Walking on, her feet were chilled by the wet weeds and moss on the ground. Smells of earth and decay were carried on the damp breeze. The leaves were all burnt umber and ochre and brown, but the recent rain subdued their rustles against one another into a swishy background whisper with the occasional clack of a branch insinuating itself into the secret conversation. The gray sky did not send spears of light through to illuminate her way, instead lending only a silver cast to the shadowy backdrop of her reveries.
Wasn't Anderson acting strangely that day, ...more of a comment than a question. How many weeks ago was that, now? She realized it had, in fact, lapsed into months. Like the Seattle weather that had kept its promise of a short summer and an early fall, Anderson's work-a-day life had sapped the brightness out of his revelations. She'd even gotten a call from his boss the other day.
"Marcia. This is Darrell. You got a minute?"
Well, no, she thought, but that's okay. "Yeah, sure. What's up?" She didn't often talk to Darrell who was quite a bit older than Anderson and whose position as his boss had never exactly aided Anderson in overcoming his innate stiffness. It was a characteristic she thought typical of engineers. They were either stiff or just plain weird. She didn't even bother to ask him to call her Marcy.
An unusual edge of worry could be detected in Darrell's voice. "Is Anderson okay? He seems kind of distracted here and I just wondered if everything's okay. You know how much we depend on him for this project we're doing and it seems like he's letting some things fall behind. It's just not like him."
"Oh," Marcy said. It was a little marshmallow of sound, not one of alarm or even of question. She thought about what she should say even though words had already formed on her lips. "Yeah, he's fine. Maybe he's feeling his age, these days. You know, the Big Five Oh is coming up in a couple of weeks." Do men really have mid-life crises? She'd thought her Anderson immune to such things.
Darrell was saying something as the question gelled latent worries into conscious thoughts that drew her away from the conversation. Anderson hadn't seemed very interested in going off to work lately, rolling over in bed after that first alarm, lingering in the shower a few minutes longer than usual.
"...do you think it'd be a good idea?"
"What? Oh, yeah, ...I mean, no. I mean, ...I'm sorry Darrell. My mind wandered there a bit. What were you saying?" Marcy asked.
She couldn't tell if it was a rare attempt at humor or a telling comment when Darrell replied, "So, it runs in the family." Pause.