The branches and leaves slapped away at his face, but he could only see her smiling face as she pulled him along. Before he knew it, they were standing in a much too familiar place: the Getaway.
Nostalgia filled him as he recalled the small stream that cut through the open grass field surrounded by the towering trees that they stood in, as well as the gigantic boulder that rested on bank of the water that they had etched their initials onto. A for Andy, M for Mira.
The boy and girl walked silently, absorbing the reserved memories they’ve together since the day they came here. Laughter after a cringe-worthy pun, gossip about teachers, sharing deep, deep secrets, even the fights—intense ones, at that—, they absorbed it all.
She tightened the grip on his hand, her chocolate hair getting blown in all corners of the compass by the autumn breeze. They linked eyes, and she smiled again. He couldn’t help but think she was so beautiful with her hair like that—unrestricted; natural.
They reached the stream, and he crouched down to see the small minerals and pebble flowing through the clear current. She hunkered beside him, an object catching her curiosity. Just under the still dirt remained some sort of silver glistening under the afternoon sun.
“I dropped a pearl inside the water,” he said, noticing her magnetized gaze.
She tilted her head, confusion entering her mind. “What for? Isn’t that worth a lot?”
“No… Well yeah, but—” He ran his fingers through his dusky hair and managed a chuckle. “—I don’t really need money, and you know the wishing wells?”
“What about them?”
“Well if people can wish for things in those scary holes, why not here?”
“You’re right!” she said, a smile stretching ear-to-ear.
“Wait! Uh—what did you wish for?”
He stood up, and with the most serious face he could make—which made her giggle anyway—said, “I wished for a day that we’ll finally have a mom and dad.”
They were eleven, too young to understand, but just old enough to believe.
“Mira,” he began to say, but her drooping face tore at his heart. How precious you are, he thought.
An awkward silence fell over the two walking to the stream, driving Mira mad with anxiety. Without a second notion, she threw herself to his arms, and cried in sniffles. Andy, as inexperienced as he was, only motioned a circle behind her back, whispering over and over, ”It’s okay, it’s going to be okay.”
“It isn’t fair,” she said, tears dancing down her rosy cheeks, “I don’t want to go – not without you.”
“I’ll be fine.” He wiped her tears with the sleeve of his sweater. “You’ll be fine.”
She grasped his hand, filling him with a heat that warmed fingers he hadn’t realized were so cold, and brought it to her cheek. She stared at him with her scarlet eyes, eyes that would always seem to burn like a blazing wildfire. But this time, he realized, the flames were nearing the last of its coals.
“We’re going to be separated,” she said. “Who knows how long… how long we’ll be gone; how long it’ll be until we see each other again. I can’t do it—I won’t. I…”
He plucked a rose resting just beside his shoe and fitted it within her gleaming hair. She shot a sudden glare, and he couldn’t help but laugh.
“What’s so funny?” She said, unsuccessful at hiding a giggle. “Can you not? I’m trying to be realistic here and you—you’re just being—“
“Andy,” he finished the sentence with a smirk and continued onward.
A hint of delight showed in her face. “Plain ol’ Andy.” She stayed on the heels of the care-free boy, his comforting lemonade scent filling her nose.
“It’s been forever since we came here,” Andy said. He leaped over the stream and took small steps towards the still boulder. “I thought it was way bigger – but…”
He turned around. Mira had halted and stared at the yellow sky, pondering, her eyes reflecting the color and shining a bright orange. She noticed him looking, and gave a pained smile. She took a graceful hop, one fitting of a royal princess, over the water and caught up to Andy’s mesmerized gaze.
Together, they climbed the pebbly edges of the boulder. When they reached the surface, their eyes connected for the second time. She could see in his blue eyes a borderless ocean, its waves splashing against one another. And though she blamed lack of sleep, she glimpsed a growing storm.
She was the fire, and he the water. They were a balanced force of nature, the Yin and Yang; they were whole.
“It’s going to be a long time until we come back,” she said. “…Promise me one thing, okay?”
They sat beside one another and watched the yellow streaks in the sky turn orange, then a bright red. She scooted closer to his side and rested her head on his shoulder, a heavy sigh escaping her throat.
She said, “Let’s come back, here, in 2 years. Promise me—that you’ll be here—because I will.”
He was the one to reach for her hand this time, her cheeks suddenly blooming brighter than the scenery before their eyes, and locked his fingers around hers.
They were sixteen, too young to escape into the sunset, but just old enough to love.
A man, young and sturdy, stood just on the outskirts of the meadow, his blue eyes a quiet stare.
He was an old friend, a welcome presence in the grass and flowers that held their arms in the air.
He was a boy dropping a pearl into water even when he knew he could have sold it for a good price. He was a teen, his life out of his hands, lost in love. He was a distant memory etched into the lullabies that the birds in the trees chirped. He was an initial engraved into the side of a boulder—A for Andy.
His footsteps seemed to falter as he walked towards where water should have been flowing. It had dried; it was no longer was a stream—like a child had dug out a crude trench through the dirt. He bent over, a wave of nostalgia washing over him as he noticed a silver glint sticking out the dirt. He brought it to his face, blowing off the bits of soil away, knowing beforehand it was the pearl.
“You think it will really come true?” a girl’s voice said. He turned around to her but was met with the tree branches swaying and the whispers of the wind.
He realized the voice was from his own mind, his imagination. He wanted to cry then, at that moment, but he was already drowning.
He made his way to the boulder and with a frigid hand, moved it across the stony surface, scarcely hearing the sound of rock against rock—of a boy with a rock, bashing it against stone and imprinting letters akin to that of a preschooler’s handwriting; of a rosy-cheeked girl’s quiet gaze as she watched her hero lost in concentration.
He climbed his way to the surface, an easy feat at that, and looked up at the orange sky.
“Promise me,” a soft, soothing whisper entered his ear, “One thing.”
He turned again, but was only met with a gentle breeze. His blue eyes stared intently, the waves in the ocean thrashing at one another while thunder roared—no—called for the flame that had vanished.
He was the water, and she... The balance had been shoved into disarray, and he was drowning in the ocean, powerless against the current.
“Mira,” he said, his voice echoing through the meadow and bouncing off the trees, “It’s ironic—you should be the one here, right now, not me – so please, come back already – I miss you.”
A breeze sailed by him, and with it, a rose that drifted into his shivering hand. It brought a warmth; an-all-too-familiar heat, and he couldn’t help but bring it to his cheek and envelop it underneath his fingers.
When he laid his eyes over the flower, he saw himself fixing it into the chocolate hair of a beautiful, smiling angel.
It was then that he realized the meadow was quiet without her laughter; that a piece of the puzzle had gone missing.
A burning sensation engulfed his lungs, and his eyes stung with pain. He needed air, a chance to breathe; something to hold on to, so he wouldn’t drown. With no other option, he released the rose – as if the rose was not just a rose, but the weight that dragged him underwater.
The crimson flower vanished into the red horizon, and that was when he inhaled, exhaled, and finally cried the ocean in his eyes away.
He will always come here, to the stream, even though it had dried, to the meadow that a day never passed by without them dancing over the grass, to the boulder with the initials A and M.
Because he gave a promise to a girl with the most elegant hair and rosy cheeks, a promise that he would always come back to this place.
A place to forget their troubles and free their fiery souls.
A place called Getaway.
He was twenty, too young to join her in heaven, but just old enough to swim.