When I first came across @gmuxx's contest and @yusaymon's painting, inspiration struck and I started writing immediately. Out poured a story I thought was great, but, just to be sure I walked over to the Fiction Workshop to ask @rhondak for her opinion. She suggested that I submit it at the channel and proceeded to give me the red ink treatment. Nuke... change... rephrase... add... slash... think... change... include... show... chop... rewrite... show.... edits later, here is my final piece! What I thought was good enough is now my current best when it comes to writing! All thanks to @jrhughes, @rhondak, @bex-dk and @jhagi.bhai from the MSP Fiction Workshop for the time and effort they spent on making my work what it is now.
Readers, I really hope you enjoy this resultant piece. Thank you for reading. :)
River photo from pexels.com
Word Count: 1000 (including title)
There was a certain stillness in the air. The only sounds, those of the river, its gentle waves caressing and teasing each rock that stood in their way.
She stood under the tree, eyes turned to the vast space that carried the sky, the river, and the land. She felt a oneness with her surroundings. As her breathing slowed to the relaxing rhythm of the flowing river, everything around her slowly merged: the sound of the water, the smell of the wood, the fragrance of the flowers, the hardness of the soil beneath her, the space around her. She was at the center. The center of all that was peaceful in the world.
As a boat approached, its steady hum disturbing the peace, she let go the comfort of the branches she was holding to, and moved towards the river gingerly. Seeing, yet unseeing, she groped the night air with her delicate hands, gently pushing away the twigs and leaves that danced and greeted her on her path. She walked on, never once breaking stride, her foot falls landing softly and noiselessly on the damp grass. As she neared the river, the tiny smile playing on her lips grew wider.
Once she left the grassy patch behind her, however, she had to stop. She’d reached the edge of the river, and the water that lapped at her toes seemed cold. So cold; too cold.
She imagined whoever was in the boat would be able to see her now. She waited for the welcoming sounds. Instead, she heard only the fading hum as the boat passed on without stopping. She sighed.
Unbidden, the story of her life flashed in her mind for a fleeting second. She shivered in the cold night air. An intense sadness tried to engulf her even as she battled the rising waves of disappointment, but she quickly willed it away. This was neither the time nor the place to reflect over the terrible irony of her life. She had to be in the present moment.
"He will come soon. I have to be patient." She stood by the water's edge, unwilling to go back.
It was almost midnight by the time her patience was rewarded. As she shivered in the damp night's frigid air, rubbing her numb fingers, she heard it! The sound of a boat gliding over the waters and unmistakably making its way towards her.
It had to be him.
Her heart pounding hard in her chest and her whole body trembling in response, she waded into the water.
The freezing cold water stung her legs at first contact. What had she been thinking? It was madness to come out this far, alone!
She came to her senses briefly - before she sloshed in the direction of the boat, beginning to wave wildly.
More sounds, a thin cry she couldn't decipher, a big splash and then another, footsteps hurrying towards her, and suddenly, an explosion of relief and happiness as familiar arms went around her, and the man from the boat was upon her, crushing her in his embrace.
"There, there, my darling. I'm back."
That voice! Oh, how she had longed to hear the sound of that beloved voice! Tears coursed down her cheeks unchecked as she clung to him. Tears that she had held back all this time. Tears of happiness.
He reached out to touch her face softly in the darkness. "Did you miss me much?”
“Yes, oh yesss, my love,” she whispered, overwhelmed. “But you are back now. And that is all I need.” She buried her face into his chest. “Did you find whatever it was that you went looking for?”
As they retired for bed that momentous night, the full moon beaming in the sky, the heavy chill of the river gone, the warmth from the fire taking its place, and everything right with the world again, Andrea held her husband close, and tenderly ran her fingers over his weather-beaten face, feeling the knots in his windswept hair, the texture of his skin, the coarseness of his eyebrows, the delicate eyelashes, and finally his warm lips...
This touch. This was all she had.
It was how she knew him, the love of her life.
For all these years she had not seen him... never once with her eyes!
As the moon continued its long journey across the glowing night sky, and she drifted off into a deep sleep, Andrea’s husband lay awake thinking about his wife of forty years. Tonight, in the boat, his heart had skipped a beat when he saw her. She looked a misty vision by the river. Bathed in the moonlight, wearing a white gown, her long auburn tresses flying in the wind, she looked like a pale, vulnerable, ethereal angel seemingly arising out of nowhere... for him! He felt the pride bubble up inside him. He wanted to hold her tight and never ever let go.
She had asked if he found what he'd gone looking for, but he'd distracted her not wanting her to question his trip's purpose. Not yet. It was a question of faith. His faith.
Ever since he heard all those tales of miraculous healing from a water spring at Lourdes he could think of nothing else. He had to visit Lourdes and try restore his wife’s eyesight. In his old age, he had found yet another purpose to his life.
He combed his hair with his fingers, leaned forward, and kissed her. She didn’t stir. “Yes, my sweet love, I found what I went looking for,” he whispered. He smiled mischievously as he took the bottle of the venerated divine water from Lourdes out of his travel bag, soaked a bandage in it, and laid it around her eyes as instructed.
He rested finally, his happy face close to hers.
When morning came, as the sun poured through their bedroom window, it fell upon Andrea's eyelids and she woke, squinting into the new day...
Painting by Yusaymon