I have thought about sharing this for a time — months, really. And today I’ve decided to go ahead and share it. It’s a first draft, part of the opening chapter of one of the projects I’m working on. Working title: “Disparate Threads.”
(For an out-of-story glimpse at Ayrella and the others she interacts with, check out my exploration of what is happening when the story-writing stalls out)
Ayrella stood on the edge of the cliff, her eyes turned to the rocks below. The ocean raged, energized by storms brewing miles away, hurling the blue-green water against the rocks with such force that a spray of foamy-white mist roses halfway up the cliff’s face. But aside from the waves there was no sign of storms. It was strange, Ayrella reflected, that the ocean could be in such turmoil and the shore could be so perfectly calm. A gentle breeze lifted just a few strands of hair away from her face and gently ruffled her skirt. The sky was a pure, clear blue that allowed the sun to shine clearly, warming her face.
She wanted it to be stormy, with a wind that would blow her long brown hair all around her face and tangle her skirt. She wished for the downpour of rain that would soak her clothing, adding the physical weight of heavy clothes that would make it a challenge to take even a few steps. Lighting, cracking through the darkened sky, sending bits of light and excitement through the air — that was the weather that should have filled the day. That was the way the weather should have been over the past month, if she had been able to control it.
Instead, there was that infuriating calm, the kind of weather that made for a perfect day to stroll in the parks. A beautiful day for a picnic on the beach, or a leisurely ride through the woods. The kind of days that Henrich would have loved. He was always out riding, hunting, painting, or just watching the clouds and allowing himself to be lost in daydreams. Nothing would have kept him inside, it was true that he would have ventured out even in the worst of storms. But the days that he preferred, the days he adored, were the picture-perfect ones like this. Days that he would never get to see again.
Days she wished that she never had to see again.
Days that, infuriatingly, reminded her of him. Not that she needed the days to remind her, it seemed every moment reminded her of him. His spirit lurked in the corners of the cottage, nestled on the edge of the woods, his books and paintings filling the walls. When she stood in the kitchen preparing a meal, she swore she could hear him as he moved about the small space and it tugged at her heart to turn and find no one there. Even buying produce from the local farmers would bring to her mind echoes of conversations that they had held over the seasons, mundane conversations about prices and the impact of weather on the crops, but those conversations were enough to open the floodgates of tears. More than once she had found herself being comforted by one of the woman from the village, or even, a few times, by the hardened old farmers. It was the farmers who tended to be the best comforts, if she were to be honest. They, who had lived hard lives and lost much, knew that there were no words that could help, and would just be there with her as she tried to expel the grief through her tears.
And now, as she had followed the pull to the cliff’s edge, she wished the day had not been one that reminded her so thoroughly of Henrich. She wished, instead, that the weather would mirror her own grief, her own pain. It would have been a considerate gift, but she had long ago learned to stop expecting such things from the Gods. Her ten seasons with Henrich had been a gift, but they had not been easy. The common saying at the union of two people was, “May the Gods bless you in the seasons to come,” and Ayrella knew that all such wishes had fallen hollow and empty to her own ear, such prayers could not be answered.
But now that was in the past, a raw and recent past, but a past she must let go. Henrich would never again smile up at her from his paintings. She would never again hear his laugh as they raced down the empty road to the village, shouting like children. His arms would never again hold her close, the heat of their bodies keeping them warm through the cold winter nights. A mere ten seasons, in a string of a countless number of seasons, but Ayrella knew that no matter how many more seasons she had, they could never come close to the gift that her time with Henrich had been, blessed by the Gods or not.
With a breath Ayrella closed her eyes. Now was the time for her to leave this land, this place that would forever remind her of her sadness over losing Henrich. Taking a few blind steps forward she allowed the air to catch her as her feet left the rocky edge. Allowing it to carry her where it may, perhaps out to the storms that she so longed for, waiting further out at sea.
The air caught her, carrying her from the cliff and cradling her in a soft blanket of clouds. Light, full clouds that appeared from the light mist of the waters. The wind whispered around her, full of gossip and song, muttered phrases she could not quite make out. But she relaxed into it, knowing that this was needed. Her breath slowed as she floated along, becoming a part of the sky. There was a part of her that wondered what would be seen should someone on the beach look up. Would they see her, soaring through the sky, making her way to the distant storm like a bird that had lost its bearings? Or would they see nothing but the sky? Had she so become a part of the day, like those days that Henrich adored, that she was nothing more than a wisp of clouds floating gently through the air.
But no one on the beach looked up, not an eye was lifted. They were too busy, as they always were on the fifth day of Giproth, setting their cares and worries into the waves. To be sent to the gods of the water, in hopes that the worries would be lessened, the hopes fulfilled. It was an annual ritual and Ayrella felt it fitting that today was the day she should take this step. She knew that today her hopes and worries were all tied together, carried in her heart. And it was her whole being that she sent to the gods of the water, and the gods of the air. She knew, if she relaxed and let the wind take her, that she would eventually come to the place where the two met. The place where land and water and air met, in a distant horizon that none but the gods could ever reach.
That was where she was going, and she let herself drift in the knowledge that she was needed. That Henrich’s passing was a sign, a signal that the time had come for her, at long last, to return to that place. Changes abounded, already she had the dreams, heard the whispers, that things were stirring. Across the worlds, the seeds of their beginning were being planted. And, although she had been told she would never be able to return, that her own choices had forever separated from the Horizon Lands, she now felt the pull. She clearly heard the call. And she trusted the wind to remember the way.