And then we had lost each other within the trees. The moment slipped away as quickly as her shadow, passing onwards through the breeze. I craved the warmth of the Château Haut-Barr once more, leaves falling through the cracks in its walls, our souls simply kindling for the hungry fire to burn. But I was alone in the murk of trees, all of whom leaned and whispered to each other of plans to hinder our onwards progress. My foot inclined, the land rising. I was drawn uphill in the way that others are drawn downwards. The air parted, filled with a heavy mist of autumn debris. She was nowhere to be seen.

Whip, snap, crack: her?

No: a raven. Gliding between the branches, allowed through as an emissary.

There was a sorrow between us, flourishing as I felt her further away. I missed her but was glad she was gone. This was the sorrow. I could give her to these pines and drift through the air, back to the Château Haut-Barr peacefully. The bark climbed upwards, dreaming of never-never. For an instant, I thought the air was blue like a postcard from the Gottenhouse bureau de post. Our map was unwinding, a cartography of nothing. Let her run, she will be well in the end.

The cold enters my throat, a dry drink of air. A forest ends as a path begins. Bordered by leaves, no less! And pine needles too, probably. The sort to crochet with; thin and hooked, the makers of unwanted scarves and such. I scrunch my shoes from side to side, the crunching sound travelling, perhaps to where she is or at least was, in some century far away. The dark leather dusted like patisserie; white chalk and stone.

Blast, for those games. Shoes ruined, only just polished, this morn of our Lord.

I can hear a cry, her voice. She is lost and knows, having been versed deeper into the woods, of such facts as the inverse height of the highest tree in comparison to its curious root system. The highest is, by chance, per chance even, the loudest. We fail to hear such screaming of tree roots, compacted into the ground and silenced by the soil. It is the cause of the mole’s madness and the worm’s thankful deafness among other such natures that writhe. She heard their screaming briefly and wanted to return, to my side with dusty brogues, ruined on the path with lonely games. I am happy to oblige, though ill prepared, checking the hour which ticks threateningly on at the end of a gold chain.

Her body glides down the hillside, through the trees which dare not hold her back with wooden arms.

Dare not, even slightly, or an axe will hitherto!

A raven for our times, flying home; that long dress – silken and linen with floral designs – collecting compost on its trim for later bonfires. Her breath heaves even when walking slowly along the path; now rejoined, arms as intertwined as screaming roots but silenced. The château is in sight, with promises of deep glasses of mulled wine – maybe even a rare Muscat from Madame Martineau’s prime cellar, reputed by those who repute such treasures – and window views barred by persistent cobwebs and dying flowers. I am glad she returned, I think, as we look on together down the valley.

Back down, towards and elsewhere.

Down the incline of the Haut-Barr.

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