Bone dry. Always gone. Look inside the casket? Do you see bones, or are they gone?

Statues do not decay. They are never gone. Do not have any bones.

It is a strange poem he mutters through out the day, hands misplaced among the stone as an encapsulation of flesh over the material wealth of the earth. "Strange how it feels here…" He laughs a hollow resonation over chilling hands. "How cold you are, and how you will never leave." To break the solitude is to feel the strangest emergence of consciousness.

Like bones.

They are a sweet medley of the seasons, like a washing of sins down a river of regret. Woven in the cold is a trace of sand, the desert of the sky collapsing, grain by grain, into a place of malcontent. "You are a sweet one," he laughs, for real this time, not a sound that finds itself bereft.

She, the real one, tosses a look over her shoulder, a trill of black velvet flaring outward like snapping violin strings.

That laugh intensifies, and fills him once more to capacity! "See? Even when you glare in contempt, it is a sign from the great beyond."

Her turn to express glee, stopping, feet crunching into the parchment leaves strewn all over the forest as if every tree were a frustrated poet. "Never contempt!" An echo to inspire the right verse; the oaks can grow again; their turn to express glee in shades of ancient imagined green. "I will never know contempt for you!" Another smile to erase the shades of autumnal orange, the whole forest cheering with the rush of a breeze. "But you are so very frustrating!"

"Am I?" His eyes narrow in that playful, mischievous way, chasing pixies with his eyelashes.

"If nothing else."

"Then I am nothing," he laughs, gripping her around the waist, arms bound, savoring her laughter as autumn sweeps around them like a ballroom dress, his face cradled in the delicate crook of her shoulder. The leaves crunch underfoot; the forest towers like candlesticks, casting licks of yellow flame into the high noon, dulling them into a shade of romance. "And I am no one."

Art rooms are ossuaries. Decrepit and old and full of extinguished life. She lives in the wall like a buried key, hidden away from foreign exiles, disguised as clay, but so ready to unveil her beauty to the rest of the world at the tap of a skilled hand.

Her bones are gone. Statues do not need them. They have even harder stares to suffice, and wits and imagination, if only generated of it, born of those desolate plagues to the artificial mind.

Soft, somehow, in her composition.

She is now a statue, but the question remains in his head, dancing about like a spinning leaf, a lost volume of poetry swept by a seasonal sob at the feet of ancient oaks.

"What am I now, love,…?"

The last part of the query is spun into the endless cycle of his masterful, sculpting hands.

"A match-maker's heaven!" She exclaims, a tone that does not refer to true love, but everything she uttered had a certain amount of sentiment. The oranges that flung themselves into the sky at a single gust spoke of a blazing inferno. Matches – as in the ones you strike, a bud of light blossoming of sulphur – could not have sought out a more comforting bed of possible flame. "Always evolving, do you not see it?"

He glanced over head at the trees, more dazed by the beautiful crispness she added to the air than the actual fragrance of the solstice. Arms outstretched, small and delicate, feet placed in crooked lines, she spun herself about in a pattern that gave way under her toes. Spinning an endless design as the trees flailed above her vision in circles of red.

Arms open to embrace the sky, thinks he, but what does he know about love? It must be so lonely to be caught up so high.

Halos of beauty, halos of regret. The leaves look gray in the studio, but still humming of periodic flame if he glanced beyond the window, watching the reflections slide down the glass. Out there, beyond, far beyond, not like bones, never gone.

"What am I now, love, if not…"

Sleeping against the tree. Did not mean to sleep against the tree. The oak was twice as wide as the young dame, unable to think of the proper poetry to describe her, shedding its efforts over her dress in shades of spiced orange. "Asleep?" His words echo. The woods are gray. Butterflies echo in the distance like the whisper of a hurricane over a bleak country side, batting the air lightly, fluttering, then departing. Her eyes do not.

"… I hope?" He whispers, and knew this time would come. His chest is collapsing like halos over the fallen ones. To kneel beside his beloved is to estrange the appeal of death into a quiet, peaceful lullaby of life.

Colder than bone, she was, she was. Everything she was, she most certainly was. And nothing more, just like him.

He grips her hand, stiffened, and he can not cry, can not leak a shade of expressed emotion within a world so swarming with prose. Her nails are tiny crescents of pearls, chips cast off from the ocean of the perfect, glittering in the sun without temperature. Her hands are wet; her lips are not.

So startled is he when she awakens that his breath surges like an impending storm, rasping his lungs, crunching with the leaves. "You frightened me." "I am not." "Never… Frightened?" "…. The time is coming."

"Frightened?" "What do you mean?"

"… So frightened." "Always."

One with her arms open toward the sky, trying to accept the universe as it was; one with her arms folded over her chest as if hugging something to her, head turned to glance behind, the crook of her shoulder so empty; one seated on the ground, leaves flowing over her dress. The only detail that was not carved of cemetery rock.

The plaque lay on the ground at his feet, just like her on that one day, the day when she always murmured, repeatedly, in a fixation, lost in those leaves, bathing in orange poetry,

"What am I now, love, if not those…"

"I lied," she cried in a final anguish of pain.

The sweat on her forehead was colder than bone. It would be gone soon, and she would be quiet, always so frightened, unable to see the woods from behind her walls – she could not walk, could not think, could not stand, her strength gone, gone like the bones in statues, gone like the…

"No," he whispers, hardly heard over her rasping breaths, rasping like the fear in his throat from so many weeks before. "You never lied."

"I did, I did, and how terribly I lied."

She is shaking, she is cold. She is surrounded in blankets. The fireplace roars with the shades of autumn from only feet away, starlight pouring through the windows like bleeding pinpricks from the sky, so warm that he can hardly breathe. Winter was stealing autumn. "When?"

"Weeks ago. Under the trees –" Can not inhale, she finds. She rests across his shoulder, moonlight screaming from behind the trees. They are stripped of their vibrancy. "Under everything."

"What lie did you tell?"

"I did not speak of frustration. It was… So long, so tiresome! But it was…" His eyes gape imploringly at the fading sylph, finally consumed by the illness they had long suspected, and he can already see the statues he would create to mark her grave, using those skilled hands he was blessed with. "Oh, but what does it matter what it was! What am I now, love, if not those statues above my grave?"

Statues all around, guarding the princess surrounded in soil, drenched in woodland poetry; he had preserved their moments in stone, marking her forever.

"Then I am nothing," He laughs, the sound resonating of the hollow as he grips her around the waist, arms bound, autumn sweeping around them like a ballroom dress, his face cradled in the harsh, stone crook of her shoulder. The leaves crunch underfoot; the forest towers like candlesticks slowly melting into the ground, pools of yellow and orange wax putting diluting high noon with shades of emptiness. "And I am no one."