(based on the Jane Hirshfield poem of the same name)
The sun was filtering through the trees with an almost sickly glow, doing nothing to warm her against the crisp morning frost. If anything, she resented the light and its intrusion into her melancholy state, piercing and sifting through the pines as though trying, pathetically, to cheer her from afar, to bring her out of the shadow, to tell her that this would pass. It had no business with her. Not now. Not when she was feeling so devoid of hope, of optimism, of any sense that things would get better again. How could they? How could this feeling, this sense of loss, this crushing, cold disappointment ever fade?
She stopped dead as she spotted something lying on the trail ahead, resting on the verge between forest floor and path. A stick, twisted and bent and hewn, almost exactly like…
Like the one she’d picked up all those years ago to defend herself in a playful sword fight, laughing and yelping in excitement as she had. Even then, seeing him come after her with a branch, a terrifying weapon to the eyes of a small child, had been infinitely better than him not seeming to realise she existed.
She stared at the stick. Remembering. And she began shaking. Shaking with hurt, with emptiness, with ever-building rage. Stalking forward towards the branch, she lifted it from the dirt floor and, with a shriek of pure frustration, launched it through the trees until it landed out of sight.
Breathing heavily, she composed herself, shrugging off the brief loss of control, and buried the anger deep inside her again. Brushing her hands free of the dirt, she took her first step to go forward, when she felt something jagged press into her back. Freezing, already knowing what she’d see once she turned around, she craned her neck just enough to confirm it in the corner of her eye. His shape, perfectly still behind her, poking the branch gently into the spot between her shoulder blades. She swallowed.
Given that the last time she’d seen him he’d physically shrunk back from the ferocity of her slap, his voice was surprisingly hopeful when he asked:
‘Can we start again?’