The old man waited on the outskirts of the large crowd of people. He watched them as he sat in his wheelchair – his only constant companion for the last fifteen odd years. He watched as them as they laughed and greeted one another with open arms and hearts. They were at peace. He could tell, at peace with each other and themselves. They were not like him. He dared not go any closer. Not because he was afraid of the reactions of the people who gathered in the small clearing on the outer reaches of the tiny woodland, but for fear of his own reaction. Never in his life had he cried, not when his father died nor his beloved mother, so it was a strange, uncomfortable sensation when he felt a small droplet of water fall from his face and land on the rough scaly skin on his hands. The old man looked down in disbelief; a tear. He watched soundlessly as the small bud of water on his hand became a pool as more began to fall from his ageing grey eyes. He watched as they glistened in the sun, astounded that he could produce something so pure and innocent.
This was her fault.
She always bought out the worst in him, though she would often insist that it was not the worst but in fact, the best. In spite of himself he laughed. This was the most emotion he had ever allowed himself to show. As a child he had grown up in a world where feelings and emotions were regarded as unnecessary sentiments which made people irrational and obsessive. He had learnt from a very young age that it was better to be hard and cold. With a frail movement the tears were gone and his features once again set in the bitter mask that he wore to hide himself away from the outside world.
As the crowd of people began to disperse he decided that it was time. It had taken him much of the morning to convince himself to come here, but surprisingly, he did not regret his decision. It was time to say goodbye. His wrinkled hands grasped the sides of his wheelchair as he made his way towards what was left of the large gathering. The uneven ground surrounding the woodland made the short trip in the wheelchair uncomfortable and he cursed loudly as a pain shot through his leg as the wheels rolled over the rocks and sticks that lay on the forest floor.
Of course she would choose a place like this.
He could not fathom why anyone would want to spend eternity in this – filth. There were trees and brambles everywhere, growing chaotically amongst the piles of rodent dung that littered the ground. The smell was enough to send you mad. He would not come here again. As he neared in his approach, the faces of the few remaining people became visible. Tear stricken people looked up at him as he wheeled closer. He watched as their faces changed when they realised who he was. His expression challenged them to speak, challenged them to question how he dared show his face there. They did not. Instead, they parted revealing a small altar cluttered with candles and mix matched arrays of flowers. The brightness of the colours burned his eyes.
Without stopping, he wheeled his way through the crowed until he could go no further. He did not know where to look. Pinned to the trees where photographs. Her 100 watt smile shone out at him from all around the clearing. She looked so happy, all the time. He glanced at each picture in turn; marvelling at how one person could see so much good in everything in the world. He finally stopped in front of the biggest photograph in area. It was encased in a large mahogany frame that was still as good as new after all these years. It was a photograph of her wedding day.
She looked beautiful.
Her out of control curls were swept up into a bun that exposed her fair delicate features. She was not the most handsome creature that he had ever seen, but she had a charm about her that was visible, even in a photograph. The bodice of her white dress was laced with millions of tiny beads that glistened in the sunshine every time she moved and accentuated her feminine figure. The bottom of the dress had no tulle, but was simply layer upon layer of a wispy white material that blew with the wind giving her an angelic type of appearance. And on her feet, she wore no shoes. His eyes then turned to the groom in the photograph. He was tall and elegant, with a strong, proud stance. He wore the traditional wizard’s robes with his family crest emblazoned on the left breast pocket. He too was smiling.
He could have been that man.
He could have been that man. She had given him so many chances to be that man. But every time he had pushed her away. An unfamiliar feeling rose and clenched in his stomach. It sent his old fragile body into fits of shivers and for the second time in his life, he felt the tears threaten to run down his face. People were beginning to look at him, to see if he was okay. He put up his mask and just as quickly as support had been offered, it was once again withdrawn. It was over.
She was gone.
He diverted his eyes away from the photographs towards the altar that stood in the middle of the clearing. In the centre of the altar there stood a large ceramic pot. It had been her final resting place before she had been cast into the air, destined to spend eternity dancing with the winds in the forest. It was empty now. He couldn’t help but feel it was a cruel reminder of the life he had lived up to this point. His life had been one big empty pot of nothing. Nothing in his life seemed to fill him with hope or desire or happiness. Except her.
But she was gone.
Now all he had left of her were the memories. Memories that can never again be made tangible, that can never again become real. All that was left were memories that time would never be able to erase. But he didn’t want them to fade. He wanted to be reminded. She would forever be the thorn in his side.