"Where are we going again? It's getting dark."
"Almost there. I really want you to see this. I've never shown it to anybody before."
I pushed aside the branches of an enormous willow tree and spread my blanket on the bank. Brix turned two circles and then settled himself at the edge of the blanket, wagging his tail, watching the river.
"Here, have a seat. You were saying?" I said.
"I just think it's time for us to have a talk. You know, about serious things."
"Yes. I feel like we never talk about the things that really matter," she said.
We sat on the blanket, holding hands. I searched the river. She shifted her legs and tugged at her dress, trying to get comfortable.
"There!" I pointed at little Wyndie, who was dashing across the water, riding on one of her dragonflies. Her wings caught the last light of the setting sun.
"You might want to slow down!" I shouted out to her. Wyndie waved.
"Who? Who wants to slow down?" Anica said. "I don't see anyone!"
"She was going so fast," I said. "It would be easy to miss. There's more....like, see that bird up there? He is a friend of mine. Once, he flew all the way up past the clouds. It's an amazing story."
Anica laughed uncomfortably. "That's just a magpie, Jeremy."
"He's a raven, actually. They're old souls. Very magical. And see that cloud?"
"See the way it's moving? It's watching us - taking care of us. Taking care of everyone."
"Are you OK?" She laughed uncomfortably. "You're so weird."
"I'm just trying to help you see. I've been wanting to show you this ever since we met. If you could just look closer."
"Tell me again what we're doing here."
She looked at me with those green eyes. She was so beautiful, so good. I had to make her understand. Our life together depended on it. I untucked my shirt and tore two small squares from its edge.
"What are you doing?" she asked, her eyes wide. I gave her one of the squares.
"Will you do something for me? First, put all of your wishes for us, for our life, in here. All your worries, too."
"Yes, those, too. See, like this."
I breathed into my square of linen, closing my eyes, thinking of every dream and wish I had for our lives together. I thought of the day we met, the long, all-night talks, the way she moved her foot whenever she was nervous, how the sun brought out the red in her hair.
I also thought of the secret rooms in my heart that I wanted to show her...the secrets that made me who I am. The places I feared she could not see, or worse, didn't want to know. She knew the bright side of the moon, but she had never ventured to the other side. The side that saw life in the shapes of the clouds, that noticed how flowers changed color when faeries painted them with their singing, that saw the intelligence in the blue between the clouds. The part that heard music in the rain. If she didn't fall in love with that part of me, too, I didn't know what I would do.
I breathed all of those hopes and worries into my square of cloth. Then I folded it carefully, and put it in my lap.
"I don't understand," she said.
"Now, we wait." I said.
"Wait for what?"
"For the moon," I said.
Anica stood up and quickly brushed the leaves from her coat. Her face looked flushed, hot. My heart pitched wildly, like a butterfly in a storm.
"Look, if you didn't really want to talk to me, you should have told me before I came all the way out here. I don't have time to talk about faeries and clouds. Good heavens, Jeremy! I've got work in the morning, and school. I'm going to go."
I watched her walk away.
I sat there for a long time, catching my breath; the willows murmuring their sorrow, the sky soothing my spirit with its softness. Mother Moon rose from behind the river and cast her light across the water. A river of love, just for me. I laid my linen cloth on her reflection, and it drifted upward, riding like a sailing ship across her beam of light. I knew she would keep my dreams safe.
Brix lay his furry chin on my lap. A warm wind drifted through the willow tree's branches. She reached down with her boughs and stroked my cheek, whispering.
"Do not sorrow, love. I am here."