Some believe true love is being able to let someone go.
Others feel if it is indeed true, then there should be no reason to.
But sometimes true love dies early.
What do you do, then, when the one dead doesn’t wish to remain so?
I walked to the edge of the forest, my heart racing at the thought of having to enter it. Mother had told me I would be all right, that the beast who had slain most of our people had moved on. The forest had been his domain. It had been where most of the bodies had been found by the remaining townies.
The dark depths of the forest called to me, sending shivers down my spine and causing goose bumps to fleck across my flesh. I looked at the basket I held on my arm. It was covered, but I knew what Mother had placed within it. Dark roses. Such a deep red they looked black. I knew what they stood for but Mother assured me they were for protection.
Sighing heavily, I took a step into the forest, the darkness immediately wrapping around me. Even though I knew it was full of malice, it was strangely reassuring. A welcome relief to my emotions. There were no sounds in this part of the forest. Every animal knew what had happened here. Slowly, I proceeded, letting my eyes adjust to the sudden darkness. I pulled my cloak tighter around myself to ward off the chill but it didn't do any good. The cold seeped into the bones, whether I had a cloak or didn't, no matter how thick the cloak was. It thirsted on the fear, relishing in the panic, the adrenaline, of its victims.
An owl hooted and I jumped, clutching my hand to my chest. When my heart had settled back to a somewhat normal beat, I stepped on, twigs snapping under my feet. A sense of dread overcame me, my body sensing the danger that was inevitable. My footsteps slowed as I approached the clearing Mother had mentioned.
I didn't want to look, but my eyes wandered there by their own accord. A young man lay on a slab of stone, looking peaceful in his eternal slumber. I approached him silently, kneeling down next to him and brushing his hair off his forehead. I planted a kiss on his frozen cheek. After all these years, he still looked the same. Mother said he still looked handsome to her, even in death.
His dark hair was tousled from the wind. He used to have prominent cheeks but they had sunk in, mirroring the effect of a skull. His eyes looked hollow but I knew the balls were still there. Mother had gone to great lengths to keep him preserved. I thought it was a bit creepy but she had cried and said she couldn't imagine living without seeing him often. I had sympathized with her but I didn't agree with her. If a person was dead, it was best to move on and let them lie in the ground, as so many others did.
I rested my hand on his, setting the basket down for a second. I watched for the slight rising and falling of his chest, as I did every time I came here with the basket of flowers. Mentally, I asked him if he could help me on this strange journey. Mother seemed adamant to keep him above ground so she could see him but I knew he should be put to rest. I asked him for his strength so I may confront Mother.
"I'll love you forever, Father. No matter what," I said around the tears.
And then I dumped out the basket, picking up the covering cloth and throwing it back in. I got up to survey my father on his death bed. A bed of dark roses.