It was when the leaves changed color. It was when the sea of green became overwhelmed with raucous reds, glittering golds, and burnt browns. That was the first time he saw her.
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He wasn’t exactly sure who she was. She was simply gorgeous. Beautiful. He couldn’t even say if she was real or not. But after the first time, he came back, again and again, to be near her. Sometimes she was there but more often in those early days she wasn’t, and he waited in the cold, autumnal breeze under the stark grey sky for hours. Just until he was sure, there was no hope of her arrival.
He knew without knowing that she didn’t always want to be seen; that after a certain time in the morning she wouldn’t show.
At first, he thought she didn’t see him as he watched her drifting out of the light and through the trees. He began to wonder if he had made her up; that his thoughts had manifested somehow. He began to think that his wish had come true; that he had found someone he could love. It was that instant. He loved her. He was certain. He was incredulous.
But then little things became apparent, and he realized that she was indeed aware of him. She would often leave a flower, a solitary bloom on the path behind her so that he would see it and pick it up. He would hold it close to his heart and breathe in its delicate perfume. He knew that she and the flower smelt the same, like sweet roses and it soothed him throughout the day.
When the winter came, she changed color. She was white and translucent and sparkled like ice in the winter sun. She left him a tiny snowdrop in an empty tree hollow; it was so gracious and so fragile that he took it home and nurtured it. He wanted to keep it alive; he didn’t want it to wither. It didn’t for a long time, and it warmed his heart to come downstairs and see it on the window-sill. It was like she was there in his normal world – a precious piece of magic; a doorway to another dimension; to another world that he could only glimpse and dream of.
When the old year died, and the new one slipped into being, he started to feel that something was missing from his life. At first, it was just a niggle. He would look out of the window during meetings and think of her for a moment. Then they became long moments. He would think of the snowdrop or the rose or the clover and of all the other little bits that she would leave behind. He would lose focus and sigh and then have to drag himself back into the now.
Friends began to avoid him – they didn’t understand him anymore and couldn’t talk to him. He didn’t make sense, and he began not to care about trying to. But as soon as he got home, he would change his clothes, wrap up warmly and wander about the forest. This world made sense to him now. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t the morning. He was desperate to see her; to breathe in her golden hair, her corn-flower eyes and above all, her sound.
She did have a sound, he could hear it now, and it beckoned to him. Bells rang and tinkled, not jarring but smooth and inviting; waterfalls fell. He couldn’t resist her.
One day when the forest began to wake up from its winter sleep, he found her waiting for him. It was by the little clear water stream he used as his thinking place; his secret hideaway. He would sit on a cold grey toad-stool like boulder, take biscuits and dark chocolate pieces from carefully wrapped foil in his pocket and eat them slowly. And think about her.
Only now she was sat where he normally sat, watching him, saying nothing, but smiling. Their eyes connected for the first time and he fell into a world that opened into great streams of light. Shadowy figures danced, trees swayed and spoke, animals sat unafraid just watching him. He could see them, really see them. He was joined to them, not separate. He was them. He could feel their curiosity, feel their calmness.
She blinked then, and he fell upwards, back to where he was. Before. That was the only way to describe it – before – because it was before he became aware.
He knew now that he could never go back to that place where he used to live. He knew now that this was where he wanted to be; with her; with the trees and the sky and the sun and the light. He knew that she was showing him a new realm, a new place where they could go and be together. He didn’t hesitate when she stretched out her hand – he took it and stepped with her through the portal.
Lesley Curtis, Category: Artist, Albums: Looking For The Girl, Singles: Extraordinary, Sally Didn’t Mind, Top Tracks: Sally Didn’t Mind, This Love Of Mine, A Woman Like Me, Leave You Behind, I Don’t Want Your Money, Monthly Listeners: 1, Where People Listen: Irvine