I stood on the grassy bank overlooking the road. It was still, with little wind and the trees overhanging where I stood hung silently. A small crowd had gathered nearby, but I stood apart from them quietly in my own thoughts, hardly knowing what to expect. I waited, for I knew that you would come this way.
Memories. Of warm cornfields, wind-blown coastlines, wide skies and laughter. Quiet smiles and squeezed hands, not secret but personal. Just for us. A passion that enveloped the soul and shut out the world. I waited. I knew that you would come this way.
I saw you coming. You would pass by right below where I waited. I watched as you slowly drew closer, you and your little entourage. A carriage with big, spoked wheels and gilt trappings drawn by two fine horses, men walking before and beside it, a few walking behind, all at a slow pace, dignified.
I watched as you drew closer amidst the small gathering. I could feel my heartbeat, my shallow breathing. I could feel my memories. I could feel yours too.
Now I could see you more clearly, dressed finely in white. The coffin was open, lined with ivory folds. Flowers had been placed around you. You lay with your hands clasped together, your hair carefully folded over a silk pillow. I could see your face, your hazel eyes. You looked beautiful, lying quietly there, quite still.
I watched as the carriage came below and before me, and I watched as it slowed, gradually to a crawl as if the world was falling into slow-motion, and then everything stopped. The scene before me held still, like a film paused, people caught in mid-step, in momentary expression. There was not a movement. The figures, the horses, the whole landscape caught in a moment of time. Except for me.
I walked slowly down the bank, reaching the road where your carriage rested. The faces of the people in black were motionless. I approached the side of your carriage and stood looking down at your face, your beautiful hands, the shape of your body, your full lips as beautiful in death as they were in life. Your eyes were open, but they did not see. Your beautiful hazel eyes. And then I wept, tears of loss, tears of what was and would no longer be. I wept for memories, I wept for me. And I wept for you.
I felt the weight in my pocket as I looked into your unseeing eyes, your features blurred by the tears in mine. The weight was cold and hard. As I held the grip of the gun in my pocket tightly, I heard your voice.
“You don’t have to do this,” you said.
I could not swallow for the tightness in my throat, and my tears flowed again. I stood there at your side and you were so still, so peaceful. The world had stopped. Nothing moved. I pulled the gun from my pocket and held it as I looked at your beauty.
“I do,” I said. “I must, as I will always love you.”
You said, “I know, I love you too. I always will.” So many memories. My heart ached for them. The barrel of the gun felt cold and hard against my teeth.
We stood beside the coffin and I felt you slip your hand into mine. You looked up at me and smiled. I could feel your warmth. You squeezed my hand, and I could feel your soul. Your white dress hung loosely to your ankles, your dark hair falling loosely over your shoulders, as it always had. I closed my hand around yours and gazed into your bright, deep and beautiful eyes, warm again, seeing. The love I felt for you flowed like a tumbling stream.
We looked down at you lying there among the folds of ivory silk, still and cold. And we looked at my body too, lying beside the carriage where I had fallen. All around us the world was motionless, quiet, still. I put my arm around your waist and held you close, remembering how you felt.
We did not need to speak. We both knew. It was not a sadness. As one we both stepped forward and upwards. Our hands clasped together we climbed, slowly step by step, an invisible stairway. We stepped upwards and the scene behind and below us diminished, fading as together we climbed away from our mortality.
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