She stood at the tree waiting. Rain had softened the ground overnight so her feet sank a little as time passed mud creeping up. Long ago the childish message carved in the tree disappeared as new layers of bark did what they do – cover up the years. She kept her hand where the message used to be. She did not move even as sweat matted her hair and tears streaked her face. The bugs didn’t care about her situation. They swarmed and nipped at their motionless meal.
He never made it to the tree. Three years ago on a trip overseas he fell ill and with barely any notice slipped away. He was traveling alone and had not noticed the severity of his illness when he fell into a deep sleep one afternoon. He never awoke.
His body was removed from his temporary dwelling after finally being noticed by the housekeeper who had been away. He had paid cash up front and left no useful information behind for the housekeeper nor anyone else to contact anyone. The housekeeper had him buried in a slightly marked grave and buried his meager personal belongings, a journal and wallet, with him. She kept a description of him on hand in the house in case a future visitor inquired.
When the search party found her she was still attached to the tree. Drenched from several nights of rain and a near perpetual sweat rashes covered her bitten and weakened body. She rarely blinked and her face was flush white. At some point during the waiting it occurred to her he wasn’t coming and she wasn’t going to leave.
“Are you ok? Are you ok,” they repeated over and over.
“Let go of the tree. Come with us. You’re going to be ok. Let go,” the pleading continued until they finally forced her hands away and carried her to the vehicle. A tear, so slight, crept from her left eye.
“Let’s find ourselves,” the note ended openly and without commitment. One night she had written the note and hastily dropped it in the mail after a long week of anguished failed attempts to compose. The writing was sloppy and rushed and the stamped was not flush with the corner.
“Let’s find ourselves,” he read trembling. Normally the envelope would have been thicker with more words stuck inside of it, but this one had been impossibly thin. It contained few words. He packed his bag in haste taking a few clothes and his journal. He left immediately on the next boat with no idea when he would come back other than to meet at the tree.
With a little knife they carved “our love grows” deeply into the tree that day. The hugged when they were done and whispered their promises to return to that tree 15 years from then. They hugged and hugged. The wind was gentle and did not rush them.