In The Clearing
“I can taste the rain,” he said.
The clouds had gathered over their heads as they had stood in the clearing, the two of them doing nothing but thinking, nothing but being together. They’d not noticed the blemish that had spilled out across the sky, they were too busy with the simple act of being.
“Feel it in your bones?”
John smiled at her. “Across my skin and tingling down my spine.”
This was their secret place when they were children. After school, on the weekends, whenever they had a moment free, this was where they would come. Hurtling down the hill with arms open wide, screaming with the defiance of youth, this was where they would come.
Tumbling through the brambles and pushing through the branches, searching for the magical spot, arriving where no one else would come. This was where they would spend their days watching the clouds drift across the sky in the day and the stars pass by overhead at night, the two of them content that this was all there ever would be.
“It hasn’t changed,” she said, “and neither have you.”
Lauren wore the long black dress, chosen for solemn occasions such as these, and his jacket was over her shoulders, keeping her warm. Her shins were a light patchwork of scratches, the folly and belief of invulnerability that one could carry over from childhood failing her as they had journeyed here.
“It’s weird being home,” he said simply. He didn’t think he would ever come back, but with events turning out how they had, he simply didn’t have a choice. He loosened his tie, looked up at the sky, and his smile drained into a look of sorrow. “I’m sorry it took me so long.”
She walked over to him, hugging herself warm. “You’re here now.”
“I… I’m sorry for your loss.”
She shook her head. “You’re here now.” Her hand found his shoulder, and she squeezed, and for that instant they were no longer the grown-ups they so much wanted to be when they were young. For that moment, he had just turned fifteen, she was still fourteen, and they were alone in this mystical clearing, where bird sounds carried softly and trees creaked reassuringly.
“I think I love you,” he had said, nearly tripping over the words as a boy in his position so often would.
“Don’t think,” she had replied, and the moment of youthful infatuation faded and time pulled back and they were together, older, wiser, and brought back home by a mutual loss. They were no longer just turned fifteen and still fourteen. They were no longer tripping over words and sending half glances. He stood up as the rain finally burst down from up above, and reached over to her cheek, and instead of turning back the clock, or lingering in the moment, the years passed and they were grey and even wiser, together as the storm broke miles away.