The colourless clearing emerged after the sunset flush of evening had passed, and the inky silhouette of the tree tops that lay frozen against the luminous blue sky of beyond, melted into a formless blackness. The brittle brown leaves disintegrated into the deep undergrowth of the soil as the dark spring leaves began to sprout from the branches of oak that slashed the sky into broken pieces of dark glass. It was the indescribable time between winter and spring, her favourite time of year, when the grove came out of its hibernation and gave birth to new life and colour, and each year I was witness to it.
The grove was her dearest treasure, and she bound to it as dearly as I did to her, as I followed her trace around the corners of harebell patches until, becoming entranced by the maze-like layout of the trees, she became the lifeboat that dragged my inert body back to safety. That was until she died, and along with her went the only map and guide to Jaspar Grove and the only love I ever knew.
She could never handle it as well as I managed to, that’s why they think she did it. Strung up on one of the willow trees, her lifeless body caressed in her thick auburn hair as her small black boots dangled inches from the ground, right across the riverbed where I faced, and above where our darling child lay. Our darling little boy, entitled with the name of the grove, a testament to how much he meant to her. No parent ever expects that their child, so full of life will be outlived by his own creators, but it’s what happened; his pale corpse washing up on the bank so close to where she was, his small coffin too heavy a burden for her to carry. Perhaps it was guilt at the fact she never could find him in time, or perhaps she simply could not bear to face the person she took to blaming every day. The fact of it, is that I never found a note, no reasoning behind her logic and no cause for blame but myself, making the loss of the most cherished individuals I knew, in the space of just a few days, more devastating than could ever have been anticipated.
The truth is that I miss them. So I must come here, every year, at this time, because even a glimpse of what we used to have makes the long journey worth the wait. And I was never to be disappointed. Below the frostbitten waves of willow tree leaves, the shadows and light conspired and overwhelmed the bleakness of the snow and gathered into one beautiful being carrying the beautiful boy Jaspar, laughing. They always laughed. I could never tell if it was sick glee because they were aware of my presence and knew the rift between us meant that I could never be truly among them again, or if it was simply joy that our family could be reunited every year. Nevertheless, they were the fire that could defrost the snow, they were the calm that could hush all the many winds that blow, and they were the life brought back to Jaspar Grove.
However, this time was different. I was not left pondering what she thought of me, when she turned and stared directly at me with forest green eyes that lit up upon seeing me. A small smile leaked to her lips, and she beckoned for me. Her pale white dress eclipsed all the thoughts that ran through my head as I treaded ever closer towards her. Her ruby lips still called for me and her porcelain skin emanated warmth from her rosy cheeks. Her everlasting siren song echoed through my ears as I took my final step and plunged into the deep depths of the riverbed.
Original Image by David Shipton