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Arikka's Wishing Tree
I didn’t accept my parent’s offer. When that girl named May, ten years older than my own children, had gone to the Inn to tell my mother that she would be moving to Kardia, she also asked the elfin lady to return there on the same boat, since she knew that was where my mother used to live. It was apparent from the start in my mother’s pretty green eyes that she would go.
My father would go, too. He would travel to the sun and back if that was what he had to do to stay with my mother.
But, when my mother and father had told me the news, I was sure right away that I didn’t want to pack up, take my two six-year-olds, and go with them. They didn’t understand their son’s decision; their letters over the past month since their arrival show that they still don’t. Even I can’t fully comprehend.
Maybe it’s my bed, large enough for two. Maybe it’s the farm she toiled in, that I now run in her memory. Maybe it’s that pearl ring I can’t bear to sell, or the wedding dress and suit that stay in the basement.
Maybe it’s Arikka’s Wishing Tree, just outside the door, its branches scraping second-story windows.
Yes, that’s probably it.
When we were little, that was the tree Kayla and Aron taught her to climb on. It bore cherry blossoms in the spring. When we married and had a home of our own, on the other side of the family farm, she filled it with the pink flowers, and she’d come home with their sweet scent on her.
And, ever since we were teens, she “hung her wishes” on it. She’d take a random object – be it a stone, paperclip, or empty soda bottle – and tie some string around it. She attached the other end of the string to a branch, and let the whole thing hang.
For every wish she had, she did this.
And when a wish was fulfilled, she went out to the tree and snipped a string with some scissors. She always said that she planned to die with nothing hanging from her Wishing Tree.
After a few years of us being married, we found out that Arikka was three months pregnant. Half a year of expectation ensued, and then she gave birth to my lovely little twins – one girl, and one boy. She wanted to name them Melody and James, and so it was.
But her body was weak after that, and she fell ill just days later. All the doctors in the village and I tried to keep her inside, in bed, although she wanted to get up and move about.
But one day, when we all left her alone for just a little while, she snuck out to her wishing tree. When I came back from church, still praying for her safe recovery, she was still sitting under it, leaning against the barky tree.
If she had been breathing, if she’d had a pulse, she might have been asleep.
I wept and lamented, holding her body close to mine and feeling the warmth leave it, slowly turning cold as stone. It wasn’t until later that I’d bothered to look at her hands.
In one hand was a pair of scissors. In the other, were two beautiful gemstones, one, a deep aquamarine, the other, a fiery ruby, representing, I realized, Melody and James. I looked up at the branches of the tree. Petals fell around us two, brushing my face like butterfly kisses.
Not a single thing hung from Arikka’s Wishing Tree. My tears grew warmer, now representing happiness and not grief. She had died with no regrets.
This is why I don’t want to go to Kardia.
I don’t want to leave the tree that makes me remember her.
And more than anything, I don’t want to forget.