The Cherry Blossoms and the Milky-Green Lake (Snapshot Stories 12)

For Bodie xx

Olivia stood on the roof of multi-storey building of the university library.

It was always freezing up there, especially at night. Her shoulders hunched even more than usual against the blades of ice in the wind. Her eyes and her nose were sore, she thought irrelevantly as she turned her back on the sights of campus grounds.

The Night Messenger was standing immediately in front of her.

Olivia jumped and an involuntary squeak escaped her mouth. Hope flared and ice crunched in her heart.

Her mouth opened of its own accord. “You’re late.”

The Messenger ignored her and drank in the cold wind like wine, letting a minute flow past before speaking.

“You should re-think this.”

Olivia shook her head, the tears filling up her eyes again. “I want to, need to see him.”

The Night Messenger inhaled the cold again. Steam coated the words that followed. “Your dog is beautiful. He has had a beautiful and happy life with you. He has crossed and he is happy and he wants to see you happy. Do not call him back. It will confuse him.”

Olivia’s face crumpled and she dropped her head as her hunched shoulders shook. Again.

She told herself again that her Tombolo was well. But it wasn’t enough. She wanted to see him, she needed her precious boy, she wanted him back, she—didn’t know what she wanted, other than she was lost without the one soul who knew her heart. Then the tears started falling harder and harder, and then she was a broken tattered leaf being torn along in the wind.

She wasn’t really aware of the Night Messenger gathering her up and travelling on her tears into the Place In-Between.

So when Olivia did look up again, the library building’s flat roof with its scoured grey concrete had been replaced by—she blinked, her tears stalling into the lump in her throat.

She was staring down into a lake that was iridescent milk-green in colour. On the opposite bank was a veritable forest of pink cherry blossoms. They carried all the way into a featureless dark-blue sky where a full, round moon sat, lantern-gentle and sympathetic. There were black clouds in the sky which carried all the stars.

Olivia looked around wonderingly, hope prickling at her skin. She knew enough to know this was some not-real place of the Night Messenger’s realm. “Where are we?”

Her words were rusty, and she was suddenly both calm and exhausted after the loss and upheaval of her Tombolo in the past week.

The Night Messenger waved a hand to the milk-green water. “The waters are green. This means that, if you want to see him, your dog will be happy to receive you. But you will have to leave again, and your departure again will confuse and sadden him.”

Olivia had started to take an eager step towards the lake. But now she paused. The tears and despair which had pushed her to wanting, needing, to be here, had frustratingly evaporated.

All she had wanted was to see Tombolo again. To hug him, pat him, tell him she loved him, apologise for not taking him to the vet sooner, to apologise for being brusque and rushed when she dropped him off at the vet—and try to explain that she’d let a work deadline take her attention, that she really thought it was a standard vet operation and that she would see him after, that she hadn’t wanted to fuss and let him feel her anxiety, that she loved him, she loved him, that she hadn’t wanted to hurt him, that she loved him with all her heart and being.

“He knows this.” The Night Messenger could read her thoughts with unnerving clarity. “He truly does. He loves you still. He always will.”

Olivia stared out into the milk-green lake. There were tiny cherry-blossom petals dotting the water. They shone pink in the moonlight as they drifted towards to the shore on her right.

“You’re trying to stop me,” she said.

“Yes,” the Night Messenger replied simply, “for his sake.”

Another breath of invisible wind lifted a sweep of the pink cherry blossom petals through the air. They twirled around to land on the milk-green waters and a handful rained gently around Olivia.

“You have until the petals reach the shore to make your decision,” said the Night Messenger.

Without really realising what she was doing, Olivia sat down. She breathed in and then she breathed out, and watched the tiny pink petals slowly drift, one by one, towards the shoreline.

Against the dark-blue sky, the moon was a deity of calm and the black clouds sat quietly as their stars shone.

The wind blew around Olivia’s face, but no more of the pink petals drifted towards the water.

Olivia breathed.

There were only the pink dots in the milk-green water. She watched them drift, wanting to see Tombolo and hug him, wanting to ask, wanting her heart to heal. Not wanting to hurt him. Wanting to see him.

Then the cherry blossom petals were gone from the water, and it was milky-green again.

The moon understood. The black clouds brightened their stars.
Perhaps the cherry blossom trees shimmered. A goodbye maybe.
Olivia felt the Night Messenger move behind her.

She felt tears gather and start to spill again. But for the first time, they didn’t hurt.

Then she was in bed and sleeping. Unaware that the Night Messenger had again used her tears to return her to her own bed in her own house.

She was resting. Dreaming. Healing.

The Night Messenger paused to look down at the woman sleeping mostly peacefully, tiny lines now etched hard between her brows.

It is a difficult, heart-wearying task, to patrol the edges between those who live and those who have crossed. Some will always hurt more than others.

The Night Messenger reached out to remove a stray cherry blossom petal from Olivia’s hair. Best to leave this as a dream for Olivia. And the petal would be a last little gift from this world for the lovely dog, Tombolo.

As the Night Messenger slipped out, a final stray cherry blossom petal slipped from Olivia’s tangled hair and onto her pillow, unnoticed.

I drew the story out of the image. The words are, frankly, a bit too close to my heart – because I lost my puppy-boy unexpectedly a few years ago, and writing something like this makes the tears roll fresh. Maybe I should have written a reunification? Maybe I will.

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