Why this tree?
I’ve never been so sure until my mother and father were supposedly murdered in their sleep.
It was where they met, where they had spent much of their time together, and eventually, shared it with me.
It had been there for many generations, and had even been given a name, ‘Forelsket.’
Most newcomers were surprised by the name, not knowing the meaning, or the wonderful story I could never forget.
“Long ago, when our government was still new and unruly, there was a man that lived on the sea. He came from a distant land, a land unknown to you and to I, a place so far away that it would take you months to reach the beginnings of its shimmering shores. When the man stepped foot on our land, seeing the beauty of it all, he decided he had found his place, and would like to return. But his crew mates ridiculed him, telling him off for having such wild dreams and imaginings.
“You have no supplies without this ship! What do you think you will do, you are not captain!”
Yet the man remained ever firm on his decision, vowing on the gods of the sea that he would return.
And then, just the day before he left, he met a girl.”
I would giggle at this part, my father giving me a small smile and dipping his head.
“Let me go on.”
“Yes. Go on Papa, I wanna hear the next part!”
“The girl was young, and youthful. She was not only beautiful, but filled with kindness and passion for the men, offering them food and drink. The man could not take his eyes off her, and neither could the others. But the captain, after the girl had left, said she was his, and no one else’s. So the man, that night, left the ship in search of the girl, to warn her of his captain's plans of taking her captive. When he found her, he could not tell her, for he had lost the ability to speak in awe of her elegant silhouette in the moonlight. The girl caught him staring, and simply smiled.
“You have come to warn me of them, haven’t you?”
The man stuttered, but replied with a yes.
The girl sighed and motioned for him to come sit beside her, atop a rock with a view of the ocean.
“There is no need to protect me. I know my place, I know they treat me as they treat women in your far off lands. But I do not fear their primitive ways.”
The girl looked at him, her eyes showing something that the man had never seen before, and yet he knew from instinct.
“But you are different. You understand that am not just some tool or meaningless object meant for show and flattery.”
The man looked away, aware that he was being exposed.
But the girl laughed and grabbed his wrist, pulling him up and starting to run back down the path laughing, the man chasing after her with confusion.
“Where are you going?” He called out to her.
But the girl only laughed and shook her head, continuing to run ahead of him.
Then she stopped, right where a large tree stood.
It was twisted, gnarled and knobby at the base. But it's limbs were slender and elegant, yet strong and stable.
“This here, this is our promise tree, our Forelsket.”
The man stopped beside her, breathless, and bending, hands over knees.
When he had caught his breath, he looked up at the tree, following its trunk till it split off into different branches that each had more branches and big, glossy, dark green leaves that shimmered in the moon's brilliant and eerie beams.
“Forelsket.” The man said, playing the word upon his lips.
The girl smiled and reached out her hand to touch the tree, spreading her fingers as wide as they would go.
“It will remind us of this night, forever and always, when we admitted to each other our deep admiration. We must carve the name, so that all will know, this is not only our Forelsket, but for generations yet to come, for them and their children.”
Though the man did not fully comprehend her words, he took out his small knife and handed it to her.
The girl turned to him and held out the knife to give it back.
“You must do it. It is a promise for you.”
The man took the blade, held it firmly in his hands, and began to carve.
He had been given education, unlike most sea-men, and knew how to write letters and words.
After he was finished, he pocketed his knife again.
“Forever, as long as this tree stands, it will be a symbol of love. Of our love, and many others.” The girl said, clasping the man's hands and her hands together.
“Yes. I will never leave you, I will not go tomorrow. I will make certain that they shall not harm you.”
The girl sighed and closed her eyes.
“But they cannot harm me. It has been for told that they cannot, and will not.”
The man did not understand then, but in the morning, the girl had gone, leaving only a single word scratched out on the ground.
“And that's how you got your name, my little Amora.”
I grin and give him a hug, burying my face into his shoulder.
“I love you Papa.” I murmured.
“I love you too, Amora, and I always will…”
You see, that was years ago.
Now, as I sit under the tree, watching the blue ocean and the sky peppered with gulls, I remember the memory sadly.
It was strange to think that this tree was once the place where two lovers claimed each other, but the next morning, one of them was gone.
My soft, gentle curls fly in the wind, but I stay still, wishing I could run away with the wind too.
But it is impossible.
Flight is impossible in this world where time does not affect.
Suddenly, as I'm looking at the foaming waves, a sad smile pasted across my face, I see a figure floating in the water.
I get up quickly, running down the sandy dunes till I reach the very edge of the waves, my simple flower dress wavering in the wind.
It is a person.
They have their arms draped over the small board of wood that somehow holds them up, their head laying against it.
