The iron-haired woman in the tortoiseshell coat stooped to examine the fall leaves at the base of the oak tree.
The large branch broken in the direction of the finish line, poised to fall but still hanging onto the trunk of the tree, had been her first clue.
Although she had watched her beau fall out of the sky, when the biplanes raced past the forest during Essex Country Club’s yearly fall season flight trials, she had not gone into the forest.
Now, a fall season decades later, she was unsure of the exact location of the crash.
Twenty years ago, when the iron-haired woman had had copper hair, she had watched the fall season trials from the back porch of her summer rental cottage, one which she had bought just after the cold blast of wind had crashed the biplane of her beau. Still, though, she sat on the back porch and wondered. What would life have been like?
This year’s fall season trials had been canceled due to rumors of German incursion, rumors which had finally been traced to some boy who had set off fireworks he’d hidden from the summer’s festivities three months ago.
This year, there was no fall season trial to watch; she had nothing to bring back those memories. Nothing except leaves falling from branches blown by cold wind.
This fall, the day of the cold snap when she could first see her breath, she decided to find the place.
She heard the steady, even chirp of a cricket, like rusted bearings inside of the wheels of landing gear. A mockingbird giving an evocative recount of the historic Essex Fall Season event, so many years ago.
She knew she had found it when she saw shards of ripped, rusted metal, still canted over the carpet of orange fall leaves. They stood sentinel several hundred feet past the direction the broken limb had pointed.
She had found out this crash was no accident. It was no stray gust of wind. Years later, on his deathbed her beau’s rival had confessed. He had confessed both his intentions and his plan to get rid of his competition in the air race. Though the second plot had been successful, the first one had never been.
“You said you would propose. I accept,” she said.
Then she left the forest.
The Essex fall season air race, and indeed the fall season itself, would no longer haunt her.