A haze had settled on my soul, one that I was not sure I could escape. It was weighted and powerful, and it grew heavier with each passing day. I found myself asking the age old questions of why, though they continued to remain unanswered. All the while angst painted a picture in my mind, one that even I had no desire to be an audience to.
Sleep had long since abandoned me, and I remember not the last time that food touched my mouth or that water graced my lips. That moment so long ago left the world empty, and I could no longer tell night from day. I was lost in a fog.
I went for a walk one evening to gather my thoughts. It was as an evening should be, cool and quiet. Yet, despite these comforts, my nerves stood on edge. I find it hard to explain, though I suppose it felt as if something was out of place, like the very fabric of the universe had somehow changed and I was the one left without knowing.
I looked back. Lights from the town were barely visible in the dusk, in the fog. The village was small and my cottage was removed from it, nestled in the hills, hugged by the woods. It was home, and it was all that I knew.
I made my way into the forest, to the stone, to our stone. I moved carefully. The underbrush pulled at my feet and legs. My breath caught in my throat as I stepped close enough to see all that was left of her.
No matter where I had intended on walking, I always ended up at the same place. I knelt down slowly and kissed my fingertips, pressing them against the cool stone.
“Do not forget me, my love, for I will be with you soon.” I said as I pushed back the tears.
I know not how long I had sat there, for time seemed to slip past me when I was with her. Sometimes, an entire day would pass with only the chill of night to brush me away. This evening, however, was different, for the wind carried with it a hum of deception.
To say that I was completely unprepared for what stepped out of the brush around me would have been an understatement. I stood slowly as I watched her move into the small opening that surrounded the stone, our stone.
I was dumbstruck, for the figure was no more than a girl, small and fragile, young and pure; yet she had an aura of wisdom revealed in each movement, confirmed with each step. She moved gingerly through the underbrush, her bare feet picking their next placement with careful consideration. I could have been mistaken, but it seemed as though she had yet to notice me.
My eyes followed her lithe body as she continued her silent dance. Sheaths of waning light glinted off of her porcelain skin and shimmered through her golden white hair as the sun dropped beneath the horizon. My heart skipped a beat when she passed by me. She smelled of flowers. She smelled of spring.
She reminded me of the moon.
She knelt down in front of our stone and spoke, but her voice was soft and I was unable to make out any words. After a moment, she turned her head and faced me, her hand still touching our stone.
“Could you tell me about her?” Her voice caressed my ears and eased my soul, as if she were a messenger from God himself.
Words escaped me.
It is quite hard to explain, for, as long as I could remember, she was all I could think about. As if every thought was intertwined with her whisper. Yet then, in the face of that which I could not explain, I was breathless, I was mute.
I searched for the words to explain my love, my pain, but the thought occurred to me that perhaps explaining love, really explaining it, was impossible; like trying to decipher a beating heart, or solving the mystery of a prayer.
She cocked her head to the side with a curious smile as I stumbled through my thoughts.
“I beg your pardon, my lady, but you had words with her?” I regretted the question as soon as I asked it.
Her face tilted down and she gazed upon me with lenient eyes; eyes that undressed my every thought, eyes that whispered deep into my soul. There was not a trace of evil amongst them, and my spirit danced as a smile softened her face.
“My name is Cassidy, and I would love to hear your story.” The words flowed from her mouth as the morning light spills over the countryside.
I found it impossible to deny her further.
“Her name was Emily, and she was my beloved.”
I looked at the girl, my eyes tired and red, and I took a breath in search of the words to speak my heart; for words that I was sure could not tell the tale the way intended.
And so I told her, “I met her once, years ago, and knew instantly that she was capable of changing the world; perhaps not the entire world, but at least that of my own. I remember the way she looked at me the first time we spoke, as if I were the only person in the world worth talking to.
“I was new, you see, and had spent months wandering about the town; all the while hoping that the curious stares and unwelcome frowns would end. I suppose they never really did, though I no longer noticed, for when she looked at me nothing else mattered.
“To say I courted her would be a lie,” I caught myself smiling at the memory, “for I was but a breath in the wake of a monsoon, and she could have commanded the wind had she desired to.
“We came here often, passing the days in each other’s arms.” I paused for a moment as I struggled with the memory of her. “And then, as if I had been violently woken from a dream, she was gone.” I focused my gaze onto the stone, our stone, and fought back the tears. “It pains me to say that I have long since forgotten her face.
“Sometimes, I wonder if what I see when I think of her is not who she really was. As if I have morphed her into an image of what she means to me; the way people imagine angels, the way people imagine God.”
