Looking about, exploring, the trace of a finger on a blossom,
the parting of the river current with a dipped finger, the dappled sunlight of high summer in a shady grove, I called out to answer a whispering voice.
A rustle of branches, so slight I thought it a woodland creature, and she emerged into the clearing, saw me seated on the rock, my knife at work on an apple, and without fear she approached.
“Why are you here?”
I looked up, bemused more than startled. “Why do you ask?”
“For the sake of knowing.”
“I was…called…here…” I gestured with my knife to take in the grove in general.
“Who called you?”
I smiled. “Was it not you?”
She did not smile. “If it were me, I would not have asked.”
“I don’t know, then. Am I not welcome?”
She came further toward me, stood before me, examining, her eyes large and luminous, deep, just shy of hypnotic, but with power nonetheless, her robe was the green of a springtime lake, trimmed with gold, with symmetrical swatches of many- hued blues.
“All are welcome here.” Her eyes sparkled with many things, magic, mischief, mystery…
“Ah, good.” I sliced the apple and offered it to her on the tip of the knife. She took it with her fingers, munched awhile, looked about the grove.
“You live here?”
She seemed to give it thought before she answered.
“It is more like we live in each other.”
I began to think she might be mad, so I grew cautious.
“May I ask your name?”
“I have many, and they are all equally unimportant, but if you would name me, I am Soyala.”
I offered her another piece, which she also took.
“I’m pleased to meet you, Soyala.”
“And I you, Traveler.”
“How did you know I was here.”
“I heard your call. There was something in it worth seeing.”
Again, the hint of madness. “How can you see inside a call?”
She looked at me as if I were the dumbest of beasts, then smiled indulgently, and placed her slender hand on my chest.
“The heart, Traveler. The heart speaks for the soul; there is music in the call, and yours was sad. It ached with loneliness, and so I came to keep you company for awhile. ”
I looked at her in amazement, surprised to find a tear rolling down my cheek.
With profound tenderness she took the hem of her green robe, and daubed it off my cheek.
There was a stain of blue there, swirling with various shades of it, before finally deepening, and staying dark.
She looked into my eyes. “You have been alone a very long time. It is love you seek, but I cannot offer it to you, Traveler, or I would give it freely, and you could stay here forever.”
“No one lives forever.”
“But love does, Traveler.”
She pulled back, straightened, smoothed her robes, looked off into the distance, and said it again, softer.
She took my hand, and led me from the rock.
“Come, I will walk with you to the edge of the grove, back to the road, and our time here together will end.”
“But you said I was welcome.”
She smiled. “I said all are welcome, and they are. But none may stay.”
We walked in silence, the only sound the random trill of birds, and the rustling of her robes, and the crunch of my boots.
Finally we emerged into the light of a westering sun, deepening in shades of amber and tangerine and persimmon, lighting the stitching of cirrus clouds afire from below.
“Will I see you again?” I asked.
She took my face in her hands, and searched my eyes for the depth of the question.
“When you love again, Traveler.”
She released me, took the rest of my apple, and walked away; I heard the rustling of her robes as she left me, and watched her disappear into the trees.
I started down the road and looked up.
The last of the sun was almost gone, and the darkening sky was blue and green, trimmed with a vestige of gold.
And the evening star slipped across the sky, a silver tear from the moon’s saffron cheek, and guided me home.