I saw a petal fall.

There, in the silent meadow, beneath the birch trees. That's where I found her. Silent, sitting, pensively gazing at the fallen petals of a wild flower, she remained. I stood nearby, behind her, waiting for something to happen. I thought she was crying. I thought she wanted to be left alone. I dared not approach her solitude. As a child I waited, and waited, until at last I lost patience with the woman in the meadow. I did not understand the sorrow which gripped her heart, and I was ill equipped to comfort her. I searched for something to say, something to break the monotony. I saw a petal fall. I almost spoke. My throat was dry from thinking too much. I must have stayed there watching the woman for more than an hour, yet she did not move once. I turned at last, recalling the food waiting for me at home. I had never encountered anything like it before. As I cleared the forest on the way home, I heard a single shot. My heart knew that the woman in the meadow was no more, for the sorrow had killed her. I was glad for the lost soul who has escaped her torment, for I was ill equipped to ease her pain.

The next day, I learned about her. The men of the village had seen the policeman. They said the suicide was clean, the wound proper, the gun empty. They said she was the daughter of a rich businessman away on business. They said she lacked nothing, she lacked no one. Murder was not ruled out. I stayed silent.

A year later, I returned to the meadow beneath the birch trees. I sat, silent, in the middle of the clearing, looking at the wild flowers. I took a deep breath. As I exhaled, I felt the presence of the woman who had since that dreadful moment occupied a room for rent in my mind. I knew she was there, among the wild flowers she had loved so much, among the trees she had admired. The sorrow in my heart was strong, pulsating like the heart that cannot speak. I sensed with my whole being the desolation of a soul who, for whatever reasons could not find the help it needed in time, and thus was condemned to stay, lonely, unheard, among the wild flowers it loved so much.

© 1994 Christopher Mahan.