“Promise you’ll love me forever,” I say, drunk on the sweet, sticky tastes of blackberry wine and you. You laugh and pull me into your embrace.
“Is it not enough that I love you now?” And I want it to be but I look deep inside myself and find that it is not. For what surety can “now” provide? My silence brings storm clouds to your brow. “Mortals! Always seeking to ensnare us in your words. You understand eternity no more than a may fly. If you must make a bondage of love, at least make it one I can tolerate.” The words “Till death do us part” rise to my lips but I swallow them, remembering the ease with which your hands, so gentle and soft when caressing me, choked the life out of Bella, my Great Dane, because she growled at you.
The wind howls around my cottage, scattering the leaves I’d so carefully raked into piles. “A year and a day,” I say. For, in my youth, a year feels like a lifetime.
“Done,” you say and you kiss me, your tongue plucking my five words from my lips and leaving the heady taste of your solitary reply.
In winter we lie together on the hearth rug and you whisper stories in my ear, conjuring worlds of centuries past, interrupted only by the crackle of the fire.
Spring passes, our bodies and hearts entwined like bellbind in the hedgerow.
In summer we swim in the river like otters, then bask in the midday sun.
As the pumpkins swell so does my fear. I tell myself it meant nothing but every day I wake terrified it will be our last. Until the howling wind rouses me one morning and the bed beside me is cold, harbouring only the faintest trace of your scent. I rush through the cottage and out into the rain, frantically calling for you but the wind is my only reply. I collapse to my knees by Bella’s grave, the rain masking my tears. Two leaves land before me: one is heartbreak, the other relief.