Alone, the swish of the leaves moving catches my attention once more. I flick my eyes to them briefly before turning my head for a closer look: something catches my eye. My brow relaxes, the furrowed lines smoothing out. Here, it seems hopeless, yet there, amongst the dirt and leaves, swirling gently in the breeze, the light streams down upon the floor and wall and when the leaves move into the light, they turn gold. Just for a brief moment in time. And then they resume their usual dead, brown hue.
I stare at the door, a determined look spreading across my face. my eyes are fierce, my mouth set. I do not know what is beyond that door, I only know what is within these walls around me. I slowly rise from the floor and walk over to the window. Placing my palms gently, firmly, on the sill, i look out for the first time in aeons. The view has changed.
A bridge crosses a once-dry river, now flowing fast. Trees are no longer few in number and barren in appearence. They are lush and green, snaking along the riverbanks. Long grass covers the earth where forest or river does not, and it is such a beautiful sight, a single tear rolls down my cheek as a smile slowly begins to form. I turn to the heavy wooden door behind me, and take a slow, careful step towards it, as though any fast movements could shatter the illusion outside. The leaves crush under my feet as i walk barefoot through them, ever closer to the door. Finally, it is in front of me. My hand rises from my side, fingers entwining themselves around the cast iron handle. I twist the handle, take a deep breath, and push the door open.
The landscape is still here, the room i was in, a lone stone building amongst the beauty, a scar across its face. I look towards the river, and can identify the trees - willows, lowering their branches into the waters below. Walking towards them, the air is warm, the grass soft, full of life. Suddenly, I stop dead in my tracks: there is another in the paradise. They are standing by a Willow, one hand holding the branches, the other loosley by their side. I know not who they are, nor why they are here, but I have an idea. An impossible idea, but it fills me with hope. My strides become longer, covering the distance faster. A grin splits the neutrality of my face as I realise that my idea is reality. Breaking into a run, I call out 'how did you get here?' he replies, 'I was always here.'
I stop, four metres away from them, panting slightly from the run. "No, really, how did you get here?". He releasees the Willow branches and takes a step foward, into full sunlight, which glints off the metal, framing glass on his face. "I was always here, waiting for you to overcome your doubt and fear. Do you recognise this place?" he replies, sweeping one hand around him, motioning to the tree. I gasp, and nod. I know exactly where we are. " So, this is real, then? You're actually here, and so am I?"
"Of course I am, Olivia."
Simultaneously, we embrace, relishing the feeling of being together once again. Annabel believed it was impossible, that I would die before my daydream became reality, but here he is, holding me in his arms, and I, at last, am at peace.
1hour 45 mins