Crow was her first and now he knelt before her to say goodbye.
Arthritic knuckles no longer able to hold a pen.
Her eyes have closed.
Her breathing slowed.
Her living family waits and weeps.
In her mind, the last of her stories played out, the last of her characters gathered around her. Crow’s first. He loved her best, knew her best, bore the deepest scars inflicted by her hand, but burnt with the brightest hope infused by her every mark. Behind him ranged rank after rank of heroes and villains, sinners and saints, men and women, boys and girls, and animals given voice, trees given wings. Some of them have had their stories told, some waited and waited and waited too long, the chance now gone as she slipped away.
Crow took her little hand in the strong one she gave him.
“I’m sorry,” she said in her head to her best creation. “I’m sorry for everything you had to carry, everything you had to endure.”
He smiled. “You never left me. You were always there. You always brought me home.”
“But so many of you never made it home.” Tears sprang to her eyes as she scanned the faces of so many representations of her soul.
“You gave us life, even if only for a moment,” said Sundance, with blueberry eyes and blonde hair. “You gave us love.” Ronan, wearing his sunglasses, kissed Sundance on the side of her head. He came forward, holding the old storyteller’s other hand. “You gave us purpose.”
Beautiful Olive wrapped in all the seasons rested her hand on Crow’s shoulder. “You gave us a chance to fight the darkness.”
“You saved us from the darkness.” Fortunatus said beside Jack. The one-eyed boy twisted his wolf’s head earring.
“You loved us. You cried over all of us.” Star removes her top hat and bows. Beside her, Bree wrapped her arm around her son Jonah. “You reunited us.”
“Thank you….thank you…thank you…,” the old storyteller said. She searched all their well-known faces one last time. “Thank you, for sharing your stories with me. For asking me to voice them.” She turned one last time to Crow. “Thank you for finding me.” She smiled, turned her eyes to heaven, and slipped away. The room emptied instantly, all of them forever gone, for they were her soul, fragmented and broken, healed. And when she was gone, so were they.
“Goodbye…” whispered the wind.
Pages ruffled. A child snuggled deep into a chair. His eyes swept the letters, reading the words. A world opened. Characters breathed.
Goodbye was temporary.