The graceful butterfly hovered over the most beautiful wild flowers I had ever seen. Mesmerized by the bright colors on its wings my gaze followed the delicate beauty happily fluttering around the unkempt grave in front of me.
It was gorgeous. A silent beauty which had the best of all that the God had ever created. It had brilliance of the sunbeams, a spot of blue from the sky, shades of brown from the woods around, the delicacy of the morning dew, the black of the mysterious night, the golden-yellow of the autumn leaves, the soothing green of the grass, the red, purple, and orange of the flowers around and the unexplainable colors of millions of sunsets.
The roses wrapped in pink ribbon seemed too artificial in front of what lay ahead of me so I quietly kept them on a grave nearby.
The evening sky was splashed with soft fluffy peachy clouds. The trees were gently swaying with the cool breeze. Usually the place was filled with sounds of hundreds of birds as they prepared for the long dark night ahead but on this particular eve an uncanny silence had descended and was slowly merging with the long Grey shadows on the ground.
I noticed that the butterfly had long left the scene and the little flowers were silently gazing at me.
I sighed and looked at the lone eagle flying high in the vast expanse of the endless sky.
“She lived and died lonesome and friendless.”
The soft frail voice startled me. I quickly turned to find an old woman behind me. It took me only a second to recognize her weathered face. I wanted to hug her but did not move.
“Melisa, I….” My voice failed me as I looked into those deep blue captivating eyes.
She simply waved her hand and said in a whisper,
“Walk, it’s getting dark and cold.”
We started walking silently on the gravelled path that led to the main gate.
One last time I looked over my shoulders and felt a kind of chill go up my spine. The flowers seemed to stare at me with questioning eyes. Everything had become absolutely still. Suddenly there was no breeze.
A feeling of unease began to constrict me. The old woman walked slowly and silently. The silence was becoming deafening now. I wanted her to speak but said nothing
We passed the gate of the cemetery and took the road to the village through the woods.
The path was covered with dry leaves which made an irritating crackling sound under my heavy boots. The birds were not so noisy now and once in while a cricket could be heard. The trees stood like mourners in a line along the path sending shivers in my body. For a moment I thought that I was walking with Melisa’s ghost. As if sensing my thoughts, the old woman turned and smiled but her eyes remained expressionless.
I quickened my pace and she took my hand in her soft wrinkled hand. I instantly felt the warmth. My eyes became moist. I wanted to ask her so many things but my courage failed me.
Finally she spoke.
“She stayed all night under the willow tree beside the river. It was a night unlike ant other. The sky thundered and roared and it rained continually for two days after that. Everything came to a standstill. No one had expected such weather at that time of year. It was if the nature was showing its anger through every thing. High speed winds and cold kept most of us indoors. When I went to her home it was deserted. The broken pieces of glass from the windows were scattered all over and everything was wet soggy and dirty.
I went in search of her and found her lying near the river bank unconscious, wet and burning. I called some passerby and we brought her home. It took a week for life to get back into her. She was too frail to even move but ordered us out of her house in spite of our protests. For days she was locked inside and even with my constant knocking on her door she never answered.
Then one day I found her door open so peeped in to find the house exactly the way we had left it or maybe in worse condition before. The villagers saw her walking listlessly in the woods. Like a mad woman she spent her days and nights in the woods, besides the river, in the fields but hardly in the village. Her clothes had turned to rags and she looked like a beautiful apparition. Kids ran away from her and those very people who had rejoiced in her company never even looked at her once.
She waited with patient faith and silent tears, hoping that one day you would return breaking all barriers of place and pride. But that is past.
Dejected, lonesome, pinning for the man who showed her the dreams of a beautiful life, who weaved her hopes with his with promises of undying love and unending bonds of togetherness, she walked the misty paths. On one evening in fall we found her lifeless body where two of you had parted on that fateful night.”
I had listened to the entire story without interrupting her. I felt numb by a pain which seemed to seep into my bones, flesh and entire being. We were standing at the very spot where I had last seen Helen.
It was very dark and cold. I decided to accept her offer to stay with her for the night. We had an early dinner in silence and then in the emptiness of my room she rose from the mists of my memory, Beautiful, charming, and so youthful, her laughter ringing in my ears like a thousand unheard melodies.
I tried to stop the avalanche that was steadily rising inside me, the deluge that was ready to break all boundaries. I closed my eyes tightly to brush away the enchanting vision that was taking an overpowering effect on me.
Somewhere between the struggle with the past and the present sleep took over and a calmness enveloped me.
With the first rays of light I quietly unlocked the door and went straight to our meeting place near the river. The place was completely transformed from what I thought it was last night. Hundreds of wild flowers covered the entire length and breadth of the river bank. The only thing unchanged was the willow tree. It seemed to me that it had bent more in last few years and the branches now kissed the ripples with the slightest breeze. Mesmerized I watched the beauty around me. It had a strange resemblance to the grave site and here also the flowers seem to watch me with their dewy eyes, telling the story of her unconditional love and complete devotion.
I sat there with my eyes closed unable to contain the sorrow and the guilt. As the day light began to dance on the shimmering water and voices of the village folks began to rise above the silence I gathered some buds and half-opened flowers and made my way to the little pagan temple of the goddess of love, near the village.
I knelt and broke down in front of the beautiful image of love which was the witness of many of our promises and words of honor. Offering her the fragrant bunch I whispered to her in a trembling voice, “My love has found her morning and is in your arms. The time has long gone when I could repay her for what she gave to me. I offer you my gift of love that was meant for her, I bring to you those flowers that remained as buds while she waited for them to bloom.”
I placed my head at the feet of the goddess and wept.
Now I lie next to my beloved hoping that the butterfly will gently alight on the colorful wild flowers growing upon our graves.