The first time he saw her, he was knees deep in the wet soil of the farm, a piglet squealing in his arms and his face coated in mud.
She was skipping so carelessly through the village that he thought he was dreaming. What sane person could act so free when their whole stockpile of food had burned in the recent wildfire? Had she given in and took a sip of the murky river water?
But she was positively normal. At least, she was not going insane from the English river water. The young girl was much happier for other reasons. She was beyond simply giggling, her face flushed in joy.
And as soon as she arrived in the village, the girl had left just as quickly.
The second time he saw her, he was patting the last of the soil on top of his sister's grave.
It wasn't raining nor was it cloudy. The sun was out, the quiet village was awake, and the pigs squealed just as they always had.
He would've cried, he really would have, but he couldn't. He had already used up all his tears on the rest of his friends and family.
And after he set down the shovel, his hand caked in dirt and dry sadness, he saw the same young girl he had seen that summer three years ago. She had grown just as he had. She wasn't skipping and the smile on her face was absent. Instead of the bright brown hair that flowed behind her all those years ago, she wore a hollow black dress.
He never got to say hello, but he did pay his respects to the newly made grave of the village's traveling merchant.
The third time he saw her, she was dressed in white.
He was in the same old, dying village when he saw her crying on what was supposed to be her happiest day.
And despite his face, still splashed with mud, he walked up to her, held out his hand, and asked if she wanted to run away with him.
He thought she would refuse. He thought she'd be disturbed and say she already had someone she loved.
But she gladly accepted his invitation, and as nightfall took over the village, its homes, and its pigs, they stowed away in the forest. They ran away from their problems and tears. They hid together, laughing at the pure absurdity of their situation.
They had forgotten what happiness felt like.
And they were so distracted by their bliss, they ignored the summer's own tears as it ravaged the forest and the village.
For once he was thankful for the village's wildfires.
The next time he saw her, he thought he was dreaming.