The young girl gazed at me, her face covered with compassion. “It is not easy losing those that we love,” she stood and moved away from our stone, “will you walk with me?”
I looked back at our stone for a long moment, trying to decide if I had the strength to leave, as I did every time before I went, and then I nodded to the young girl.
I followed her as she weaved through the forest in silence. As I was about to ask her where we were going when we arrived at my small cabin. She stopped in front of it, looking it over for a long moment before she turned to me.
“I lived here once,” she turned back to the house, “a very long time ago.”
I knew not how to respond.
“My father built it. He was a great man, a gentle man.” She was smiling at the memory of him. “He worked so hard. I remember him leaving for work every morning. I used to watch him go, hoping that he would make it back for dinner, knowing that he would barely miss it.
“It broke his heart, not being able to spend time with us. At first I was angry with him. I could not understand why he had to be away, why he chose to work as much as he did. But one night, while I was walking I heard raised voices. I recognized my father’s, though the other was unfamiliar.
“I followed the sounds and saw my father standing on the edge of the footpath that led from the road to our small cottage. There were two men behind him and another standing in front of him; the one that he was arguing with. I moved closer, struggling to make out what was being said.
“I heard a yell, and then the man in front of my father hit him, knocking him to the ground. The two men behind him grabbed him under the arms and lifted him up. The man hit him again and again. I wanted so bad to cry out, to help him somehow, but I knew that it was hopeless.
“I watched as they beat him over and over. Tears streamed down my face. Finally, when I could bear the pain no longer, I ran to him. I screamed for them to stop. The man in charge turned and looked at me. I remember an evil smile snaking across his face.”
The girl stopped and looked at me, tears filling her eyes, and she gently grasped my hand. I followed her as she moved into the house, into my house.
“The next morning I woke to the sound of my mother sobbing. She sat at the foot of my bed, her face buried in her hands, tears dotting the wooden floor at her feet. I moved towards her and asked her what was wrong. She looked at me, or through me, but did not answer. She only wiped her face with her sleeve and moved out of my room, leaving me alone.
“I followed her. Our small sitting room was filled with people; friends and family mostly, but some of them were town folk I had only seen in passing. As I moved through our quaint house no one seemed to notice me. The entire room was somber; as if a great something had taken place. I tried to speak with a few of them, but was met only with blank stares and silent sobs.
“Tears had long since filled my eyes when I moved to the front of the house. There were flowers everywhere and people came and went. It began to dawn on me that something was not right, though my mind could not comprehend what it was.
“It was then that I saw him, my father. He looked into my eyes and I nearly fell. He smiled at me; it was the most tender smile I had ever seen. I went to his outstretched hand and he spoke to me, his voice as soft as a whisper, as gentle as a kiss. ‘Come my dear, we can stay here no longer.’
“I looked into his eyes and said, ‘but papa, what about mother?’ He smiled a sad smile, ‘she will be with us soon, that I promise,’ and hand in hand I walked with him. We moved behind our house and I saw the two boxes perched on stands, surrounded by flowers and chairs.
“He looked to them and then to me, ‘I am sorry my darling. I am sorry I could not save you,’ and that was all he said before he disappeared.”
She looked at me again with soft eyes; her face seemed to light the world around me. She took me, hand in hand, back to the clearing with the stone, our stone.
“He loved me more than his own life, just as you did for her. It is why you saved her. It is why you are now here.”
I felt the weight being lifted, and I looked into the fog. I tried to remember the last time I had spoken with someone, or even the last time I had eaten, but all that I could remember was her. I stood and moved around the clearing to our stone.
“We have been waiting so long for you to come home,” she said as I tried to make sense of it all.
I thought back, trying to remember the last time I had seen my Emily. We were walking home from a party, her arm in mine, my gaze unable, unwilling, to leave her face. I noticed the three men walking towards us on the dark road before she did, but I thought nothing of them. They stopped in front of us, eventually surrounding us, and I remember telling her to run. I felt pain as I fought them off, but it did not matter, for all I could think of was my Emily. The world went black as I saw her running away, and when I woke, she was gone, and I was alone.
I looked to the young girl in front of me and she nodded with an outstretched hand. I took it, and the world crumbled away, showing me a different world, a brighter world.
I saw my Emily. I saw my love. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and my heart dropped as I watched her. She was sitting near the stone, our stone.
She kissed her fingertips and placed them softly on its cool surface as the softest whisper escaped her mouth.
“Do not forget me, my love, for I will be with you soon.” And a tear rolled down her cheek.
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