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Nights of Summer

Chapter Text

Say, young beauty,
Where do you wish to go?
The sail swells,
The breeze will blow.

The oar is made of ivory,
The flag is of silk,
The helm is of fine gold;
I have for ballast an orange,
For a sail, the wing of an angel,
For a deck boy, a seraph.

Say, young beauty,
Where do you wish to go?
The sail swells,
The breeze will blow.

Is it to the Baltic?
To the Pacific Ocean?
To the island of Java?
Or is it well to Norway,
To gather the flower of the snow,
Or the flower of Angsoka?

Say, young beauty,
Where do you wish to go?

“Lead me,” says the beauty,
“To the faithful shore
Where one loves always!”

This shore, my darling,
We hardly know at all
In the land of Love.

The sail swells,
The breeze will blow!

 

She is with me once more, in my mind. I speak to her, silently or out loud, and hear her soft voice whisper in my ears only. This night is particularly trying, for it is my reemergence into society. I would never have bothered, save for the fact that that it was at this very ball one year ago where my beloved and I first met. Like then, I gaze around the ballroom with disinterest. The glitter and pomp both discomfort me and bore me. I hear her ghostly voice laugh at me as it points out a girl here, a girl there. She teases me, but I cannot even bear to look at other women. Ignoring the tears that threaten to spill over, I walk slowly and purposefully onto the terrace. I know the voice is trying to tell me something, but I refuse to listen. I know that all I can do now is move forward with life, but it is impossible to forget what once was.

I walk into the garden, searching for the rosebush from which I first plucked a single white rose for my beloved. My heart stops, frozen. The roses are gone. The little garden is no more. A grassy lawn now stretches, unbroken, from the terrace to the far off trees. Even nature has moved on.

The seaside town has become my retreat, of sorts. I have rented a little cottage overlooking the ocean. The locals exchanged dubious glances when I first expressed interest, but since then they have grown used to my presence and do not bother me. I find it peaceful here. My heart still aches, and always will, but the time has come and gone when I would have eagerly embraced death. On this night I have found an isolated cliff overlooking the water. The sky is studded with stars, their tiny lights casting reflections on the water. I sit on the edge of the cliff, my feet dangling over the precipice. My thoughts turn to her, as they always do, but this time I have a purpose. Taking a slow, deep breath, I begin to speak aloud to her. I tell her how I loved her and what she meant to me. I tell her how she will always be with me. I reminisce about our moments of laughter and of love. Every second, every detail I can remember I direct to the stars, to the waves, and to my beloved. I do not expect to find answers as to why death took her from me. I stopped searching for those answers long ago. Nothing will bring her back to me—I understand that now. From this point onward I seek peace, peace for both of us.

As I speak I watch each star flicker and fade. Before I know it the sky is empty and black, the first rays of dawn just beginning to appear on the horizon. I feel calm and serene as I watch the sky grow light. The night has passed so quickly, I barely noticed. For the first time since her death I feel ready to meet the dawn and the challenges of day. This night has been our goodbye.

As sunrise turned the sky gold I heard a rustle in the bushes behind me. Turning, I saw a local villager, red faced and puffing from the climb. I had not noticed last night how steep the path to cliff was, so intent was I upon my purpose for making the ascent. The villager, however, was far more aware of the height as he peered over the edge down to the ocean below. Noticing the sharp rocks below he winced, then offered me his arm. “This place isn't safe for anyone, not even those who know the cliffs best. You’d best come with me, milady, and we’ll go down nice and careful together.”

Taking one last look over the water, I nodded to him and took the offered arm, then grasped my skirt in the other hand and proceeded carefully down the path.