“I’ve already resigned myself to solidarity,” he said, turning to her, blue eyes staring back at him.
“Then you are a coward,” she returned, a fierce look that rode against his self-defeated nature.
“Am I a coward for knowing how it will end?”
“No—for thinking you know what will happen. Don’t look away.” She gently laid her fingers on his jaw, and turned him back.
“It’s not worth it.”
“What are you afraid of?” she hesitated. “You look at me and see a haunting presence. Yet I look at you, and I wonder if what you feel makes you more a ghost than I, the emptiness inside.”
“I’ve lived through it before—not again.”
She slumped back in her seat. “The path is there for a reason, but you’re afraid to step off into the dirt, where the birds are, singing as they sit and watch your broken stride.”
“It’s a safe path.”
“And yet it has entrapped you within that safety.”
He could do nothing but breathe deeply, looking into her now pale eyes, fallen from their once vibrant blue—like clouds against the sky. Eventually that breath rose from a soft steadiness to a quickened pace. His heart pounded, and he could feel his blood pulse through his neck. It brought about a chocking sensation as he inhaled the humid air of the room.
“So what can I do?”
“Learn to let go—this pain, your guilt and hesitation…”
“Is that why you’re here now?”
“You cannot hide from this forever. No matter what you do, it will follow you—and so will I—always.”
“So it doesn’t have to consume my life?” he asked. “I’d be able to ignore it and move on?”
“You’ll need to live for the both of us,” she whispered. “Let me see the world through your eyes, but it doesn’t have to be a burden.”
“It feels—wrong, somehow…”
“That’s how it should feel when you turn back from looking where you already walked. Moving forward is hard—stepping off, even harder. But if you turn around from this point forth, it’ll lead you to nothing but an ever darker abyss.”
He nodded, and finally turned away. This time she did not stop him. There was paper on the desk, an old-fashion quill besides it. He picked it up, and wrote:
He then folded the sheet into thirds, and set the “letter” into an envelope. On the back, he wrote a name. When he stood, she had disappeared. Nothing now remained but the memory, and the smell of her perfume.
It took him about an hour to drive from his house to the yard, where he would again find her sitting under a willow tree, once her favorite. Though this tree bore no leaves, its branches twisted in recent years.
He knelt down and laid the letter in her cold, stone lap. His hand shook the whole way; and once it landed, he pulled away.
Another gripped his arm.
“She’ll always be watching,” Belle spoke next to him.
“I know,” Bren accepted. “We’ll never truly be alone.”
“That’s the truth of it,” she said, eyes fallen to the grave. “And we’ll come back—if you want.”
Bren turned to Belle, and smiled. “Only her body is here. She’d not want me to look back—just to keep stepping forward.”