The Truth

We were riding together. It was the spring of our second year and the house was rebuilt, the children were as settled and adjusted as anyone could expect and we finally had some time to devote to ourselves. No genteel traveling for us, instead we packed up what we needed and struck out on our own, determined to put as much distance between civilization and ourselves as we could for the next ten days.

It was a delightful time, a small taste of our past years together, though certainly made much easier by ample provisions, sturdy clothing and fine mounts to carry us. Catherine was horrified, of course, but she knew better than to try to stop us, instead insisting that Jeremy provide some clue as to our destination and coming away with no information of any real value. This was a chance to relax, and a chance to finish something I had been working towards for several years by then.

“This reminds me of you,” Jeremy commented as we rode away from our third camp, beginning our climb in to the low hills. It was late spring, the air crisp and cool with just a hint of the coming warmth filtering with the sunlight through the trees above, and the taste of resurgent life permeating the air. Nature was done with her first wild explosion, preparing to settle in to the long grind of summer- kill, eat, die, and be eaten. I love the wilderness.

“Really? How so?”

“So calm and peaceful on the surface; beautiful and lively and inviting, but underneath it all, seething with all the passions and tragedies of the finest Shakespearean dramas. Nature has secrets hidden from the eyes of the common man… just as do you.”

I turned to look at him, knowing the question I had heard in his voice, but desiring to see it in his face. I said nothing. I wanted to see how much he had figured out for himself. Not that he could have possibly discerned the truth, but knowing his thoughts would help me with the remainder.

“It made sense to me at first, your being with me. You were so young and alone in that festering pit. I offered you a way out and you seized it,” he laughed then, just a chuckle, “you know, I nearly left without you? I thought you might be too much trouble.”

He stopped then as the trail disappeared and we had to guide the horses through a spot of rough terrain, letting them pick their footing. Once on better ground he picked up again.

“Later, once I realized how unique you were, I started to fear you would leave once we returned to civilization. I was so hopelessly in love with you and I had no idea how to tell you. I hadn’t felt like that since I was a boy of fifteen. I took as long as I could making our way back. As it turned out, that was unnecessary.

“The strangest part is even though you are such a mystery to me, I’m still absolutely certain that I know you, that I know your heart.”

Fate has never been a factor in my life. I have never once felt that some higher power was watching me, prodding me along one path or another, or placing obstacles in my way out of malice or any other motivation. I reject that, have always rejected it, even in light of what happened next.

I turned to smile at him, to begin to tell him things I ached to share with him… Something spooked the horses. Jeremy’s mount shied hard, but my Melody reared with a screech, turned, bucked, and I was airborne. I tucked in to a ball, arms covering my head just as I hit the soft loam. I bounced once and unfolded as my spine slammed up against something hard and unyielding, the blow driving a red fog across my eyes.

A scream splits the air, something primal, horrified, agonized: Jeremy. Jeremy is screaming my name. I try to draw breath and sickening agony is my only reward. My sight wavers, red to black. I try to move and fire ripples through my belly, the bitter salt of blood and bile filling my mouth as I try desperately to call out. My eyes lower and I stare at the glistening crimson stained spar of the broken tree limb upon which I am impaled.

Jeremy. He runs to me. His face… horror, pain, tears… I try to speak, but only blood… only blood… my right arm will not move, the left flails towards him and he falls to his knees. My lips try to mouth words, his name…

Jeremy… secrets…

He is talking to me, holding me… the pain shudders through the core of my body as he draws me off the limb. I collapse in his arms, my blood, everywhere, covering his coat, his trousers, his hands… He is weeping as I find the strength to grip his coat, to raise my face to stare in to his eyes…

Jeremy… don’t leave me… don’t leave me…

Lungs scream for air as the cold seeps inward, slowly at first, then faster and faster as sight darkens and contracts, the roaring in my head drowning out the words he whispers in my ears. I am fighting, terrified of this, terrified of this for the first time in a very, very long time, but there is no strength left, there is nothing…

Jeremy! Don’t leave me!

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