by Kenneth Harper Finton
She must have come out of the dark of the night, for I awoke one morning and simply found that she was there. Did I wake at all, or did I dream her into my life?
Whether a dream or a mystical succubus, she haunts me to this day. My loins ached for her. As I remember, her parents had been old-time friends of my parents. They stopped for a day to catch up on time that had been lost for a dozen years.
A lassie named Cassie, a vision of grace and elegance. Her very name was a rhyme that rolled off my hungry lips. Had I known where she went I would have crashed the gates of hell to find her, but she came and left like a storm that bent my soul in the winds. Could she still be lazing in the sun or is she standing in the midnight dark waiting on a day that never breaks.
I remember how her father smoked his pipe at breakfast on the day that they arrived. He told us about his work engineering new roads in the West. She said she never stayed the length of time necessary to call a place home. The last place that felt like home was on a desert far to the West among the cactus and the prairie pack rats that stole a birthstone from her dresser top.
Her brother Jess was my age, a tall boy with gangly legs, a wiry frame and short-cropped hair. His husky voice spewed out words fast as an auctioneer. I was sixteen and she was fifteen, every inch of her bursting with the enchanting charms that I desired so much.
In the afternoon the folks all went to town. Cassie and I climbed the creaking stairs to the attic and I brought out a tattered picture album. The thick black pages were loose and filled with dust. She ran back down the stairs and I followed, but she suddenly was gone.
I ran around the house calling out her name, opened a closet door and found her hiding there. She came out of hiding with a laugh and a smile that sent shivers down my spine. Our feet not even touching the ground, we flew straight to the sofa in the hall. She laughed musically and smiled breathlessly as told me that she had never felt like this before. We looked at pictures in the old album for an hour, her head bobbing toward my shoulder, her rounded hips touching my own sun-bronzed leg.
The hour passed as though time has stood still. The light streamed through the window and her hair fell softly down her neck, highlighted by the streaming of the sunlight.
We came upon a picture of a desert plain where steamrolled landscapes were pocked with time-eaten rocks that rose up from the bowels of the earth in grotesquely-shaped tormented forms. She said the the desert looked like that back home and spoke of roaming the sands at night looking up at the ancient stars embedded in a cold desert sky and wondered who her love was meant to be. Silently, she leaned her head my way until it came to rest against my arm. I felt like an angel had lost her cloud and came to rest upon my soul.
Our day was short, just seconds in an hour.
We walked the fence rows with the clinging vines and walked by some malformed trees that were cut long ago with stunted branches flaring up from the stumps. We followed the trail along the brook and sat down on the banks to watch the minnows stir a mist of mud along the bottom of the silver stream. As we edged our way along the hanging suspension bridge, she pretended that she was afraid of falling headlong down into the stream that churned cold over the green, moss-covered rocks.
We brought a picnic lunch and stopped between two pines that stood high on a knoll behind an abandoned house. The cloth she spread is still in place. The shaded spot was cooled by the evergreen and the rumpling, gentle breeze hummed a tune and whispered songs of love in the prickly needles of the pines. I looked into her perfect, loving face––her moist, light lips red as the blood of life.
I hardly dared to kiss her, but I did.
When we walked together back to the house, we knew our moment of separation was near. These precious moments we had shared would become just memories of what once was, something to cherisg while still young and fresh as Spring.
That night the raindrops splattered on the roof. I heard an engine start. a door slam shut, a car pull into the gravel drive and as the sound of the engine slowly disappeared and faded in the night. I knew that she had been swallowed up forever in that swollen mass of people and forgotten dreams. I felt a hollowness within. An emptiness that could never be filled enveloped me.
I promised that I would never forget this memory, this short time that was ours alone forever. For many nights thereafter I lay in awake in bed, wondering if somewhere in a western land, someone stands alone staring at the black and empty sky and wonders who her love was meant to be.
These words were written long ago. The day that stood out like a cat’s eyes at night was choked in the vastness of the days before and the greatness ofd the days to come. Until I found this story on an old trunk, my promise has been broken.