They must have come from a shipwreck.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath, preparing to swim out and help the person get to shore safely.
I take one step back, then leap into the churning water, using the techniques my father showed me when I was young.
When I reach the person, I clutch onto the wood with them, grabbing a hold of them too, and start kicking with my legs.
My full concentration is on getting to shore.
A piece of debris hits my leg, making me wince and stop for one second before kicking away again.
Suddenly, my luck subsides.
I hit the worst of the current, and am swept down, under the water, with the person.
I clutch their arm tightly, my fingernails digging into their skin.
It is dark, and cold.
I want to stay here, but I can't, I can't let this helpless person drown.
I will not.
I hold my breath in my lungs, but it is surprisingly light and easy to breathe.
I feel myself shifting, changing, growing different in some way.
But I ignore it, and keep pushing onward through the turbulent current, finally surfacing with the person.
We are close to the shore, just barely, and I propel faster, dragging the person behind me.
We are there.
I lay on the ground next to them and catch my breath.
When I am done, I prop up on my elbows and survey the person.
It is a boy, with shaggy dark hair that sticks to his forehead. His skin is pale, and I realize this is not a good sign.
I feel for a pulse, finding a faint heartbeat, but it is still there altogether.
He is still alive.
I know what to do, I have done it several times before for young children in my village.
I tilt his head up slightly, brushing the hair out of his face, and start to push on his chest several times, before breathing into his mouth.
At first, it does nothing, so I do it again after checking to make sure he is still alive.
Finally, after the second time, he coughs, choking out water.
I back away, giving him room to breath.
He moans, stirring slightly.
Then, his eyes flutter open, landing on me.
I look him straight in the eye, but the boy doesn’t hold my gaze for long.
Instead, he takes a deep, shaky breath, and closes his eyes yet again.
I walk over to sit next to him, wondering if I did something wrong.
But the boy had fainted, and I knew that this was normal.
Who knew how long he had been out there, floating on that drenched, sad piece of wood.
I got some of the villagers to take him to my house, where I rested him on the nearest cot to the entrance, my fathers.
The boy doesn’t wake, and hasn’t woken up since then.
I sit at my only table, drinking some tea that I had boiled over a fire for about two hours.
Cupping it in my hands, I think about when I saved the boy, how something had changed.
It was strange, and this is the first time since it happened that I’ve thought about it.
But at that moment, I hear a gasp behind me.
I set the cup down and turn around.
The boy is sitting up now, breathing heavily, his eyes wide with terror.
I stand up and walk over to him.
He scrambles back away from me weakly, and I hold my hands out in front of me to show him I won’t harm him.
I stop right in front of him, setting my arms by my sides.
The longer I stand there, the more the boy seems to relax.
Finally, he speaks.
“W-where am I?”
“Ildsjel, a town on a small island.” I answer honestly, motioning to the spot next to him on the cot to see if I can sit down.
He still looks fearful, but nods, allowing me to sit down.
I do so with a small smile, noticing that he is shivering slightly.
“Here, let me get you a skin.” I say, going over to a trunk and pulling out a yak skin.
I drape it across him and sit back down.
“Who are you?” Is his next question, which I had expected.
“I am Amora, a resident of Ildsjel.” I answer.
The boy takes a deep breath and leans back against the wall of my small hut.
“Who are you?” I ask softly, but the boy just ignores me.
“Where did you find me?” I hold back my frustration and answer.
“I pulled you out of the ocean about a day ago. It looked like you had come from a shipwreck.”
The boy closes his eyes and shakes his head.
“It can’t be….” He murmurs.
I squint at him.
“What can’t be?”
The boy opens his eyes to glare at me, but then the anger fades from his eyes and they are blank.
“I thought it was a dream. I thought I would wake up on the ship, in my bed. I didn’t know it was real.” The boy says, wrapping the skin tighter around him after a shiver.
I set my hand on his shoulder, but he moved to take it off.
“Don’t touch me. I know I’ll just wake up and everything will be alright.”
I am worried now.
“You're going into hysteria, just calm down, you're safe now.”
The boy is shaking now, and I reach over to touch him.
But he doesn’t move this time, he just keeps on shaking, his face buried in his hands.
After a few moments, I realize he’s crying.
I stay silent, my hand still on his shoulder.
After a while, he stops, looking up at me, his face streaked with tears.
“Why did you save me? Why couldn’t you have let me drown like everyone else?”
I am at a loss for words.
Was I wrong to save him?
“I-I’m sorry. I just couldn’t let someone die. I couldn’t watch someone die.”
The boy sighs, sinking deeper into the skin.
“My name is Charles. I’m from a place called America.”