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The River MAG
The River by G. B., Quaker Hill, CT
The river had always seemed so full of life, all blue and green, its edges filled with pussy willows and lily pads. There too was a web of sound connected with its softly flowing waters. A web spun of crickets and frogs and late summer nights and dew- laced mornings through which the river wound its way and splashed.
But tonight the river flowed silently. Its stately movement muffled by the freezing air. The banks where the summer lilies grew were now caked with new-fallen snow. Only in the center beyond the ice-rimmed edges did the river continue to live, flowing black and slow beneath the stars.
The dark path of the river twisted through a young forest and out into the starlight again before it slipped into the deep shadow of a low wooden bridge. A silhouetted figure leaned upon the bridge's railing and sent pale clouds of breath up into the night sky. The figure moved revealing the face of a young woman who tilted her head back to watch the stream rise upwards.
She sighed, even the stars were dead tonight. They had ceased to twinkle and remained frozen, seemingly pasted onto the dark vault of the sky. Once, she told herself bitterly, she had sung to the stars and they had listened to her wishes. How childish she had been during that eternal summer. It was funny, she thought, those years had not had winters. Try as she might, she could only remember the stars and the river in the warmth and scent of July and August.
How she wished that spring would come. The winter was too cold and dark and containing to let her start again. It wrapped her in frigid memories of the days that had slipped by far too fast. The days when he had laughed and held her and she had loved him. And further back, the days filled with the scent of cookies baking and the quiet tales her grandmother told while rocking her in the big chair by the fireplace.
Grandmother, who had taken her from her drunken father and had raised her, had been laid in the dark earth almost three months ago. She shivered, the cold ground was no place for the warm, wise woman who had sung her to sleep and held her close when she cried out in the night.
Beneath her painful memories the river melted through the shadows and she let it carry her back to her childhood. The visions of her father rose before her, a large angry man with a loud voice, and the pain he had caused her. Her mind recoiled. She pushed the old hurt and fear away and let the river carry her onwards. The high banks rang with arguments and finally the image of the tall woman leading her away from her father.
The path of the river slid underneath a dark forest and she recalled that first year when she had shut herself off from the world. Her grandmother had angered her then with all her talk of stars and dreams. She hadn't wanted to try again. She tumbled down over polished stones and a scene rose clear and vivid before her. It had been the end of the first year on a warm August night when her grandmother had come into her room.
"Lily, I'm going for a walk outside and I want you to come with me," she demanded. Lily shook her dark hair in response. "I don't want to."
"Lily, turn around and look at me," said her grandmother, her tone sharp. Lily turned and met her grandmother's hard stare.
"I won't let you give up on me. This isn't the end of your life. You can't pretend that it is," said her grandmother, her voice insistent. Lily had looked at her with hate in her eyes but in the end she had followed the old woman out into the night.
The river turned abruptly and pooled out into the moonlight of a vast poppy field. Grandmother had taken Lily to the river that night so long ago and they had talked and Lily had cried out her fears and misery on her grandmother's shoulder. It was that night that she had introduced Lily to the stars and the river. They had stayed on the bridge long into the night, talking about dreams and trees and winged horses.
The river flowed onwards over rolling hills, pale in the night and finally reaching a footpath where he had joined her just three short years before. They had fallen in love and somewhere along the river's winding course they had gotten married. Then the river became blurred with happiness and indeed the last years had been like a dream. Lily had been so joyful and complete and never before had she been so close to her grandmother.
The roaring of a waterfall reached her ears when as suddenly as a stone dropping, her grandmother had died, smiling in her sleep. The river, black as death, reached the shadows of a low wooden bridge and Lily looked up. In the last couple of months he had died for her too, though tonight he lay asleep in their house just past the woods. He had tried to understand her grief but how could he? It was deep and infinite as the river over which she stood. Lily knew she had pushed him away but she couldn't bear to see his face, so connected was he, in her mind, to grandmother.
Lily lay her head on the railing and blinked her eyes but the tears stayed inside, just as they had during the months since grandmother had died.
"Why didn't you ever tell me?" said a voice that cut into her pain. She looked up and was surprised to see her husband's face behind her. Had he been with her on the river tonight, she wondered?
"About this place I mean," he corrected himself, sensing her puzzlement. Lily bit her lip and stared into the river. Why did he have to come here, pushing into her loss? He clenched his jaw and grasped Lily by the shoulders turning her around. A single tear trembled on his handsome face as he shook her gently, "Oh Lily! I don't want to lose you now; not when you are letting yourself slip away from me. I love you, I won't let you give up on me!" The words echoed in her mind and the river twisted around itself in recognition.
"But it's so cold," Lily whispered.
"I know, I know," he said. Suddenly he was holding her and Lily was crying. The river sighed and the ice cracked and the lilies grew up through the melting snow. The waters turned and twisted themselves around to meet each other, the colors blue and green flowing in a complete and perfect circle.
Lily raised her head and looked up at the sky. The stars were twinkling again. She smiled and introduced him to the stars and the river.