“I thought I’d find you here.”
As usual, his rich baritone caused a warmth to blossom in her chest, across her cheekbones, to the very tips of her ears. Each step he took toward her changed the earth around them, brightening the hazy skies, making the air feel as crisp and cool as it tasted. Darkened, multicolored leaves fell from the thinning trees and crunched beneath his feet, a final gasp of life as they surrendered to the Fall.
She closed her eyes and winced against the sound.
“The Forest looks so bare.”
“I’m sorry, my love. I know how much it pains you.”
She melted into his embrace as he wrapped large arms around her torso. “You must never apologize for being who you are. It’s quite lovely, in its own melancholy way. You create such a beautiful tapestry of color.”
“I’m glad it pleases you.”
“Have you come to claim me?”
“As I must. We do as we have always done.”
She frowned, her pale brows pinching above the bridge of her nose. “It isn’t fair. There’s not enough time. There is never enough time! All we ever get is a moment- one moment- before I am forced away to sleep. How am I to ever truly taste the magic of your world?”
“It is the way of things, unpleasant as it may be.”
“I want more! I want to awaken to the cool touch of your fingertips against my cheeks, the breathtaking majesty of a rosy colored dawn, the mountain tops covered in red and orange and yellow while green becomes a dark shadow on the hills.”
“You would not survive it, dearest, seeing the leaves wither and die. Watching as trees aged before your eyes, going from vibrant youth to gnarled, decrepit branches. And what of Kirsi? When she wakes and causes the air to chill so that you can see your own breath upon it? Her arrival is never as gracious as mine. She comes when she pleases, whether I am ready to go or not. And you, my love, cannot be here for that. You are asking to see your own death and I will not allow it.”
“What I ask is to see your life, in all its glory, as I’m never allowed to. We only ever get this moment, this perfect pause, where we meet so effortlessly in the forest. Where the air is still warm but a pleasant wind caresses our skin. Where the trees are the perfect harmony of green and orange and yellow. Where a few coat the ground but enough hang above us, a canopy of color that allows the dying sun to find its way in. Why can this moment not continue? Why must it end?”
“Because then you reawaken and do as only you can- fill the world with warmth and sunlight and memories of bonfires and crashing waves. And you do it with such fervent passion that it passes in a delirious blur of laughter, red wine, and romantic nights.”
She closed her eyes against his voice, already feeling the effect of it lulling her into darkness.
“I would give it all up, the chaotic glory of it all, if it meant staying with you.”
“But I would never ask you to. It’s what I love most about you. So sleep, my love, and do not doubt that I will guard you until my final breath. When you reawaken, live and dance and breathe fire back into the earth as Aurora cannot. And I will be here, waiting, until you find me again.”
With his promise in her ears and the brilliant crystal blue of the sky breaking through the trees, Suvi closed her eyes and let his cool lips touch hers until the world around her was no more.