By The Willow Tree

She closed her eyes and felt the breeze brush her cheeks. Save for the chirping of nattering birds and the burbling of the water over rocks it was silent. When she opened her eyes again, the effect was a burst of technicolor as her pupils rushed to adapt to the flood of light.

It was sunny and her legs felt good stretched out in the sun. In a few minutes she would be thrown into shadow as the willow blocked the sunlight. But right now, the colors, the willow, the sun, the birds everything, was the same.

She came here whenever she could sneak away and the weather cooperated. It wasn’t raining that day, it was sunny, and so sunny was what she wanted to wrap herself in…over and over and over again.

Her boyfriend, Carl was nice enough, though like most boys his age, he didn’t have the capacity to invoke a feeling, to interlace it with a memory, and so relive a moment in the depths of the soul.

“What is with you and that brook? “

“It’s my special spot. It calms me.”

One thing about Carl, he knew his limits. He looked at her as if she were an ancient sphinx guarding a riddle, and let it pass. She could imagine him thinking that she was a bit of an oddball. But also, because she was pretty, and a bit wild, he probably decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

And that is exactly why she came here. Because that is why it started. Because she was pretty. And that is why it happened. Because she was a bit wild. She laughed out loud, startling a bird out of the willow. “A bit wild” was a massive understatement.

Her parents found out, because of a stupid text message from dumbbell Chloe during dinner when their phones were on the table. She honestly adored Chloe, even after that. It wasn’t her fault that she wasn’t all that bright.

They had kept at it for too long. Both of their faults really, but her parents were pretty sure whose fault it was and it wasn’t their little girl’s.

“Who cares? It’s not like a career position. She was sobbing softly on his shoulder. So they fire you, but really, It’s not fair, you’re only 2 years older than me. A few weeks from now school will be out and it won’t even matter.”

But it did. No matter that she was 19, no matter that it was consensual, no matter that he was barely a grownup himself. She was a student and he was staff, if you could call it that…part time groundskeeper. It wasn’t even illegal.

He touched her shoulder gently as he got up “I better go now.”

She stayed there, in their spot. In the dark, underneath the willow tree. She had never been here at night before but it seemed like a fitting end to a thing that never should have been a thing.

Those were the last words she heard from him. “I better go now.”

By the next afternoon, everyone was talking about the tragedy. So young, only twenty one years old, working his way through college. People shook their heads, and talked about inner demons and how you never know the pain someone might be holding inside.

Her parents let the thing drop, and they let her go to the funeral. “Her father said, well a coward will always take the easy way out. Best for everyone though.” But as she sat there, watching his stricken father and his mother racked with tears, her heart broke for them and she wanted to tell her father that he had no room to talk. It wasn’t like she couldn’t do the math, her own mother had just turned thirty-five.

And he was no coward. This wasn’t about him. He had sworn once to always protect her, and in the very last act of his all too short life, that is exactly what he thought he was doing.

And so she sat here. Because he didn’t deserve to be forgotten. Least of all by her.

© Glenn R Keller 2023, All Rights Reserved

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