I don’t often take this path. It’s longer than my usual way home, winding through the trees and weeds of the woods. It seems scenic enough, but during the cold evenings that I spend walking back from work, I can’t find it in myself to care about that. It’s cold out this time of year, and the sooner I can get home, the better. However, as winter fades into spring and my boss keeps finding ways to give me fewer and fewer hours, I find myself curious of what could be down there. I mean, I’m sure it’s more of what I know, but still. In this life, you must find the little mysteries to keep you interested. So, that’s where I find myself now, walking that path as the world turns a deep blue around me after the sun has set.
It’s not that interesting, to be perfectly honest. It’s what I expected; trees and dirt and melting snow. The path is rough, littered with branches and stones. It’s clear that not many people come this way. And why would they? My home isn’t exactly in a busy, bustling area of some city. Quite the contrary, it’s on the very edge of a small town in the middle of nowhere, huddled between the trees and possibly even older than them too. It was my family’s home, passed down from generation to generation, until it was given to me. I’m the last of my family, the rest having left for the city or lost to their age. I have no one to give this home to, and my old bones won’t last me much longer. I don’t know what will happen once I leave, but I can only hope someone new finds this forgotten place.
There’s a whisper on the breeze, so quiet that I could mistake it for a trick of the mind.
But there it is again. I’m sure that I heard the call of my name. It’s hard to tell, but my instincts tell me it’s deeper down the path, deeper in these woods. I have no choice. I follow it.
The sound gets just a bit louder, and I find myself moving just a bit faster. Things turn unfamiliar as I venture further, and while I don’t know where I’ve gone and I don’t know where my home is, I don’t feel afraid.
And then I find it. Taller than me and shining in the faint moonlight, a snowbank blocks the path. That would not be odd on it’s own, however, there’s something else there that stops my heart. Made of stone and offering itself, a hand pokes out of the snow just in front of me. It’s almost too perfect, really.
Now is when I hear it most clearly. My name, muffled from beneath the bank with a voice softer than the snow. I reach out my hand, grabbing her own with the most gentle touch I can give. The stone is cold, almost painfully so, but I don’t even think of letting go. I steady myself, tighten my grip just slightly, and pull her forward.
In an instant, she’s free. Bursting from the snowbank, showered by the snowflakes as if they were confetti, she leaps towards me, pulling me closer. Before I know it, we’re dancing in the lights of the stars, frantic and messy and so absolutely perfect. For the first time in years, my feet feel light and my body does not ache. She leads me across the floor of the woods, spinning and dipping me as if I weigh nothing at all. She’s smiling, eyes full of tears and laughter flying from her lungs. I can’t help it, the same is happening to me.
Her mouth doesn’t move when she speaks, but that’s fine. I’m just happy to have her back, just as full of life as I remember.
We stop after a while, when my legs can no longer support the movements. I catch my breath, leaning against her. She does not feel tired, in fact, she does not even breathe. She’s different now, we both know that. However, neither of us care at this moment.
One of her hands cups the side of my face, leading my gaze towards her. Though the touch is almost painfully cold, I lean into it, resting my hand against her’s. She looks down at me with that perfect, sculpted smile, though something is different. Something has shifted behind her eyes, making them seem sad for whatever reason. I almost ask what’s wrong, but a twist in my gut gives me my answer. I feel my face fall.
Once she knows that I know, she pulls away. She lets her hand caress my cheek as she leaves, sending a shiver down my spine. I want to pull her back, to live in this moment forever, but she’s already backing away. I step towards her, but my sore feet don’t take me very far before I’m forced against the thick trunk of a pine tree. I watch her walk backwards, never once looking away from me or losing that smile. She returns to where I found her, in the middle of the path, standing on a snow covered platform. She strikes a simple, yet elegant pose, standing tall with one hand resting on her chest and the other reaching forward.
I approach her, hoping without reason that maybe she’s still there. I take her hand once more and pull, but this time I am resisted. She has left, leaving me with nothing but cut stone and warm tears. I hold the statue’s hand tight in my own, clinging to the memory of what it had just done, but I can feel it start to become muddled and confused. Would I remember this by morning? Would anyone believe me if I told them? Deep in my heart, I knew the answers to both questions.
With tremendous effort, I let go of the statue's hand and leave the area. I got home soon after, and I’m not sure if it was really that close or if I just paid no attention to the journey back. Either way, I’m left to sit alone with myself. My body is sore, my head aches, and her name overtakes my mind.
I whisper it to myself. I want to scream it, to bring her back home, but I know it’s futile. Her urn sits on the fireplace, as untouched as it was yesterday and the day before and the day before that. My favorite photo of us is next to it, the one from our tenth anniversary. We’re dancing, smiles on our faces and flowers in our hair. She always loved to dance.
I’m glad I got to dance with her once more.