When Veige met Flora for the first time, he was wearing a plain mask adorned with red asters and blue hydrangeas that covered almost all of his face. It had been out of curiosity that he approached the little lost black-haired girl in the forest, who wore a dirt-covered collared shirt and a pair of torn-up shorts. He didn't expect her to spot him and initiate a playful game of tag. And he most certainly didn't expect her to actually catch him.
Out of breath, he pried off her grip from his shirt and was about to dash away before she spoke. Her voice brought an involuntary smile to his usually emotionless face as she shyly said, "I like your flowers, Mister. They're very pretty. But why are you hiding your face?"
Veige ignored her question, but he decided that he could at least honour the praise by showing her the way back to town.
It took seven more years until Veige, who thought that yellow bougainvillaeas and sunflowers would be great for the day, found Flora again. This time, she was crying underneath Grandfather Oak, the largest tree in the area. The little girl was a bit older, with a sharper face, longer hair, and larger limbs. Instead of the attire she wore when she was younger, she had a blue dress with a noticeable dark stain on its lower hem.
With a bit of worry, Veige crept closely towards Flora and tapped her on the shoulder. This time, he was slightly more prepared when she flung out her arms and wrapped them around him in a sobbing hug.
"I hate my parents!" she began angrily once her tears stopped pouring out. "For once, why can't they let me choose my own life?"
Veige did his best to console her, even if he was probably the worst person to go to for these kinds of things. He didn't mind her so much this time, although he was a bit upset at the watery blotch that clung to his clothes after she let go. When she asked to see his face again, he shook his head gently and urged her to go back home.
Their third meeting took ten years to reciprocate, but Veige thought it was worth the wait when he saw Flora in a beautiful soft pink gown that reached down to her ankles. On that day, he hid himself behind a mess of white primroses and daisies that he weaved into his hair, dotted with tiny baby's breaths that tickled his nose every so often.
Her laughter tinkled in his ears as she pointed at the flowers and asked, "Why are you still hiding behind them? Are you just too shy to see me?"
Veige wished he had picked a darker colour scheme so he could conceal the furious blush that rose on his cheeks.
Only three years passed by when Veige and Flora had their fourth meeting on a particularly cold day. All Veige could find in the midst of winter were withered flowers, all of which he collected and painstakingly arranged into a bouquet. The pure white dress that she wore reminded him of their previous meeting, but instead of bringing him joy, it only carved an upsetting hole in his heart.
"I'm going to be a winter bride," she stated gravely. For a while, he thought that she would break down in tears, but she merely clutched her own bouquet of multi-coloured blooms that he didn't bother to identify. The silence seemed to stretch on forever between them before she whispered, "Could I at least…see your face once? As a wedding gift?"
Veige would forever regret the fact that he ran away from her that day.
Now, on their fifth and last meeting, he saw a Flora that was so different compared the bright, youthful woman from more than sixty long years ago. The Flora of today had a thick black shawl wrapped around her frail shoulders and sat in a wheelchair that seemed to swallow her body whole. In her lap, there was a single red rose in full bloom.
Once he realised that Flora had once again come to visit him, he had his back turned towards her. For once, he had no flower-adorned mask; nor was his hair tangled with them; nor did he hold a bouquet over his face. He only needed to shift his body a few degrees to show himself to her – to give her the reply he had been avoiding in all of their previous meetings.
"I thought that you would still be here after all those years," she murmured in the same voice he heard many years ago – only this time, it was much softer, like the sighs of a passing breeze. "I wonder if you won't mind now, if I see your face?"
Veige turned around and met the bright blue eyes of Flora, the cheerful little girl – the independent youth – the romantic bridesmaid – the sorrowful bride – and now, the timeworn old woman who smiled at him as if they had never parted ways.
"Ah, I knew it," she said after a while. "You're still the same. Still the same Veige I know."
And when Flora closed her eyes and slept for one last time, he took the rose in her lap and pressed his lips on her cold cheek.
It was the day the forest cried.
Has been posted on Storywrite since quite some time ago. Haven't been edited since then.