This story is one of the August Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
Nothing will ever be as beautiful as this summer we’ve had together.
From the second you stepped off the train all the way through to right now, weaving our way around whispering forest trees, every moment and every memory we’ve made over the last three months has been perfect. Days filled with oceans of laughter, twilights laced with nectar-sweet kisses, and midnights simmering with secrets, hopes, and dreams rush back and forth through my mind like the stream flowing alongside us.
A stolen glance at your face, etched with a smile, tells me you’re thinking of it all too.
We’ve spent so many summers together like this, yet somehow when I look at you, you always remind me of spring. Hair shining like the midday sun and eyes as bright and full of hope as daisies bursting through morning dew. I’m almost surprised sometimes that flowers don’t blossom in the tracks you leave behind you.
As though sensing my thoughts, your hand curls just that little bit tighter around mine. We continue our walk together in companionable silence, our footsteps falling steadily into the rhythm of the forest around us.
It really is beautiful here. I don’t think any other place would have been more fitting to enjoy our last hour together.
Despite the sunlight seeping through the foliage above, the reminder that you’ll be leaving soon overshadows me like a raincloud. I’ve been trying to push away my fears about you going, but there’s no denying the bittersweet, tell-tale scent of autumn that’s recently been lingering in the early morning air.
I’d always adored the equinox before — how it replaces blossoms with berries and changes the trees from emerald to amber. Now it only serves as a reminder that you, like the leaves on those trees, will break away from the branches of my embrace until I am left bare and braving midwinter snows alone again.
It’s funny, I think, how love changes the way you look at things.
Even the seasons.
It takes a little time for me to notice we’ve stopped walking. Confused, I look up at you, and the smiling face that was there just a few minutes ago has been replaced with one full of worry.
That’s when I realise I’ve been crying.
Before I can dry my eyes, you step in closer to me, cupping my cheek with your free hand. Your thumb gently strokes away my tears, and you rest your forehead gently against mine. I can hear the steadiness of your breathing amid the quiet of the forest. Feel the beat of your heart in the breeze.
I want us to stay entwined like this forever.
As if mirroring my melancholy mind, the sunlight above disappears in a congregation of clouds. It’s not long before the fine drizzle of rain accompanying it becomes a downpour so strong that I can no longer tell the difference between the raindrops and tears that run together down my face.
Within seconds, you’ve pulled off your jacket and wrapped it around me. You shout something over the rain that I don’t quite hear and start pulling me hurriedly towards a towering tree just a short distance ahead. Your shirt is already soaked through, and I know you must be freezing, but as you turn to look back at me, I can see that you’re laughing.
Even in the depths of my sadness, I can’t help but laugh too.
We reach the tree, and you push aside the lowest branches with a sweep of your arm, gently guiding me under the leaves into shelter. You follow behind, still laughing, and run your hands through your dripping wet hair.
Just that simple gesture alone takes my breath away, let alone the kiss that comes soon after.
One of the last that we’ll share before you leave.
I hold on to the kiss — and on to you — for as long as I can, trying to commit the moment to memory. The feel of your lips on mine, the way your indescribable scent mingles with the forest air, the pattering sound of raindrops on the leaves surrounding us…
… My fight to hold back further tears as I silently promise myself that, no matter how long you are gone for, no matter how much time it takes, I will wait for you.
Even if I become buried by autumn leaves, frozen in winter snows, or drenched in the first rainfalls of spring, I’ll be here, under this tree, waiting for you.
Waiting for you to come back to me in summertime and warm my heart once again.