Bella settled back into the cushions and smiled, remembering.
“It was such a beautiful day, the day I met Emma.”
“I’d gotten a bicycle for my birthday that year. I’d ridden all over Sunset Valley and explored its every nook and cranny, but there was one place that especially called to me. So it was thither that I bent my steps that morning. Or would that be my wheels?”
“I remember that day so clearly. It was early spring, and the sun’s touch was as soft and cool as a satin sheet. The sky was the sort of endless perfect blue that can make your soul open up and up and up until there is no you anymore, only blue and green and sky and earth and beauty and love.”
Bella chuckled and glanced up at the portrait of Mortimer.
“You must forgive me my little flights of fancy. I imagine that at the time I was actually just thinking about how glad I was to get away from my brother Michael. But you know, when you have so much more past than future you tend to idealize the past and remember it in much softer colors.”
Lilith smiled a tiny smile and let Bella’s voice wash over her. Its clear and shining light chased away the shadows and quieted the voices, and Lilith gloried in the golden silence.
“So I arrived at my destination, somewhat out of breath but pleased with myself for making it all the way up the steep curvy hill. I had traveled the same path that you traveled earlier today, but I think I had the rather more pleasant trip.”
“I left my bike on the side of road. If Mortimer saw it he’d know it was mine and where I was. He wouldn’t come after me, though. We understood each other pretty well even then.”
“He knew that I wanted to be alone when I went to the rocks. It was such a serene place, and I would just sit there and be with the rocks and the ground and the sky and lose myself for a while.”
“The world was so big and wide and open and new back then. The rocks called to me, singing a song of peace and beauty without end, without time.”
“The rocks are so very old. They’ve seen many generations of humans grow and multiply and die. They have no sense of time. I wonder sometimes if when my times comes, I’ll go and join them and be one of the rocks. I think I would like that.”
“But that morning was not to be one of quiet meditation. As I walked forward among the rocks, I saw that someone else had gotten there before me.”
“I can still see her there, framed between two of the rocks. She was staring off into the distance and I thought I could see faint traces of tears on her cheek. Her blonde hair glowed in the sun’s light but she seemed unconscious of the glory of the world all around her.”
“At first my soul raged against her invasion of my secret sanctum but she looked so forlorn that my anger quickly melted into compassion. I decided I’d talk to her and try to comfort her.”
“As I walked up she noticed my presence and turned those vacant distant eyes on me. She didn’t say anything. I almost felt like I was dealing with a feral cat. I went slow and easy, not wanting her to run away.”
‘Hi, I’m Bella. I haven’t seen you at school. Did you just move here?’
“She just stood there silently, still looking at me with those awful eyes. I tried once more.”
‘So how did you find the rocks? It’s a wonderful place, isn’t it?’
“I was gratified when she showed signs of life and began to speak, but then what she said horrified me.”
‘He’s going to kill her.’