She extends a long willowy arm outward and points over the lake shrouded in fog — to the spot where the light is starting to filter through. It’s so bright I have to close my eyes for a moment and catch my breath.
“Look! There!” She screams — joy cast from her mouth as easily as if it were a fishing line — baited with her great big heart and sparkling eyes and thick curls of hair — a joy that puts a lifetime of my small sparks of happiness to shame. A joy that leaps from the water like a silver fish under a full white moon — casting stars in its wake and skipping across the surface with a grace that gives one pause to wonder that gravity ever existed at all.
Turning, she sees my solemn face. “Don’t you see it?” She asks, the wattage of her smile dimming.
“Sure, I see it.”
Shrugging, but still glowing with excitement, she sits back down on the bench in front and picks up paddles too big for her small hands. “We must get closer! Before it’s too late!”
I start to row too. Our paddles momentarily clanking together in awkward jerky movements until the cadence is found and the water smooths out below us as the blades slice through the icy cold.
We are moving quickly now, and I don’t dare look ahead. I keep my eyes focused on the water beside the boat, on my bare feet against the splintered wood, on her back as it moves toward me and then away again. I don’t want to get there, to reach it will mean the end. Goodbye. But how do I stop now? How can I tell her it’s all a set up — an elaborate hoax? A lie that’s been around for longer than the trees, the rocks, and even the seas, a lie that’s wrapped up within infinity…a lie meant to keep souls from ever being truly free?
Her hair is damp from the fog and when she turns to make sure I’m rowing I see the longing in her eyes. She is alive in a way I’ve never known. The sunlight comes through the fog like the long gilded fingers of a God and highlights the mist that’s coated her face, the flushed pink of her cheeks, and the gold of her hair — sculpting her into a heavenly figure. As if, in this moment, she is more than mere human — as if she is invincible, untouchable — unbreakable. My heart skips and I look away. She senses something is wrong, I can see it. But the excitement overshadows her fears and she keeps rowing toward the light — toward the bright spot that others might easily mistake for the sun.
I can’t let this happen. She is something finer than anything I’ve come across. She might as well have gossamer wings — every moment I’ve been with her she’s bore me away, with stories of marvelous days filled with wondrous things — the wagging tails of dogs, fat orange cats who ate too much pie, and how the aching blue of the sea or deep of the sky could sometimes make her cry. She’s enthralled me with antidotes from her short life that’s been far fuller than most. Of the time she rescued the neighbor’s parrot, the one who liked to cuss, and taught it to be polite. Or about the way her mother showed her how to leap into happiness with eyes wide open — taught her the true meaning of sight.
How can I silence her? She’d sung me songs about faraway places whose names most couldn’t pronounce, and danced as if she had done so for a hundred lifetimes or more. Her drawings weren’t that of a young child, but of a master of the heart, as if she somehow already knew what heartache was and how to find her way out…she’d baked me French macarons and served me tea along with her bears. She was bold and fierce and wiser then many well beyond her years. She was simply too beautiful for this world filled with salty anger and tepid tears.
But there are rules that have to be obeyed, paths we must follow, destinies to be fulfilled!
“Life is a series of unexpected events.” I blurt it out before I even recognize I want to speak.
Turning toward me, she raises an eyebrow and says, “It most certainly is!”
“Can you stop rowing for just a moment?” I can’t believe I’m saying this.
She lets the paddles go slack in the water but still grips them with her tiny hands. “What’s this all about? We’ve been working for this moment for so long. Why are you hesitating?” she asks.
I clear my throat, searching for something to say, to stall the inevitable.
“We have to wait till it’s dark. The stars play an important role in this.”
Tilting her head upward she thinks for a moment, “Wait for the stars? Stars are great, but what do they have to do with this?”
How many times had I wanted to explain that the stars were the roadmaps home? That all one had to do was follow? But my mission was always to send people a different way. To replace darkness where there could be light. I’d knowingly led one hundred and sixty seven souls the wrong way. The only way, the others had said. But this time was different. This time felt wrong.
She reaches her delicate hand toward mine and lets it rest gently upon it. “You promised.” Her voice is quiet and light — if there was a breeze it might carry it off. I bring up my other hand and lay it on top of hers. It’s cold and her palm is red from the intense rowing. I lift it and blow some warm air on it and try to work my way out of this. And the water ripples despite our stillness.
For the image above, and other artwork I created inspired by my short stories, please visit my artist page on Redbubble.