‘’This one. I’m buying you this one.’’ You point, and I shake my head in disbelief.
‘’Micah, that’s a tree. A literal twenty-year-old oak tree. We’re not buying-.’’
‘’But, Becca- ‘’
‘’No, Micah, I don’t have space for a whole flogging tree-‘’
‘’You can make space. ‘’
‘’-my parents won’t allow it- ‘’
‘’I’ll talk to them.’’
‘’The house is suffocating us as it is. If we got this tree, there’d be no space to breathe.’’
‘’No, no, that is exactly why I’m buying you this tree,’’ you took me gently by the shoulders and looked down into my eyes, the way you always do so I can’t look away and pretend to be interested in other things. ‘’It’ll photosynthesize, and you’ll have more oxygen, and boom! I won’t have to worry about my favourite person dying of oxygen deprivation while I’m on a ship to the other side of the world.’’
You let go of my shoulders as you giggle, and I shook my head in disbelief.
‘’Why did I think it was a good idea to bring you along plant-shopping, sailor?’’
‘’Uhhmmm,’’ you paused for mock dramatic effect. ‘’Because I’m your fabulous sea adventuring boyfriend who you love very much and will miss terribly when he’s gone?’’
You puled me closer, burying your face in my hair. ‘’All I’m saying is I want to get you something that’ll remind you of me, something special just for you. I’m gonna miss you, I’m gonna miss you so much, but I have that photo of us from the carnival’s booth. I want to get you something this time.’’
The words caught in your throat, and I felt you stiffen. I turned around to see what your gaze was so fixed on and grinned: a slim willow tree, no taller than my shoulders, in a brown potato sack. It’s delicate branches swayed to and fro though the air was still.
I wrap my arms around you, nodding as tears spilled down my cheeks.
We stood there for a long time.
It is late afternoon, and the world is picturesque spring season painting: the sky is bluer than I’ve ever seen it, only a few animated clouds visible. They seem whiter than usual, the sun’s pale yet intense rays reflecting brightly off them. An icy wind is stinging my cheeks and ears, and I’m practically wading through my billowing school skirts.
It’s a wonder how I make it to the top of the hill where you are waiting for me, something I still find odd. I used to be the one who had to wait for you, ever the slow walker.
It’s a new beginning.
New beginnings always take some time getting used to.
I strip my straw hat from my head, drop the wicker basket, and sink down gratefully next to you.
The breeze plucks a strand of hair from my mouth.
Nothing but a hello from you is unusual. A small knot forms in my stomach and, for the sake of saying things and for the lack of things to say, I blurt out the obvious.
‘’You didn’t show up. Again.’’
The tall, dry winter grass ripples and sways like the restless sea. You’ve always liked it when the fields do that. You used to say it makes you feel like you’re really out at sea again, and when I asked you to describe it, you’d laugh and promise me that one day, you’ll take me to see it for real, instead.
A flock of migrating birds fly past us in a triangle shape, and you’re quiet again, as if thinking things over. The pit in my stomach twists because I think you’re going to stay quiet.
And I’m scared of what might come with that silence.
I start to say something, anything to fill the hole, but then the tree branches groan.
What about your brother? You want to know. How is Leo doing?
I fiddle with some grass, trying not to let the hurt show in my shoulders.
‘’ He’s …okay.’’
Small talk, meaningless talk. Anything, as long as we talk. As long as we talk about anything but…
I fumble with my skirts as I look over the hill. The wind has picked up and the tree above us is shedding leaves like in autumn. A single daisy drifts into my lap, its petals crushed, and stem broken.
What’s wrong, Becca?
Your voice is quiet, soft, and startling. A voice I’d recognize in madness, I know. A voice I’m used to having endless conversations with, never running out of things to say, like the earth never runs out of mysteries to reveal. A voice that I now, however, can barely bear…
‘’Dunno.’’ I don’t look at you, because if I do, I’m not sure what will happen. ’’Everyone’s been acting odd since you… stopped coming to school, I guess.’’
Softer still, like a dying bird.
‘’Well,’’ I say slowly, twirling the daisy around. I swallow the hard lump in my throat and keep looking forward. ‘’ No one looks at me angry anymore, even when I do things that they definitely should be angry about. Everyone whispers behind their hands and when I meet their eyes, they either pretend they weren’t staring or shake their heads all sorry-like.’’
The lump in my throat is rising and I can barely choke out the words.
‘’I don’t like it.’’
You are quiet.
‘’I wish you’d come back.’’
‘’Please come back.’’
Nothing but the sound of the wind fills my ears, and it becomes so overwhelming that I finally reach out to touch you.
Because I already can’t hear you.
Because I already can’t see you.
Because if I don’t force myself to feel you, I might lose you forever.
‘’Please come back.’’
I whisper and reach, but my hands don’t find yours.
They don’t find the messy, sandy hair I once spent hours arranging daisies into.
They don’t find your startingly bright grey eyes I wished I could stare into forever, or small button nose I kissed so often or fair cheeks I ran my pinkie along on nights spent under the stars on this very hill.
They don’t find the sharp mouth that spoke of the sea so often, that so gently kissed me goodnight.
They don’t find the strong, splintered hands that could lift heavy stone and carry wood far distances yet could always be soft and careful and gentle and kind.
My hands don’t find you.
They find memories, but not ours.
Bunches of flowers.
I howl and the winds howl with me.
I am air, I am lead, light as a feather, heavy as stone, my heart soars, and plummets.
I’m wracked with sobs, screams and airless breaths.
Everything cracks, like lighting striking trees. The branches of our tree heave.
My heart, my chest, me, my everything.
You are gone.
My everything is gone.
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Amazing, amazing, amazing!!! I love it, awesome job!