His name was Nash. She curled it over and around her tongue like a new taste. She had some knowledge of man-words, and knew his name was of forest origins.
His voice broke the stillness of the woods. The air was warm, the breeze gentle. The trees shivered their leaves as if in approving applause.
“I thought, as a boy, that I’d simply imagined you. I imagined that I tried to put a face on what I love most about the woods. The fluidity of streams that run silver-bright over moss covered rocks. The sweet sighs of the trees as they bend before the wind. The smells of death, reborn as life again, the loam of the earth, the tang of pine.
You are all that, and more.”
She froze against the bark of the tree she remained hidden behind. His words touched something deep and old inside of her. That a Man could feel all those things amazed her. She would not have believed it to be possible, that a Man…in all his destructive ways, could understand.
“Who are you, Nash-of-Man?” Her voice was like dappled sunlight, dancing on the forest floor.
His pencil stopped, poised over the paper on his bent knees. From her vantage point, she could see herself, peering out from behind a copse of trees. He’d added the rock wall ahead of them, and hinted at the sheen of dampness there, even the small niches where moss broke the granite into pebbles. He had captured life, that implacable force which cannot be denied. He had captured…her. In his picture, her eyes smiled, though her face was solemn.
“I…” He paused. He felt, in that moment, as if everything he was, everything he would become in the future, was on the line with his answer. He took a deep breath.
“I am who you see. A man, besotted with nature. A man who has searched for many years for peace, for solace, and, sweet sprite, for you. I didn’t want to admit you existed anymore. I didn’t want to admit that you didn’t. I am a man who was caught in a terrible limbo, on the edge of the cliff that lies between what he thinks is truth, and what he desires to be real.”
He slowly reached for his water bottle, to moisten his suddenly dry mouth. She saw his head tilt back, heard the sound of his swallowing. His face was precious to her. Even after all these seasons, something in him stirred her. He fed a need in her, and she would admit to dreaming of him while her hands were busy sating herself. His words moved her from her hiding place. Quickly she scampered across the small glen, and sat on a rock across from him. She was high enough to escape him, if need be. But close enough to smell his scent, to watch his face and eyes as they spoke.
Slowly he lowered the bottle, staring at her in amazement. For long moments they looked into each others eyes. Memories of their first meeting, when she was young, when he was young, deep in a shadowed tangle of brush, flowed through them both.
“You’re beautiful. More beautiful than I can capture here.” His hand.
At that word, she panicked, and fled from him again.