You promised to meet me, as you always did, on the Lilac Road.
Ever since we were young, we’d meet at the first breath of spring, when the earth sighed forth its buds and bright colors. When it shared the vivid secrets it’d been hiding all winter. When the lilac fell like laughter from the boughs, and it seemed like anything was possible.
We’d walk slowly down the road, treading lightly, the fragrance rising around us as we dreamed and planned for the future.
Well – you did most of the planning.
I was perfectly happy to listen as you plotted your course through life, naming all the far-flung places you’d visit, the landmarks you’d check off, the footsteps of the greats you’d be following in. And your voice would lift and dance in wonder at all the marvels still to see.
But you, and the Lilac Road, were marvels enough for me.
Then we grew older, and when the lilac withered and the summer came, you would leave. Chasing your adventures and gathering memories like all those fireflies we caught on warm evenings. You asked me to come with you and oh, how I wished I could, but my family, and the harvest, needed me too. So you went and I stayed, to tend the earth, to coax forth her gifts, to make the land beautiful for your return.
Each summer you would leave, and at the first snow you returned, but every year you stayed longer. Ventured further, braved the long way home, took the most scenic of routes so you could keep filling in your map. There were so many corners to smooth, rivers to ford, precipices to conquer.
And while others relished the summer with its fruit-ripening sunshine, for me – when you were gone – it dragged, and I longed for the cold embrace of winter, and your return. You’d fold me into your cloak, smelling of woodsmoke and wandering, and tell me of your exploits, of all the wonders you’d seen.
The snows would come, and winter blurred into one long, fur-wrapped night, our bodies and stories tangled together in our warm bed. And at the first sign of thaw, I would go to the Lilac Road and tend the vines, prune the branches, offer a silent prayer to the gods that they might bless this road and all who walk upon it.
The days would lengthen, and the buds would creep forth from the loamy soil, and while I rejoiced in the coming of the blooms, in my heart I dreaded your leaving.
Our walk on the Lilac Road was our last moment together, our last vivid instant before the world took you from me.
And now here I stand, the petals falling all around, the sun dappling through the branches, and you are nowhere to be found.
For this autumn was different.
The nights stretched endlessly. The snow and ice came, hardening the earth, seeping into my very bones. The wind swept the warmth from the world, just as it swept you across the seas. Not even the first trickle of the mountain streams could thaw my fear.
For you have not returned.
Yet here I stand.
And I’ll tend the roots, the stalks, the blossoms, from bud to husk, and wait for you, as I always have. I’ll dream of your voice like sunlight on water, your mind bursting with ideas. I’ll picture us together, here, on the Road.
Just as it should be. Just as I promised. And just as you…