really.” The woman rattled the doorknob. “Come see!”
The man didn’t feel like getting up but knew that she was wrong.
“You see how it catches? Like there’s something inside it?”
The man turned the doorknob. “Yeah,” he said. “Yes.”
He pulled the doorknob hard with his right hand and pushed with his left. Nothing happened. But that didn’t mean that something wouldn’t.
“I’m gonna push,” he said. “Are you ready?”
He yelled the word, “Go!”
He pulled with all his might as she pushed against the door. There was a sharp sound, like something breaking. And the goddamn door just opened.
“Well,” the man said. “I’ll be.”
“I can’t believe it!” said the woman. “Can you believe it? I thought we’d be out here all night!”
The door swung open until it hit the carpet.
“My God!” said the woman, wiping her hands on her trousers.
“Could you hold it open? I’m gonna get the glasses.”
He kept staring at the carpet and the half-open door.
The woman brushed against him as she passed through with the empty bottle of champagne. “You coming? I’ll make us some dinner. Or do you want to take a bath?”
“I’m gonna need a minute,” the man said.
“A minute,” he repeated.
“Should I call you when it’s ready?”
The man nodded.
“But you should probably take a bath.”
“I’m gonna need you to shut that door behind you.”
“I want you to go in and shut the door.”
“Why?” asked the woman.
“For Christ’s sake,” the man said. “Go.”
The woman walked into the bedroom. She put the empty bottle upright on the floor. With her free hand, she shut the door in front of her.
“Now what?” the woman asked. Her voice was muffled by the glass.
“Lean your forehead up against it.”
“I’m cold, Bill. I want to take a bath.”
“Put your forehead against the glass.”
She shrugged and did it for him. Her skin looked like raw chicken inside a see-through bag. He took a couple steps back and stared at his wife through the glass.