She walked along the river that night. A tinder box in her pocket, carrying it close and checking it often. Waiting for the darkest hour, the thickest of night, when stars were being snuffed and the mist lay heavily all around and drips echoed loudly upon the mossy stone.
It was the hour that moss and stone conversed, their words heavy and thick and slow. The moss was soft and welcoming, their secrets as heavy as the burdened leaves that bowed under the burden of their wintery loads. The drops falling like small boulders, just before the dawn. This was the time that she had waited for. She pulled her shawl closer around her shoulders. A fleeting thought imagined and wished it was his arms instead.
Her boots fell heavily on the damp leaves that barely made a sound, the occasional snapping of a twig or squelching of mud. She pulled her hat tight over her frozen ears. If only she could hide her thoughts as easily as she hid her ears she thought with a little annoyance. Her mind circled with memories that drove her boots steadily on, they seemed more assured than she did, as they trampled the damp silent leaves. They squelched simple words over and over again…
She found herself repeating those words over and over again. What else could a poor girl do? She felt for the tinder box again, and the callous cold metal slowly warming against her heart as she pressed it closer, “Around the river bend, up Minors Hill. Climb up the old quarry.” He had said that day. She had been sure to repeat it over and over again, terrified she would forget it. Her breath became increasingly heavy as she traversed up the steep rocky side of the quarry. She could feel her nails tearing on the granite as she climbed steadily upwards. Heat, cold and burning fingers equally paining with her lungs and limbs, as she carefully balanced herself over short gravely trails and slippery boulders. Not much of a trail, She thought to herself, she could see why the cottage had been abandoned, The track was anything but simple. But she had set the course, and nothing could turn her from it. After what felt like hours…. the cottage and the wood pile, that he had so carefully described, appeared suddenly before her. It was as if it had been expecting her she thought to herself. Her eyes fastened to it immediately as she picked up speed – excitement and determination helping her forget the stinging and the aches as she ran toward it. She checked to see if the pile was damp, the surface layer was wet, but beneath it lay the perfect stack of dry aged timber and kindling. You were ready even then, she thought to herself in amazement. With shaking cold burning fingers she removed the top layer of damp useless timber, then removed the tinder box from her chest, began striking the flint. It caught on the third strike, as she delicately blew on it, as if it were hot soup, the thought of soup was torturous and she immediately focused on the task ahead in order to ignore the painful hunger. The flames grew steadily and she thanked the gods that no wind blew this morn. She nursed the flame carefully in the still wet blackness. Maybe the gods are with me after all…she whispered to herself. Soon the flames were licking the wood crackling and sending sparks into the air. She found an empty crate that lay recklessly about and sat down between the flames and the worn old cottage. It seemed to stare at her with its gaping windows, like a blind old widow. She pretended not to notice it, Ghosts shall surely arise from it if I pay it attention, she thought to herself.. The mist started to glow around the bonfire, like one of the new iridescent electric light globes she had seen recently in the shop window. She sat quietly making a fast and desperate prayer. Now all there was to do was wait and hope and pray.