In the solitude of the pines and willows, it didn’t seem to matter how his taut, muscled form towered over her small, gaunt one. No one whispered that she was a politician’s daughter, and he had never earned a full education… in the deep forest, it was simply the low rumble of his voice; the silver of her laugh, refugees of uncaring worlds.
Ten years after the tradition began, Finn’s boots crunched through dried leaves as he approached the path, bouquet of Venetian red roses in umber hand. She was waiting, mint-green eyes bright.
“I know, so sorry.” They set off down the path. A light wind rustled the creaking branches and tossed her long auburn hair.
“Do you remember….” he began, slowly. “That summer night, five years ago, when you appeared at my window, and I followed you here even though it was storming, in he dead of night?” She nodded.
“And you took me to the cliffs on the far side of the forest where we had never been before - and began to weep?” Again, she bobbed her head.
“And then you told me that your father planned for you to leave town and marry and move to the city? That he already had a candidate in mind?”
“And you refused to do it, you howled and pleaded, that you wanted to live here - but he was forcing you to leave at dawn, and you would never come back?”
“And then….. you kissed me goodbye… the first time, you kissed me… and told me that you would never leave, not when I was here. You looked so beautiful, like the moon…. and then -”
She stopped and turned to face him. She was still petite and pale, but flaming hair whipped around her face and her emerald eyes shone with the light of love.
“I will never leave - I took an oath that night, and I am still here. Do not doubt me. Until you leave, I will wait for you.” Finn’s breath came hissing out.
“They think me mad.”
“Do you care?”
In silence, they walked on. The dying trees swayed and whispered, leaves spiraling towards loamy earth below. After a quarter of an hour, the air grew cold and thin. Finn shivered, but his companion did not.
“I must leave.” she whispered. “You know that I cannot go there…”
He nodded, then vanished through a curtain of pines. The olive and umber seemed to swallow him.
“I just….” his voice echoed back, as though across eons. Finn stepped into the graveyard, meandered towards the very back, and knelt at a small, white stone.
ISADORA ROSE VERITY
He bowed his head.
“I wanted to lay flowers at your grave.”