I came in the spring when the sun battled valiantly with cotton wool clouds to warm the playing fields and bathe in buttery warmth a moment of magic between childhood sweethearts. She ruffled his hair; he threw a dandelion at her. They laughed and looked at each other from underneath their lashes, not wanting their friends to see what else was blossoming beside the emerging daffodils. To tarnish the unspoiled beauty of their connection with jokes and mockery would be to kill it, they knew, and they wanted it to live, breathe and develop.
It was too soon then. The spell had been cast but its effects would take time to mature. I left, confident in the knowledge that I’d be back.
I returned in the summer when the heat was too close, the humidity too stifling. They almost broke the spell then and I stayed watching, hoping they would choose the right path. A few times they almost threw it away when the oppressive balminess became too much. “I need my freedom,” one of them would cry in frustration. “Go then, I don’t care,” the other would spit back. They wondered what it would be like to break free from the chains they had wrapped around themselves at such an early age.
I had thought that this might be the perfect time, but they had to battle their demons first. I held on, trusting the power of the magic, and in the end, a cool breeze brought relief. They could sit side by side in the shade, sipping chilled wine, reflecting on how lucky they were. It was going to be alright, but it still wasn’t the right time for me.
In the last chance saloon of the autumn, I hovered warily as the leaves turned and fell stricken to mulchy ground. If not now, then when? They were so busy, busy, busy. Happy, yes, but weren’t they missing me? “You can’t miss what you never had,” one of them would say when the other would ask them if they’d made the right decision.
No regrets, they assured themselves, as I retreated. The magic was enough.
I came in the winter, even though it was too late. I wanted to see them holding hands in the snowfall, moving slower now, more carefully, bundled up in layers and sensible boots. Inside, they sang songs by the fire with nieces and nephews, watched over by a genial golden retriever and an imperious ginger tom.
There’s a myth in life that you can’t choose your family, but I had chosen mine. The trouble was, they hadn’t chosen me. And that’s fine; I had made my peace with it. Their particular magic had no need for company. They didn’t feel the pull, the urge, nor did they allow themselves to be forced down a path they didn’t wish to tread by a sense of duty or social expectations.
I bid a silent farewell as the dying embers of the fire breathed their last.
Emma Robertson is a tutor and writer from London, UK. This year so far her work has featured in Idle Ink, Virtual Zine, 101 Words, Free Flash Fiction, and other online flash collections. She has recently been longlisted by Cranked Anvil and has upcoming work in the anthologies: Pure Slush Friendship and Swoop Books Ordinary People, both to be published later in 2021.