[Concludes what this began, and this continued.]
Night fell, muffling the land under a blanket of darkness. The area around the old manor house lay completely silent and still. Not a bird chirped, no small animals scuttled through the grass, no horse in the barn nickered sleepily to another or stamped its hoof. It was as if all the creatures around, indeed, the very land itself, were holding their breath, waiting in expectation of...something. And within the house itself, even the humans were quiet as if they too could sense the tension of anticipation in the air. Many of them had gone to bed early, though one still sat in the parlor, staring at the fire while up in one of the bedrooms, at the window, stood a white figure, pale as a wraith.
She is growing old, now, her once-golden hair frosted with strands of silver. She wears only a long, white nightgown and nothing else. No gloves. No fine dress. No shoes. No jewelry. No make-up. Her gold-and-silver hair flows freely down her back. Outwardly, she is hardly dressed but...
...in her mind she wears the most glorious of white gowns imagineable, a dress that would put anything in the Queen's wardrobe to shame. In her mind, she was still young and beautiful. In her mind, she was standing at the window, waiting, just like the rest of the world. Waiting with bated breath. Unlike the rest of the world, though, she knew for what she waited.Him
He will come for her tonight, finally, to take her as his bride. She waits, tonight, just as she's waited every night for years. But tonight is different. Tonight she knows
he'll come. It doesn't matter to her that she's know
it in the past as well. While she awaits her nocturnal lover, she speaks softly, telling the story to her son of how they had met and loved and how he would return for them on this night and take them away where they would never want or worry again.~*~
Outside, the wind picks up, carrying along the sound of husky, whispered secrets.~*~
Downstairs in the parlor, a youth with grass-green eyes glanced up toward the ceiling, thinking he should perhaps check on his mother.~*~
And the pale-white woman murmurs excitedly to the bundle in her arms, "Do you hear it?," she was certain she heard the whir of wheels on gravel, "His carriage is coming! Oh, my son, we must make ready!" And she bustles about the chamber, throwing glances back toward the window every few moments for that first glimpse of him
Something in the air or in the dark or in his blood makes the young man quicken his steps as he begins climbing the stairs.~*~
The wind rises again, its whispers becoming voices one can almost make out if one only listens hard enough.~*~
She pauses in her preparations, something making her turn and there
, there! He
stood, watching her, silhouetted agains the moonlight within the frame made by the window she had so recently stood before. With a cry of joy, she ran to him, embracing him and feeling his strong arms curve around her in return. "Oh, my love," she cried, "I have missed you so. I feared-"
"Shhh," he murmured softly, quieting her with a tender kiss. "I am late, yes, but not lost. I have missed you too much to tell, love, and I only hope you may forgive me."
She smiled radiantly up at him, her faded blue eyes meeting his piercing green ones. "Of course I forgive you, always."
His eyes seem to go distant for half a moment, but in the darkness and th emoonlight it is difficult to tell and she is overwhelmed, anyway, by the emotion of the moment. But the distant look soon fades and he smiles down upon her once more as he lovingly caresses her cheek, "then it is time for us to go. Quickly now, love, we must away," and he gently pulled her with him, toward the open window.
She, of course, trusted him with everything and so it wasn't a window he was leading her toward but the door of some grand carriage. Still, though, she hesitated, "our son-" and she turned toward the bundle she'd lain in a cradle earlier while she'd made her frenzied preparations for her love's arrival.
He shook his head, "No, love, only you. He must stay here, for a time. But you'll rejoin one another soon enough."
Frowning up at him, she reached still for the cradle, "I don't-" but whatever she had been about to say was cut off when the door to the room flew open. Her eyes widened as she saw the young man who now stood, framed in the doorway. He was the mirror image of her love, very like to how she'd imagined her son would look if he were grown. That thought causes her to gasp in surprise. Her son. Her son who was not
a babe. Her sone who she had watched grow. Her son who stood in that doorway staring at her and her love with wide, green eyes.
She understands now. Remembers, everything. In that one instant, she can view her life and beyond with diamond-edged clarity. In that one instant, she smiles at the youth, her son, with a beatific, blinding smile and let her love's arms envelope her once more. In the next instant, the two of them stepped out the window.
Those two, short instants were lifetimes to the youth, time slowing almost to a standstill. She smiles at him, and he knows, knows
that for the first time in years she is truly seeing him
and the...she's gone. Time returns to its normal course, letting him run to the window, looking out for two broken bodies on the earth below. But instead, he sees a man with bird-wings, his mother clapsed in its arms, winging silently away through the night.
His cheeks are wet.
In slow motion, the young man steps back from the window and closes it, looking out at the rain for a long time afterward.~*~
Deep under the earth, there lies a glade. Within that quiet glade, sits a home. Within that home, lives a young woman. Her hair is the color of sunshine and her eyes the color of a clear summer sky. She is visited, sometimes, by those who live near the glade. Sometimes by an old-young woman who carries herself like a queen. Sometimes by a beautiful young man who looks even more like sunshine than her hair and his friendly, quiet wife. And sometimes, just sometimes, by a handsome man with eyes as green as her glade and hair the color of wildfire.~*~
Through the years, the young man grows up, marries, has children, and never forgets the mother who loved him, in her own way, or the gift she bestowed upon him with her smile before she left. The smile that remained on her lips that morning as the sun rose and he was discovered still staring out the window at a world washed clean and she was found lying still on her bed, as if only sleeping.
That smile stays with him over the years. The love and joy she'd shared with him in that one moment carrying him through the hard times of his life, making him a better person, lighting the nights when he felt most alone.
And finally, one night, many years later, he awakens to find her smiling at him once more.