This is chapter 7 & the epilogue of a continuing story called The Woods and the Way
She continued her ventures in the woods for a few weeks after he’d left, but they didn’t feel the same without him by her side. The trees she’d once remarked seemed like an endless supply of potential supports should you ever fall suddenly felt overbearing, unwelcoming. She’d stumble on roots and fallen branches on a regular basis, as if the forest itself was trying to drive her out.
Her daily visits tapered off into weekly outings, eventually losing any semblance of routine. She still went on the occasional hike, but they only served to remind her why she’d stopped coming. Soon it was impossible to remember the last time she’d sang, and life went on.
The year came and went in a dull haze, and at times she felt as though she were only floating through life, simply waiting for something to happen. April came, and for the first time in forever she went out to their old spot, not even daring to hope he might be there. She told herself it was simply a matter of nostalgia, of reminiscing on what once was.
He was not there.
Nor was he there the next day, or the next. She came back to the well every day, all pretences of no expectations long gone. She was looking for him, waiting for him.
And still he did not show.
The well crumbled, caving in on itself and crashing down into the dark abyss within. She was not there to see it happen, but found the wreckage the next day. What few blue stones remained about the edge were cracked and broken, teetering on the brink of oblivion. When she emerged into the clearing and saw what had happened she collapsed, falling to her knees before the remains in tears.
It was there that she heard his voice.
Her crying immediately silenced, she stood slowly, afraid of what she might find -or rather not find- when she turned. But turn she did, and there he was.
“You came,” he said softly, making no move to approach her. He looked different; older, somehow, and sadder. Even his voice betrayed the change, and she involuntarily took a step back, afraid of this new version of himself.
“Of course I came. I’ve been waiting for you since April. What… what happened? Are you okay?” He shook his head, his movements slow and lethargic.
“Something… Something happened to me. Something bad.” There was a tremble in his voice, and she put her hands over her mouth, holding back a sob. “I think… I think a part of me died.” And now the sob did come, and she was crying and running towards him, and she threw her arms around him, squeezing as tight as she could as though she were afraid she would lose him again, as though she could press his broken pieces together again and fix whatever was wrong.
But he didn’t return the hug, his arms limp at his sides. She pulled away, tears running down her face.
“What’s wrong?” she pleaded, grabbing him by the shoulders and shaking him gently. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
“I don’t know,” he said, staring straight ahead with deadened eyes.
Not knowing what else to do, she took him by the hand and lead him over to what remained of the well, sitting them both down against the side. They sat there together for what felt like an eternity, holding hands against the silence.
When the song began it was soft and low, and at first she didn’t even realise she had opened her mouth. But then she felt his hand squeeze hers and pressed on, encouraged by the response. She sang for the first time in over a year, with only the birds, the trees and the boy to hear.
Her words filled the air about them, circling above and around. They sank deep into his pores and in through his ears, flowing through his body and to his heart.
And inside his chest something stirred, something he’d thought to be long dead. A tear welled up in his eye, lingering briefly in his vision and blurring the world before him. But she was still there beside him, and as the song reached its crescendo he closed his eyes and released the tear.