The task at hand was a clear one, and she had no desire to burden her love with the gravity of it. She’d go it alone, she’d decided; if it worked, it’d save Gabriel the worry of the wait, and if it didn’t...
Well, it won’t come to that, she reassured herself, instilled with faith in God. It all makes sense now, Audrey thought. He’s endured so much... all this time, without her. Because of us. She imagined a life as long as the Lord’s without Gabriel by her side; looking after a planet full of toddlers who were to blame for the death of the one she loved. It was like eternal community service for a crime that wasn’t his, helping people who deserved it about as much as Hitler deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.
Her boots were cold on her bare feet, so, having removed them once more, she opted for the damp, sun-warmed, grass between her toes as she slipped out through the lilac flora, down the wooden steps and out across the meadow surrounding her.
It was bordered by a thick forest, inhabited by every kind of tree she’d ever heard of and countless encyclopaedias worth of those she hadn’t. She headed back the way they’d come the night before, towards a cluster of willow trees she recalled from the journey. Their branches formed a dense veil of leaves which, as she pulled them aside and passed under the canopies they provided, she discovered they concealed another clearing.
Much smaller than the one she’d just left, it was more of a glade, with long, lush grass growing sparsely from a pillowy carpet of moss dotted with forget-me-nots. Down the centre, leading on through the trees, was a soft, earthy trail, but it had all but overgrown, as though it were once travelled as regularly as the sun across the periwinkle sky. On one side of the path was a loveseat, made of ancient, weathered blocks of stone, covered in moss just like the forest floor and sprouting tiny, white flowers of its own. Directly opposite on the other side, grew a tree.