Nothing.

The distant interstate’s low rumble was always crawling through these wetlands.

Always.

But as I stood on the furthest finger of trail overlooking the sunset-drenched tidal flat, all I could hear was nothing.

A dark band of clouds rose from the ocean, cut by the rush-hour horizon of flashing taillights that eerily left no engine roar or blaring of horns. Every few moments a soft breath of air would gently rattle the reeds, and the absolute calm in between the pulses made me feel like I was someplace I’d never been before.

And kind of like I was the last man left on earth, because I hadn't seen anyone on the way out here.

I looked over my shoulder anyway, though.

I had this feeling I wasn't alone.

She couldn’t be here.

Too quiet.

But I said it anyway.

‘Hi Stella.’

A massive gust roared down the canyon and emptied into the lagoon, leveling the reeds in a rush to the ocean.

There she was.

And I knelt and cried. And laughed. Cried. Laughed.

As I wiped my eyes and watched the dark band of clouds begin to erupt, I stood up and yelled at the sky.

Loud.

‘Come on! Let’s go! Come on!’

And she did.

She ran through the clouds, bringing color closer and closer from the horizon.

I turned and sprinted down the trail, yelling ‘Come on!’ in between breaths.

She followed me.

But she was fast.

So I raced her, trying to outrun her oranges and reds and yellows now almost engulfing the clouds above. She caught me just as I turned up the driveway, and we walked home together.

I opened the front door to hear about a strong gust of wind that had come through while I was gone. The random burst of air had shaken the trees above the startled horses and blown old leaves from tired limbs.

We both knew that gust.

The next morning, a friend who’d been there as Stella passed away sent me this photo.

She said I’d understand.

She’d seen the same sky the night before. And felt the same thing, because the caption under her photo read ‘Thanks Stella Woodard.’

I don't know, maybe I was wrong.

Maybe she never really left.