It was a long word. A long, quiet word. A word without horizons.
The wind rippled through the grass, lifting the edges of her skirt, teasing the tails of the violet ribbons encircling her waist until they danced. All she could hear was the beating of her heart and the echo of the word. Forever.
She’d heard it before. From so many different men. Each time it had been the truth, even if they didn’t understand what it meant, they’d said it. Sincerely. Honestly. With all their heart. And over the years she’d loved them all. Forever. Even when their love had turned to fear. At first, they’d be proud of her unusual beauty. After they’d been married for about twenty years, she’d occasionally catch a glimpse of bewilderment in their eyes. Then people would begin to comment and soon she’d see them watching her. As they aged, their fear grew.
A few had walked away. For the most part they'd been kind. As kind as they were able.They’d told her a gentle lie and then left, taking nothing with them but a lock of her hair.
Others had turned from her, their love gone or twisted into something ugly and foul and she’d been the one to leave, often late at night. She would wait until they slept and then, taking her few belongings, would slip out of the house, latching the door behind her and head for the sea.
Once or twice, their love had turned to hatred and she’d escaped with only her life.
Only one had stayed and eventually, when age and time had taken its toll, he’d died in her arms. She mourned for many years. She’d loved him in a way she’d never loved the others. With him, forever had meant something. It was real. It was blind.
He’d often marvelled that someone whom everyone called beautiful had fallen in love with a sightless man. A man who couldn’t enjoy her beauty. How could she tell him it was his blindness that gave her hope, that made her feel truly loved. But didn’t she want someone who was able to see danger coming and protect her? She’d laughed, but not unkindly. It was his very blindness that made her feel safe. She needed his continuing, untainted love, not his protection. She could take care of herself. She’d been doing it for centuries.
After she’d buried him, she’d vowed never to marry again. But there was that word. Forever. Seven letters that failed so profoundly to describe the thing it meant. Most people can’t be alone, loveless, unloved for the span of even one lifetime. For eight hundred, it was impossible.
Which is why she now stood on this hillside, her hands held in the warm clasp of a man whose light green eyes gazed into hers with such adoration. A man who promised to love her.