“I can’t leave you,” I say.
The sunlight filtering through the oak dapples her skin, like she’s coated in golden translucent stars.
“This isn’t real,” she tells me, looking out from the mound the oak sits atop. “We’re not really here. Not now.”
The wheat field around us sways with the wind as if nodding in agreement. Storm clouds black as onyx gather on the horizon.
This is where we first made love, where I first told her I loved her.
“If I leave,” I say. “I’ll never come back.”
She throws back her head and laughs, her red hair tumbling about her shoulders. I remember I used to love the smell, but for the life of me, I can’t remember it now.
The storm clouds roll closer, fraying the edges of the world.
“I’m serious,” I tell her. “If I go, I’ll forget.”
She cocks that eyebrow at me like she always used to do. “Then don’t,” she teases, those blue – or were they hazel – eyes challenging me, daring me.
I want to say I can’t, that I have to go back to a world of strangers, of people who tell me they are my children. Yet this world, the world where Mary now blows dandelions, seems infinitely more real than the one cloaked in a permanent fog of grey.
I want to kiss her, even though I know she’s only a memory. They tell me she’s no longer around. I don’t know what happened to her, though by God I’ve tried to remember.
“Storm’s coming,” she says. I look and the field has no edge, disappearing into the clouds of black smoke.
“No,” I shout as I look around me and see it’s eating the world from all sides.
I take Mary by the shoulders. “You can’t let me forget,” I say. I’m frantic.
She looks up and smiles at me, somehow different. “It’ll be alright,” she reassures in a voice that seems slightly vapid.
I scream. I look to the heavens and curse my God. “Why do this to me?” I bellow so loud and angry that it burns my throat. “This is all I have left of her.”
I bang on the tree – it’s either a beech or sycamore, I can’t be sure which – until my strength gives out.
“Why are you angry?” a girl with red hair asks. I know her from somewhere, just can’t think where. The last of the wheat disappears as the cloud starts to progress up the mound towards me.
“Mary,” I shout triumphantly. “You’re Mary!”
She smiles, though I cannot remember where I know her from.
The smoke reaches her feet. She seems faint, more like a pencil sketch than an oil painting. Mist curls up her like a snake, erasing her as it progresses.
“Why am I here?” I ask.
A mouth opens as if to utter an answer but before any sound comes forth it fades away into black.

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That Time With Mary By The Oak Tree by Adrian Faulkner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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