Time stands still, lurking on the edges of our sanctuary. A thief, churning with waves of jealousy unable to be contained. I grimace. Not a single morning goes by without unwanted thoughts plaguing my mind and leaving my malnourished frame shaking with despair.
Your small hand finds its way to mine, and I resist the urge to smile. Of course, you would know. You understood better than most, despite your youth. Time has not been merciful to you either, has it? I hold you close under the protective branches of the weeping cherry tree overhead and watch as the sun blooms on the horizon, gleaming petals of light stretching outward into the rich blue and leaving streaks of brilliant gold in its wake. You snuggle into my embrace and let out a contented sigh. A few minutes of calm, the distant call of a mockingbird and our matching breaths the only noise in this fragile moment.
A butterfly dances by, a whirl of color against the backdrop of an awakening sky. You giggle and run to chase it past the blooms. I watch the two of you play, a flower of the sky playing with a flower of the earth. Both dashing fast in an erratic path, guided by a soundless serenade of the striking spring blossoms.
I sigh. It had been years since I could let my hair down and relax as a human being instead of a human doing. But that was where Time and I stood on different ground. With my grief from watching you came a joy unlike anything I have ever felt. It numbed the weight of responsibility the world had placed on my unprepared shoulders. The future was always something I had worried about, something that had dubbed me the title of “worrywart” years ago. I am not sure if it was because of my growing mind and lack of wisdom, but I never gave thought to the idea that my life was only a speck in the earth’s timeline. I thought I had a long while before I had to stand on my own two feet and be accountable for not only my life but someone else’s as well. So much time that I let it slide through my fingers like sand, so much that I merely watched as it flew across the empty horizon, never to come back. I realized too late that I did have a lot of time, but I had wasted it, always waiting for tomorrow.
But now, as your dancing brown eyes light up with the rising sun and your cheerful giggles reach my ears, the pressure of unpaid bills, dirty dishes, the laundry, grime-encrusted crevices, and empty cupboards were not the foremost thing in my mind; I was only concentrating on you, a little bundle of laughter and warm hugs, my little bundle of laughter and warm hugs. An angel whose life rested in the hands of a woman who could not take control of her own, a queen whose life rested in the hands of a good-for-nothing peasant. Nonetheless, you were mine, all chubby cheeks and flaxen hair and sticky fingers and goofy grins. And you were not going to go anywhere. I swore to protect you that day, and I keep my promises, no matter what they cost me.
Regardless of everything I had to face prior, I would never have thought that such a promise would cost me my heart.
The dark, onyx-colored clouds had vanished, as though wisps of vapor, and the water glistened like a quilt of molten silver. My heart aches at the sight of the glittering surface created by the moonlight bathing the cerulean depths of the lake. Our lake. I have to curl my fingers to keep from reaching out to your spot next to me, now empty. You are always on my mind, calling out to me. I long to carry you again, to put my arms around you and never let go. To keep you away from Time, away from everything in this world. Just me and you. I wanted to spend every moment of my life with you, my little one. But someone like you, a soul too pure for this world, could not remain here. Time did not allow it.
Time. The one constant in the chaos of life. I can lose all that matters, but Time will always follow on my heels, waiting patiently to take me the way it has done to you. I used to be afraid of it. I would try to escape its clutches in an attempt to protect you, thinking that Time was nothing but a thief. I should not have been so naive. Something as old as Time itself would not be satisfied as a mere thief, scrounging for things ignorant people leave behind. No, Time would accept nothing but the very best. A merchant on the hunt for things we do not value enough until it is gone. Like you, my little one. It took me too long to realize that for some of us, today might be our last tomorrow and that Time was finally at our door, not a thief, but a merchant, finally receiving word of the treasure I carried with me day and night but never stopped to give the proper attention and love to.
At least I have learned my lesson. I am not afraid of Time anymore, for I know it is only a friend. Time has given me deep thought in exchange for my naive subconscious, vivid memories for my diminishing sight, inner beauty for my outside appeal. I await it. I await you. For only when we reunite, my darling, will my sorrow cease.
Until then, I must be patient. I must go on. Like old times, I cross my legs and look ahead of me, your name on my lips. My hand rests on my lap, where your warm weight should have been. There is nothing but moon speckled darkness, but contrary to how it was only minutes ago, it was no longer the kind of utter blackness that swallowed a person whole. It was instead a shadowy world, full of monsters, sure, but also creatures of light.
Regardless of my pain, Time stands still, waiting for me the way it always did, the way it always does, and the way it always will. But this time, Time does not wait for me alone. Your dazzling smile and vibrant eyes burn in my vision, more brilliant than the twinkling stars overhead. The moon gives me a sense of comfort, too, its soft silvery glow a guide for me in what would otherwise have been a maze of impenetrable blackness, and I know that I will be alright.