“Cumin, Turmeric, Cayenne, Blueberry,” she whispered. “A dash of each, and all together.”
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Somewhere warm,” she said. “A place where beasts are mild.”
I could see it, the faraway, in her dark eyes.
There was a flower, just one. It grew in a small patch of sun on the forest floor, a tiny splash of pink in last year’s dead leaves, quietly soaking up the last of the spring evening and radiating it back.
“This is how it all begins, you know,” Chloe said. “Just like this.” Her face was clean and clear. “Look.”
She raised a hand and swept it out slowly, tossing light and color into the sky. As it spread, the dirt and the woods were warmed, and the wintertime graves melted. The leaves and grass showed new green; the sky caught fire and bled blue into the lake below it. The water burst into sparkles that obliterated the far shore.
“Can you hear it?” she asked. “Listen.” I heard the sound of a train, far off but coming closer. Air caressed my face, and soft wind carried the voices of everyone that I had ever lost. They were brought back to me on music, and I knew that nothing is ever really gone.
She leaned in close. I smelled the promise on her skin and hair. The flower behind her was a small colored puddle of light.
“Heartbeats are only where it begins,” she whispered. “It’s all just starting. Do you understand?”
I nodded, and she touched my face and kissed me. For a while, we didn’t say anything else.
“So there,” she said, against my mouth.
“So there,” I echoed.
After a long time, she turned away and started walking. I took one last look back at the things I had known, the things that would go on without me, and felt a moment of sadness. Then I turned and followed her.
Behind us, the lake settled again and was quiet; the surface became a smooth looking-glass for the sky. On shore, the dark pines watched for a little while, interested, to see if there would be anything else. There wasn’t, and so the forest gathered in its shadows to sleep. Eventually, the Moon took its strange light and left, and the stars came out to dance their slow, icy trails across the sky, just as they always had.
It was as if none of it had ever happened. If this was a story, it would be ‘The End’, but there are no ends. There are only the clean, cold nights and bright days, the turns of the kaleidoscope, the changing spills of color across everything that was and everything that will be.
The journey with Chloe was enough, and it was never over, not really.