|Untouched by Frost
Author: Jean Olivier PM
And if you sit in the cabin, in the silence, close your eyes, you can almost hear it, the sound of quiet footsteps, dull and slow and rhythmic.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Hurt/Comfort/Spiritual - Words: 970 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Published: 10-15-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3065760
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
There's a grave up on the hillside, overlooking the field and the houses below. And there's an old man in a cabin with his name engraved upon that stone, his name and that of his wife of sixty plus years, now several years buried up on that hill. And there are dates, two of birth and one of death.
And if you sit in the cabin, in the silence, close your eyes, you can almost hear it, the sound of quiet footsteps, dull and slow and rhythmic. But the old man's in the garden, just below the house, tending his plants by touch and memory, his sight long since faded.
And you can almost smell the tea, fresh and minty, as made from the plants that grow by the stream just down the way. But there's no tea in the house, and no sprigs of fresh mint with which to make it. And if you open your eyes, you know you'll see the teapot, hanging where it always hangs, on the wall, dusty.
But maybe, maybe if you open your eyes, you'll see her. But you don't, because you're certain that you won't, and you want to imagine for a little longer. Because she should be in the next room over, doing laundry, leaving the teapot on and forgetting about it just like she always does. And if you open your eyes, she won't be there, and she should be.
And it comes, high and piercing, just like it's supposed to. The teapot, because it's on again, just like it should be. Eyes fly open, panic, shock. But it doesn't stop you getting a cup out and filling it with the hot water, finding a teabag because there really isn't any mint around.
You turn off the stove and make a mental note to get some.
The house is silent as the grave, a layer of dust has gathered on the table and looking out the window, you see the garden full of weeds, the gate rusted and in need of repair. With a sudden chill you step outside and close the door, walk in silence up the hill.
The air is chill and carries the sound of rustling water to your ears. There's the faintest hint of frost in the grass and on the stone. The earth is fresh disturbed, the grass not yet covering the spot. There's a grave before you on the hillside. With names and dates, two of birth and two of death.
The breeze carries the scent of mint and the slightest hint of music, sad pipes carried on an ancient wind. You'd ask why they didn't tell you, but you all ready know. "I've been away a while," You say, voice soft and gentle, with only the faintest sigh of grief. "I'm sorry I came back too late." And the sound of pipes grows clearer and turning towards the tune you see the faintest trace of footprints, bent and frosty grass.
There's no piper and you know it, but it doesn't stop you moving. The music is slow and rhythmic, some might take it for sad. And it leads you to the river and the dark swirling waters below.
"What's that supposed to mean?" You ask the air and the water and the trees. But the music stops and the wind carries no reply. The river runs deep and cold and gives no hints of answers. You look down, start to turn and walk away. Your eyes alight on green. Fresh mint grows by the river, untouched by frost.
The world is wide and varied and the days and weeks and months fade into years. There is so much to see and to do, in this world that moves so much. You don't think much about the past, it has, after all, passed.
The first time, there's shaking, hurried, trembling, terrified words. She shakes you awake, her voice high, she is clearly frightened. You wake almost instantly, heart racing, and you rise from the bed, follow her down the hall to the kitchen.
The room is bathed in frost, though the window is closed and when you look outside, you see a warm and sunny day without a hint of chill. "Huh." You say, because it seems like you have to say something. "That's interesting."
There's a lot of semicoherent chatter in your direction after that, none of which makes any real sense to you. Because you aren't shook, you aren't frightened. Perhaps a little surprised, but not terribly so.
Later, you guess that that's what it is that she can't understand, or can't deal with. She's gone the next morning, and you can't truly bring yourself to care. You leave the morning after, a mint leaf on the table calls you home.
There's a young woman in the garden, but she greats you with a smile as you come up the path. You amble down to great her, and she chatters amiably, assures you that you're always welcome, that there's a bed ready, if you'd like one.
You stay a while, days passing to weeks and weeks to months. You fix the gate, repair the roof, it's little things you do. You walk by the river in the afternoons, picking herbs and teaching her the ones that heal, the ones that are poison, and how to make tea.
You wake one morning and there's frost outside, and suddenly it seems like the walls are to small and the ceiling too low. The world is wide and open and inviting. You leave that afternoon.