Under normal circumstances I would have watched the sun set behind those golden hills. Stepping toward the amber safety, that icy sea air from behind me circled around my legs up towards my face slapping me into clarity. I had to go the third direction, into the forest. Forget the golden hills, turn away from the rolling sea. It was time. If I didn’t do it now, it would never happen.
When I made the decision to turn away from the cerulean water, I knew I would go through with the whole plan. As I stood and watched the waves slosh against the rocks, I thought of the last time. We stood here together. But that was a long time ago. The last time I saw him he simply turned and walked into the woods. Every time I hear that sound my heart slows a beat leaving room for his return. But I know that won’t happen. He made the sacrifice and he can’t leave, I’m sure of that.
That night he told me he would light a fire when he was done. That way I could find him. He would leave a note with the instructions under the rock next to the biggest tree nearest the fire. I could find that. I waited the agreed upon amount of time and turned my back to the life giving water. As I looked down the path into the woods, I could see a small but distinct flame. I began my journey into the dark.
I never could decide if I liked those red giants more than the blue green basin. Each held its own magic. As I padded through the trees climbing over the fallen great ones with as much of a beeline as possible towards the flames, I could smell their balm entwined with the musty smell of the smoke. I knew there he had success. I wanted to hurry as fast as I could. To join him again. To know that he was safe, but I didn’t want to be seen either. So as I covertly moved between branches and stumps, pausing behind boulders, my eyes began to focus on the flame more intently. It grew larger as I neared the epicenter of the deed. He told me to be cautious when retrieving the note from under the rock. I was not to read it until I was undercover again. Read it quickly and follow the directions precisely. I didn’t really need to read the note. We wrote it together. It was just policy. Just in case something happened, someone would follow me and continue the journey.
It didn’t take me long before I spotted the rock and grabbed the note. I was unaware that my breathing had become so heavy. I sat trying to calm myself in the dense underbrush. I was ready to start my trek further into the forest as my eyes strained in the light of the fading fire to read the already known words. I couldn’t believe what it said. For a moment I thought I might have found the wrong rock. But how many rocks could there be next to the biggest redwood near a dying fire? It was his handwriting. I had to do what it said. It was policy. It didn’t matter what had gone before nor what plans were conceived. Everything changed in an instant. I was safe. I didn’t have to hurry. They had what they wanted. And I would never see him again. As the note crackled in the last of the flame, I picked up the rock and walked out of the forest.
Now you know why the smell of wood always evokes such mixed feelings in me.
This piece came from a prompt from our writing group, Wednesday Afternoon Writers. I kind of like it so I thought I would post it here, too. If you want to see what the others wrote, visit our Facebook page: Wednesday Afternoon Writers.