Caroline brushed her hair free of a few tangles and clipped it back in a ponytail that made her look a decade younger—say, twenty years old, taking her back to a time before I’d met her. Perhaps in reflex I remembered the sensation I’d had the first night we slept together, thinking how beautiful she was, how from every angle and in every light she was flawless, like some kind of figurine. Now she examined herself in the small round mirror she’d pulled from her purse, grimacing. The shallow cup of the compact looked to be holding a kind of flesh dust, a spare skin. She dabbed powder around her cheeks, the set line of her jaw. She took a thick brush and stroked a line on either side of her face, magically lifting her cheekbones. She traced her lips lightly with a subdued shade of red and suddenly she was smiling.
“Up a ways there’s a fork,” she said. “You want to stay right.”
Before I could start the car again, two men in orange caps crossed in front of us, rifles slung over their shoulders. They stopped in the road and waved, the ears beneath their caps like pink blossoms in the raw cold, and then they bumbled into the woods. I stared at their fresh footprints in the snow.
“You know them?” I asked.
“No,” she said.
Technically, this is a Thanksgiving story, but I think it works equally well if you’re looking to wallow in the overall despair of the holiday season.