“I'm sorry. But you understand, don't you?”
Last night's blizzard has fizzled out, remembered only by the blankets of snow that are too heavy to be melted away by the morning sun. Without the wailing wind, the words have no curb to stumble upon and resound loudly amongst the trees. Even so, there is no answer.
But Chelsea expects no answer anyway.
She stands right in front of the big trunk, and the stone in her palm gyrates nervously with her fingers flexing. The trees do so much for her, and this is how she repays them?
Still, Chelsea knows – they will understand.
When she complains about having to run yet another errand for Grandpa, about her archery training getting stale and sluggish, when she can only babble through the tears about idiot cruel emotionless loveless kings and dreamy future queens that may never come, about dead fathers and mothers, about lost childhoods, they understand. They understand, because that's just what trees do.
They understand, because that's just how Chelsea makes them out to be.
And she gets down to work. It's more challenging than she had expected, and her palms and fingers get more than a few scratches for her negligence. After minutes of dedicated work, wood peelings cluster on the snow under her boots and soak in its melting water.
It's nice through the trees, she thinks.
It's nice away from the trees too, because Grandpa's there, her bow and arrows are there, and most of all he is there.
Animals have a good time away from their nest too – they find food and water and they make families. But sometimes they just have to return to the nest if they want to survive.
At last, she's finished, and she throws away the stone and stops to look at her creation. Her initials, his initials, united by a mathematical, yet emotive sign. A heart encases them, big enough to cover a generous swathe of the tree trunk and let the world know of the zeal and grandeur of her feelings.
It's kind of clumsy, and you have to squint a bit to make out what is written. Chelsea sees only one problem with it though – she traces the outlines of the letters one by one, before picking up the stone again, now damp with snow water, and carving the symbol of everlasting unity deeper onto the trunk. There, now it's perfect.
Well, as perfect as it can be for now. The day it finally sheds its wooden skin and becomes flesh and bones, the day he comes here to look at it with her, their hands and hearts tightly linked, that will be the day this design will truly reach perfection. Until then, the trees will keep it safe for her – it will be their little secret.
And if her hand trembled a bit too much, if the letters aren't as bold as she claims they are, that too is between her and the trees.