Found Part Twenty-Eight
Read parts one through twenty-seven here.
“Hello friend,” a voice chimed from far away. A small light flickered in the darkness. As it grew, the intoxicating scent of summer rain enveloped me. “I’ve missed you.”
I didn’t dare hope it was her. The faint flutter of wings became louder as the light approached me. There’s no way it could be her. I couldn’t allow myself to believe that. I watched for an eternity as that light came closer and closer. And then all at once, in all her brilliant glory, there she was.
“Have you forgotten me?” she asked.
“Linnea,” I breathed, frozen in the darkness. I stared at her in full disbelief. “You’re not real,” I mumbled out loud. I stretched my hand out to touch her, but her hazy candlelight glow was just beyond my reach.
“Of course I’m real,” she chirped.
“How are you here? You… you’re gone.” The word impaled my heart.
“I’m always with you, friend.”
“I have a name now,” I blurted out. She giggled.
“What is it?” she asked as she came closer, and yet still just beyond my grasp.
“Nox,” she repeated like a song. “It suits you.”
We stared at each other for a moment, and I marveled at her presence. This can’t be real.
“I’m so happy you remembered me.” She giggled, but there was a sadness in her laugh.
“How could I forget you?” My throat and chest were tight with emotion. I longed to reach for her, but my body would not listen. “But sometimes it hurts too much to remember. It’s why I can’t bear to speak about you.” I looked away from her.
“We can still be secret friends if that’s what you wish,” she answered. It was hard to ignore her disappointed tone.
“No, it’s not that. It’s… I—” It’s the only way I know how to keep you safe. No one can hurt you, or use you to hurt me if they don’t know about you. I dared a peek at her and saw comprehension dawn in her eyes.
“I understand. I’m sorry. I thought you were angry with me for abandoning you.” She looked down, and her shine dulled.
“No…” I whispered.
“But I heard you,” she continued, perking up. “Before I faded away, I heard you say you weren’t angry with me. And I was so happy.”
She smiled, and her dazzling glimmer lit up the whole of the darkness around us. We were on the shore of the pond behind Calum’s cottage. Linnea’s pond. Surrounded by trees, shadows danced along the grass and the water’s surface. The reflection of the sun sparkled in that water, and the breeze swirled around us. She zoomed around the meadow, playing among the wildflowers and skipping across the water. Her joy was infectious, and I couldn’t stop myself from smiling as I watched her play.
“Join me!” She called out, her arms stretched out for me.
“I can’t,” I answered. Even in my wildest dreams, my body still bore the evidence of my agony.
“I’ll come to you, then!” She rested among the petals of a flower beside me. Just as I had imagined her when I first came to this place.
“How are we here?” I asked as I sat beside her.
“It’s your dream. But I would suppose it’s because you felt safe enough to think of me here. You were right. I do love it.”
She smiled at me, and my heart both soared and sank.
“Can I ask you something?”
“I… Do you think I… how do I know if I love someone?”
“Hmm,” Linnea pondered. She looked up into the sun, but yet her own light outshined it. The wind danced in her amber waves. Her wings hung off the flower she perched on. Wings that were once ripped from her body and then thrown at me while she bled to death. “I think you do.” She turned to look at me.
“But how do I know?”
“Loving someone happens in many different ways. Love can be complicated like between your friends Cyrus and Dasha. Sometimes it’s as easy as remembering someone even though it hurts to,” she said with a playful twinkle in her eyes.
It was that sparkle that broke me. Every emotion I had repressed burst forth, and I was a sobbing mess.
“Please forgive me,” I blubbered through snot and tears. In that instant, I was that little battered boy in the cell who had seen light for the first time. “He only hurt you to punish me. If I had sent you away, this never would have happened. I tried to stop him, but I wasn’t strong enough. I’m sorry, Linnea. I’m so sorry.” My plea for her mercy came out in loud, strangled sobs. Years of torment laid raw and bare before her. Her eyes grew wide, and she floated off her perch towards me. Her tiny hand rested against my cheek and I was awash with a soothing sensation.
“Shhh,” she cooed. “Is that how you’ve felt all this time?”
“If… if you had known,” I hiccupped, “what would happen to you… because… because of me, I know you never would have—”
“You stop that! Do you think I’d be with you here now if I wouldn’t?”
“You were all I wanted,” I wept. “You were all I wanted, and I couldn’t save you. How is it possible that you don’t hate me? That you don’t regret ever knowing me?”
“Because I love you… Nox.”
She flitted up to my forehead and felt what I recognized as a promise. Vibrant bliss ran in my veins. The fact that Linnea loved me was not something I knew through her own admission. It was a weapon used against me. It was a method of torture and punishment. I was always told she loved me… and that she died for it. Her love for me was always what killed her. Hearing her say it, yielding new feelings. There was a power I didn’t understand. Cyrus said love was the oldest and strongest source of Magic. Is this what he meant?
“I…” I wanted to say it, but the words felt foreign to me.
“You don’t have to say anything,” she whispered.
I want to.
“I have to go.” Her eyes filled with tears.
“No! Please don’t go.” I cupped my hands around her, and she nuzzled my palm.
“I have to,” her voice quivered.
“Please don’t leave me.” Not again.
“I’ll never leave you, but I have to go.” She escaped my grasp and floated far above me. I stood and reached for her. “Goodbye,” she called as she flew further away. “Goodbye, Nox.”
“Linnea!” I called back. “Please don’t go! Please! I love…”