I remember the kissing trees, as we called them when we were young.
They were in the wooded area on the outskirts of town. The place we would go to play when what kissing trees might signify was barely known to us. We saw them, leaning one to the other, a slight touch at the top of the tallest boughs.
“They’re kissing!” Sylvie had said, laughing.
I laughed too.
But they were beautiful. More so than me, and more than Sylvie was then. At eight years old we were both normalcy personified. Scrappy young kids, playing innocent of the world. Not even understanding then, what they signified.
They were just the kissing trees.
Years later we went there again. Sylvie was suffering from her first broken heart. Anthony, the cleverest and handsomest boy in our school had drawn her in, then spat her out, as he did with anyone unwise enough to trust. But by then Sylvie had grown very pretty indeed, so thought she would be different. And I, still plain, could not tell her or warn her. She would not have listened to me.
But now my company was craved, in her sorrow and dismay, and the places of comfort as a child. So we went to the woods, and by and by found the kissing trees, there still, so quiet and regal it was as though they and waited for us, frozen in time, all the while.
“I shall never recover!’ Sylvie proclaimed, ever dramatic.
“You will,” I said, “You all break many hearts yet yourself, and have yours broken more than once I imagine. And you will recover and grow stronger, though you won’t believe me now!”
“You are wrong!” she announced, tears streaming from her far too pretty eyes. “I know it, I feel it. My pain is eternal, as unchanging as the kissing trees!”
We both turned to look at them in this moment. Something ran under my skin, a prescience perhaps, I do not know. I only remember this, thinking as she ran towards them, her arms open in a kind of reckless, hopeless embrace, that I wanted to cry out to her to stop. But I didn’t, and I didn’t know why then, and I do not know even to this day.
I knew only this, that we’d never run through the kissing trees. We’d never dared to trespass on their ancient embrace. But now, now in her heartbreak, Sylvie was in the mood to break unspoken laws. Her world had crashed and burned, and she would take all with her.
I understood only as she did so. Only as she ran through them and then as she…disappeared.
Only then did I truly know. The trees were not kissing as our childish minds had fashioned. That wasn’t their purpose at all. They met in a different embrace, the embrace that created a doorway, a portal. But I do not know why, or to where. Not then and not to this day.
Sylvie never returned. I never told anyone that I had gone with her to the woods that day. The police looked for her. Across the town her pretty face was plastered on billboards and lamp-posts, but all to no avail.
Anthony was distressed. She might have liked that, if I could tell her.
But I couldn’t then, and I still can’t to this day. I don’t know where she’s gone.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2017