Jenna Sweet was taking a walk back in time. It was now mid-afternoon, sunny and warm. A slight breeze rustled through the trees. A dog barked in the distance. She walked along the side walk, not really aware of where she was headed. Jenna guessed it was by instinct alone, a path she could not forgot. A narrow bridge was ahead of her and Jenna knew it was the bridge that crossed over Stone Brook. It was a place where she swam and frolicked as a kid. It was where her mother and her aunt Beatrice would bring lunch for Jenna and her cousins. Her mom, Dorothy, and Aunt Beatrice would sit around the picnic table talking, laughing, and smoking cigarettes. Both of them have been gone for a very long time now. It was a terrible accident. It changed all of their lives forever.
Jenna stood looking over the bridge, looking down into the rippling water feeling pensive and sad. She listened to the flow of the brook over the rocks and stones as the afternoon sunlight glittered on the water like sparklers on the fourth of July. She breathed in the sweet smell of the glacier-fed brook and the musky scent of wet moss along its banks. A long kept memory of a young stranger came flooding back into her consciousness from the past.
Jenna was once again walking through the forest and it was cool and shadowy. She remembered how the sunlight coming through the tree tops dappled the forest floor with shades of light and dark. The forest, thought Jenna, was a masterpiece of infinite color: shimmering emerald leaves, azure sky above, and red earth below. The pungent memory scent of evergreens enveloped Jenna’s senses. She remembered the feel of the waxy substance of the fallen leaves beneath her bare feet as she padded through the dense forest and listened for the sound of water against rock. She would follow the sound to discover the hidden part of the Brook that few had ever ventured to see.
Beneath the forest canopy she heard a slight rustle and then she saw the boy. His long slender legs moved with an effortless grace like a white-tailed deer through the brambles and bushes. He leaped dancer-like over decaying logs and skipped stone by stone over mossy growths—wet with dew.
The tall boy stopped now and again to smell the air as he made his way through the forest. Jenna, Indian-like, followed the dark-haired boy through the brambles and bushes. Jenna was almost close enough now to see his nostrils flare. In the distance, Jenna heard the flow of water over pebbles and stones as she followed the stranger who followed the sound of the brook.
Ahead of them were large granite boulders and the sound of rippling waters. She watched the boy as he skillfully scampered over the huge glacier boulders and disappeared from view. Jenna followed suit and climbed over the boulders to reach the rocky banks of the brook, but when she looked around, the boy was nowhere to be seen. She sat down for a moment and sighed as she wondered who he was and why she had never seen him before. After all, reasoned Jenna, this was a small farming community with only one middle school.
Jenna dangled her feet above the crystal clear water as she looked at her reflection that was gazing back at her. Her long golden brown braids framed a face that was tanned from the summer sun, hazel eyes now as deeply green as the moss beneath her feet.
She then slipped her slender pubescent body into the cool waters of the brook and was suddenly struck by an incredible sense of freedom within her being that was exhilarating and daunting at the same time. She was growing up and her life and all of life was before her.
Jenna looked down and saw that the wet cloth of her blouse had fallen away, revealing small child-like breasts just beginning to blossom. Suddenly, she was aware of someone looking at her from above. It was the tall dark-haired boy. He was looking down at her. She was sure he had been watching her and then he smiled. Jenna blushed crimson. The boy’s broad shoulders and long muscular legs glistened in the sunlight as he stood high on the rocky over-hang above her.
Without acknowledging it, both Jenna and the boy were awakening to their bodies as they grew and changed. Soon, thought Jenna, they would no longer be the androgynous children who swam with abandon and ran like deer through the ancient forest. Jenna turned away from the boy, but secretly smiled at this innocence flirtation as the sunlight sparkled like diamonds on the rocks, the trees, and the water’s surface.
The boy, not unlike an Indian brave stalking his prey, suddenly appeared near Jenna, having silently slipped into the water. His indigo blue eyes were dark and penetrating. The boy smiled knowingly at Jenna—as if he could read her thoughts.
“Listen, he whispered to Jenna as he placed his hand near to his ear. “The water is whispering – do you know what it is saying?”
Jenna leaned into the water to hear the voice of the brook. The brook murmured as it gently flowed over the rocks. Puzzled, Jenna could only shrug her shoulders.
The boy leaned closer to Jenna—his face just inches from her up-turned nose. His indigo blue eyes, now glittering in the sunlight, looked into Jenna’s willing her to somehow absorb the mystical knowledge of the brook that he so easily understood.
“You must hear it for yourself” he replied gently, in a voice that was softly mesmerizing.
Jenna felt spellbound by his presence and she opened her mouth to speak, but she could only shake her head. Suddenly, a flock of Canadian Geese flew over their heads and broke the spell. Both of them, remembered Jenna, had looked up together to see the geese majestically cross the sky. So close to them, she thought, that she could feel the air move around them. A single feather swirled downward to the water’s edge and the boy gently cupped it in his hands. He then placed the feather in her hand. She brought it to her lips to touch and smell the still warm and fragrant odor of wheatgrass, marsh, and meadow. The white quill was downy soft and still warm. She would always keep it.
When Jenna turned to thank the boy, he had already climbed back up to the rocky ledge and was staring at her.
“Wait”, she cried out. “Who are you?”
“Someday you will know, Jenna.” And then he was gone.
Jenna stood on the bridge over-looking the brook remembering those moments long ago. She was now twenty five years old and her life had taken many twists and turns since that day that seemed a lifetime ago. It surprised her how constant the memory of the boy stayed with her. How many years, she thought, have I returned to this town, to stand on this bridge, wondering whatever happened to the boy. Jenna held the white quill in her hand and brought it to her lips. It still held the scent of wheatgrass, marsh, and meadow.
Slowly, Jenna became aware that someone was watching her. She then turned to see a tall, dark-haired young man. He was staring at her. His long slender legs moved with an effortless grace as he walked toward her. She was stunned. There was something about him, she thought. Her mind raced with speculation.
The young man came to stand in front of her. He leaned in, closer to Jenna—his face just inches away from her up-turned nose. His indigo blue eyes, now resplendent in the afternoon sunlight, looked into Jenna’s, willing her to remember. “The water is whispering, he said with a grin. “Do you know what it is saying?”
Jenna understood now. She nodded to the tall, dark-haired young man with the indigo blue eyes and smiled. “We are like the brook–a constant thing, she told him. “Nothing is ever truly lost.”
The young man with the indigo blue eyes smiled and nodded.