The little twigs crushed by his hasty feet, made a cracking noise that did not disturb the wildlife; the inhabitants of the forest were used to this man who lived here most of his life. His smell and posture were as familiar as the trees and large boulders. During the harsh winters there was always food near the red barn of which the white panelling glowed bright in the afternoon sun.
The deer raised her head; it was unusual to see the man running. Her brown eyes watched him disappearing between the trees before she shook her head to chase the flies and continued eating.
He did not slow down, he knew there was something wrong. His heartbeat went up, in pace with his breathing. His heart ached and not because of physical strain although it felt like wading through a swamp, facing a nightmare.
He heard stories about people who relived their lives in the last few seconds before they died; flashbacks. Of happy times is what he wanted, reliving the happy times. The face of the woman he loved with his whole heart, suddenly appeared in front of his eyes.
A bruised face with hollow cheeks and eyes so tired that they remembered him of chased animals. She stood in a corner of his veranda when he woke up to watch the sun rise. She did not move but stood there, her eyes fixed at his face, her chin high, her arms down her side and her back straight. It shocked him and not because he did not expect any human being at his door. No, it shocked him because here was a woman that went through horrible times. Not an accident but brutal violence made her look the way she did.
At the same time he felt a deep admiration for her courage because there was no fear in her eyes. Her whole body displayed courage and her eyes challenged him not to ask any questions.
He invited her in and made sure he was not walking behind her and not blocking the doorway. He saw her looking at the breakfast table and in an impulse, licking her lips. His hand invited her to sit down but she remained where she was and stroke her hair. Although she did not say a word, he knew that her pride made her do this and he went to the stove to boil water so she could tidy herself up.
When it boiled, he left his house and walked to the shore of the lake to give her time and space.
He lost track of time but returned from his deep thoughts about the mysterious woman when he heard footsteps. When he turned his head she stood next to him, dressed in one of his trousers and shirts held together with a string of rope. She carried two cups of hot coffee. He took both so she was able to sit down. She choose the boulder next to him but not close enough for physical contact. He returned one cup of coffee. She folded her hands with the broken nails round the cup and both listened to the sound of the lake, forest and wind.
Like he, she seemed at ease with nature and he wondered where she came from but knew he could not ask.
In fact he never asked anything about her past after that day. She stayed and did not speak for two weeks. It was only when her bruisings healed that she spoke for the very fist time. Her voice was music to his ears. Not light and high as he expected with a young woman with blond hair and grey, almost transparent eyes that never failed to observe her surroundings, but deep and warm, a voice he could listen to for hours.
She did not speak much, only when something needed the attention of both which was not often the case as she knew her way around the house perfectly well.
The first nights of her stay, she slept in his bed and he on the couch. She slept for hours and hours but when she felt better again, she gave him back his bed and insisted to sleep on the couch.
She was always up early, even before him and he knew she first walked to the lake to sit there taking in the peaceful silence that also healed her mental wounds.
She cooked his meals, washed his clothes, kept the house clean, milked the cow and fed the pigs and chickens while he worked in the forest and sold the timber like he already did for many years.
He never thought he could live with someone else in his house; he was on his own since he left his parents when he was a young man and this was 20 years ago. He always felt at ease with no other company, he did not need people to entertain him. He was never bored; his hands were always busy.
But this woman, he did not even know here name, was never in his way. She never disturbed him and never asked questions. She respected him for who he was and also never asked for a favour or for help.
When he finally realized all this, it was too late for his heart that now not only belonged to him but also to her. It came as a shock that he was in love with her. It turned all his emotions upside down which made him feel slightly uncomfortable in her presence and he did not know how to handle this.
She did not show any sings of other feelings than taking care of his household and looking after him.
Until the day he came home earlier than usually. He was very restless and wanted to be with her. He wanted to brake the silence regardless what the consequences were going to be. He could not go on like this. At the same time he was very afraid she was going to leave him when he told her about his feelings but it was a risk he had to take. It would brake his heart if she indeed left and his life would never be the same again, still....
When he arrived home his feet guided him to the lake where she waded through the water, her long blond hair drifting on the surface. He stood still absorbing the view.
She must have felt his presence because she turned her head in his direction. He could only see her naked shoulders which took his breath. She did not move nor did she call him but her eyes showed an emotion he understood.
He did not hesitate, took his boots off and walked in her direction without caring about his clothes.
When he stood in front of her, she raised her hand and unbuttoned his shirt and trousers. He did nothing to help her. He did not notice his clothes floating away with the hardly visible waves caused by her moves.
Then he lifted her in his arms until she folded her legs around his waist.
All this crossed his mind when he ran even faster. Four years passed by, four years of love and intimacy. Years that were so very precious that he could not believe her when she said she knew she was going to die. Of course he noticed she lost weight but she never complained and when she finally mentioned it, it was too late. And now he was so afraid, so very afraid of coming home too late.
He found her near the lake at their favourite spot. He noticed her smile but also saw how much energy this took of her. He kneeled behind her and held her in his arms. She leaned against his warm strong body, her lips touched the soft skin just under his ear and he felt more than he heard “I love you so much....”.
He continued where she stopped: “....beyond my life”.
His cry of grief was answered by a crow and bounced against the trees, floated above the lake until it died at the shore at the other side.
He raised with her closely in his arms and walked to the lake. He did not stop but walked and walked until the last wave disappeared, leaving a perfectly smooth surface.
|Photo: @pekamkinen (Instagram)|
Suddenly a cloud appeared above the water surface and stayed there. He did not know where it came from and could not take his eyes of it.
His heartbeat changed by the loud desperate scream of a crow and he watched the cloud coming down to be dissolved by the lake.
Word of thanks: the photo of @pekamkinen (Instagram) inspired me to write this story and I was given permission to use the photo as an illustration for which I am very grateful. Thank you Pekka!
Links: please visit the Instagram account of Pekka Mäkinen to view his beautiful black and white photo's!
Note: the story is pure fiction! A figment of my imagination!
Note: the story is pure fiction! A figment of my imagination!