Aaron stood at the edge of the water, his back to the emerging morning sun, and stared across the dark cold surface just beginning to reflect daylight. He liked to imagine if he squinted just a certain way, he could see Chicago on the other side. It was at least sixty miles across the water, but knowing the city so well, his mind's eye could fill in the space beyond the murky horizon, with buildings, bustling crowds, early traffic, and the scents of food carts as miniature kitchens were fired up in anticipation of mid-morning customers.
He shuddered and pulled the flaps of his winter cap down more firmly over his ears, rubbing his hands together to warm them, keep them from stiffening up. Twenty-odd years ago, when Aaron migrated to the city from his rural family home, he'd believed it held the key to answers he desperately needed. He'd learned a great deal about himself and the world at-large during his half dozen years there, one of the most important being that he was a simple small town man at heart, no matter how little he fit into the world in which he was raised.
Lake Michigan in mid-Autumn is best seen with a painter's eye. To most people, it merely looks cold, gray, barely moving, and is prettiest in the afternoon as the sun sets over the western horizon, sending sharp yellow rays across the surface. But Aaron could see, in the barely perceptible daylight, all the possibility gray actually holds. It's never really just some value of black mixed with some value of white, not even in the middle of the night. There's always blue, green, pink, gold, red, depending on the time of day and the clarity of the sky overhead. Just before dawn, the water was an inky purple, slowly, lazily waking to a new day. And all at once, at an almost immeasurably small moment, it began to soften into a hazy violet, shimmering as the sun caught its attention. Thus, Aaron and the great inland sea greeted the day together, and he walked back toward town to open the pie shop, in the world he now considered home.