The snap of the twig was always the best part. The scent of the dried wood, dead for months now, would rise to her nose. She would inhale its scent, drinking in lost memories of seasons long since passed. The birds that sat in the tree’s branches in the spring, and sang their songs to the quiet wood, fluttered behind her closed lids. She would have to hurry her gathering before the sun went down. She had not brought anything to help guide her back home in the darkness as this was meant to be a quick exploration. Her husband would be wondering what had kept her and she didn’t want to worry him.

They lived a quiet life there among the trees for many years. They cared for their chickens and goats, crafted much of what they needed, and would go to town for anything else they did not have. He was the love of her life, her spirit, and she was his. She had come very close to losing him some years before. It always pained her to think about how close they had come to being separated from each other when he had grown ill. They had loved each other since they were young and had been inseparable.

She shrugged her cloak higher around her neck and continued on her way towards home. Her basket whispered with the makings she would need for crafting. She walked along the small desire path she had created during her many trips through the trees. The sunlight crept lazily through the thin skin of the leaves and danced between the branches on its way down to illuminate the ground. There was a breeze slightly touching the flora around her, making the plants dance. She could see the gentle sway of the long stalks of green and hear the rhythmic rustle that came from the dry leaves tumbling along the pine needle laden path. She inhaled deeply of the scents around her, the woods, the moist layer of earth below. She soon approached her home that stood among the dark bark of the woodland trees.

As she approached she could feel something was not quite right. She let the door creak inward on its own as she opened it. Not yet willing to step over the threshold she looked around the interior from her stance in the doorway. In the corner, set just outside of the light of the fire, sat the figure of a man. She stepped inside slowly, keeping her eyes on his figure, not saying a word. She understood the time had finally come.

She placed the basket of items she had been carrying onto a small wooden table. She could begin to see the outline of his features as the light from the fire flickered and charmed its way around him, illuminating him as if drawn to his being. Still she said nothing, she waited and watched. She had learned long ago it was best to let others reveal their intentions first, though she knew why he was here. She asked where her husband was and the figure told her in its deep voice that he was in a slumber in their room. Her eyes flicked to the darkened doorway of their bedroom then back to the figure.

She told him she knew why he had come. Their bargain should have been longer than this. She heard the creak of the old wooden chair before she noticed his movements. Fluid and graceful, he lifted himself from the chair without strain and stepped fully into the light so she could see him. There was no trace of the outside on his dark pants or the shirt he wore. He spoke firmly, but gently as if he were trying to be kind. He told her she knew exactly how long their bargain was for and now it was time, the spell was already undoing itself and she could either argue with him or spend the last of it with her husband. With tears welling in her eyes she walked swiftly to their room and knelt next to her husband, wishing he could be awake for this part, so she could speak to him one last time. She watched his slow breathing, traced his eyelids and the features of his face. She never heard the man but he was suddenly behind her, he let her know it was time. She wiped her eyes and stood to face him. He whispered that he was sorry and wiped away her last tear as she slowly began to crumble into the leaves, flowers, sticks, and earth that she loved collecting. She had given her life for her husband’s many years before, and now she had paid her debt.

Quinn’s education is in psychology and she works in the behavioral health field. Her passion lies in writing short fiction and poetry. She enjoys using elements of psychology, and her experiences in the field in her writing to bring a realism to the stories she writes.

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