Helena reached into her pocket and retrieved the locket and chain. “Here, then. For safety, Demetri.” She placed the heart-shaped locket in his hand and closed it. “When you find your way back here, find me. Make sure I’m ok.” The clouds broke and the sun came out.
He looked at his hand and the treasure it held. “I will. Thank you.” With that, he left her and headed toward the woods. He turned around once more to see her. To remember her and her kindness. Her innocent smile. He nodded his head as he vanished into the woods.
That was months ago. Helena continued to scavenge, seek safety from the dogs, and barter with the tribe over the hill. Each day was a continual fight to find basic needs. She picked through the remains of a car, retrieving a mirror, a piece of glass from the windshield, and wiring that was exposed and putting them in her canvas bag along with the buttons and shoelaces which she knew could be traded for a good meal. She continued over the familiar terrain and ventured toward the area near the forest. She thought about him from time to time, wondering where he ended up, if he was all right, if he found the place he was looking for. She viewed the edge of the forest where the oaks and pines began, where the sun barely reached, and darkness lived – the place he chose to travel through alone.
In the distance beneath the first oak, she saw something that stood out from the colors of the forest. It was red, or maybe brown; she couldn’t tell this far away. Helena scrambled over the broken wood and pieces of stone toward the unusual color. When she reached it, she gasped and kneeled on the ground. It was a bunched-up piece of dirty plaid material, out of place among the debris on the ground. A memory rebounded as tears streaked down her ashen face. She unwrapped the material, and within the bars of plaid lay her silver locket. “For safety,” she remembered telling him.