I loved her more than life itself. And I killed her.
I was not the man who came to snatch her away from us, nor was I the man’s disgusting, servile toad-eater who lit the fire under her with such a look of glee on his face. I might as well have been, though; because I didn’t stop it, I killed her just the same.
But this was a woman who couldn’t be killed. Truly. You could take the life from her, but you couldn’t take her from Life, for once she lived here, the world was never to be the same. Oh, just imagine a woman who is so in love with living, so in love with the break of each new dawn, so in love with her body, even so in love with the very air around her. For that’s how she moved. That’s how she glided through her day, that’s how she danced on the hillsides, that’s how she bathed under a waterfall, that’s how she slept, that’s how she ate. It was like she was making love to the water, to the sky, to her nighttime dreams. And how fortunate was her food to be chosen by her—to be turned into such a life and, ultimately, such love. It was like she was making love to life—every minute of her day, every minute of her too-short life.
And I took that life from her.
Oh, did I love her. I didn’t know that love could kill anyone. I thought only hate did that. But I loved her so much I killed her. When she was taken, I thought I would regret it for all of eternity.
I suppose you might want to know her name. Catriona, it was. Beautiful—just like her. Beautiful, passionate, alive Catriona. Yes, I realize that anyone on the planet and still taking breath would be alive, but Catriona put the true meaning into the word. Alive. Aye, she was here to live. She was living the idea Life had when we were first imagined into existence. Unfortunately, so many people on the planet while still taking breath are so far from alive.
I promised myself I would never let such a thing happen again. Life, give me one more chance, and I would set it aright. I would help someone else live. I would sacrifice myself. And aye, I had all those chances. Sometimes I remembered, but more often I didn’t. And I’d ask for another chance, and another…and I’d be given that chance, and another. Life is very accommodating that way.
Nay, but this isn’t a story about death and misfortune and having to come back to right wrongs. It’s a story of life and its very celebration. It’s a story of what true love really looks like.
Catriona reached her hand out, closed her eyes, and held her palm over the cluster of herbs. She hovered for a moment or two until her hand was drawn to one particular plant. She opened her eyes and smiled at the herb.
“Remember, ask permission before you take one,” she instructed her sister. “They always say yes, of course, but still you must ask. You cannot take what is not given freely, or the power in it will not work. And let them tell you which one to ask. Some are more ready in the moment to be used than others, aye?”
Catriona snapped the herb and placed her hand over the break for several seconds without waiting for a response from Elspeth; there would be none. Once she felt the break in the plant would heal quickly, she placed the herb in her basket. The two women moved to the next cluster of plants where Catriona repeated the steps.
Elspeth did not talk. Ach, she seemed to understand her world around her for a few moments, here and there, but then she would retreat into her own sphere again. Picking plants on the gentle, rolling hills with her beloved older sister was one of the rare times that she was in the outer world fully, albeit silently.
“Just imagine the perfection of a world where there is a healing balm for every single thing that could ail us,” Catriona smiled.
People of our village say that Elspeth chattered and babbled when she was a baby, but she stopped when her mother died. As Catriona assumed the mantle of mother in addition to being her older sister, their father retreated into himself. Elspeth never had to say a word to Catriona, because her sister always understood the meaning behind every look. We villagers did not know if that was a good thing or not, because Elspeth never had to learn to talk or communicate clearly any other way. And only Catriona really knew what she was saying.
“Want to see the colors, Elspeth?”
After her sister’s eager nod, Catriona put her hands over Elspeth’s closed eyes. She breathed from her heart into Elspeth’s heart and then allowed the energy to flow from her hands into her sister’s eyes. She slowly pulled her hands away. Elspeth kept her eyes shut, dancing with the vibrant rainbow of swirls in the suddenly glorious, enchanting world behind her eyelids.
Colors. We’d see a pale, grey-yellow winter sunset. Catriona would see it warmed by red and amber with multi-colored prisms shooting through it. We’d see ominous dark clouds overhead, and she’d see silver and blue and gold and purple. We’d see brown mud, and she’d see the colors of the flowers coming up in the spring.
The only thing we saw in myriad colors was her hair. It lit up the village! Ach, it had every color of the day’s sunshine in it—from a crimson sunrise letting us know that the rains were on their way, to the scarlet sunset, letting us know that a beautiful day was coming on the morrow. It had the golden strands of a clear, high noon and the silvery strands of the clouds rolling in. It glowed like the sun itself and waved on her head like the grasses blowing in the gentle winds. Blended together it was like a shimmering golden-red curtain or a red-hued flow of gold. It cascaded down her back to below her waist, and unlike most of the other women of the village, she did not care to tie it up and away, pinned at the neck. No, she let it blow in the breeze.
It seemed like the sun followed her around, all though the day, residing in her hair, her eyes, her being. Perhaps it kept one special ray on her, for she seemed more lit up than…well, more than anyone, really.
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