Short Story: Under the Sycamore Tree

She walked atop the ancient steadfast wall, layer upon layer of stone rugged and coarse under the wear of many years. The sky above her was dense with cloud, low and grey and threatening rain. Below and to the left of her feet, a sheer rock face fell away to rolling green land, tenacious bushes and wildflowers clinging to its crevices.  The wind whipped against her clothes and her legs, the skirt of her dress billowing out and flapping sharply. She walked on resolutely, but a smile was on her face. A soft and secret smile.

The wall marched on for miles ahead of her but she was drawing closer to where she needed to be: a low dip in the land where the wall swung steeply downwards before almost immediately ascending again and vanishing over the crest of the next hill.  In the middle of that dip stood a tall, robust and vibrantly green sycamore tree. And underneath it, she knew, he would be waiting for her.

She thought of his eyes, blue as cornflowers and luminous with light. She thought of the crescent shaped scar that lay on the upper curve of his cheekbone.  They had endured so much, he and her.

The wall had been built by warriors long ago, it was said, warriors who had passed into legend. But, real hands had toiled with this stone, strong and deft, and she wondered what really filled the hearts of those men who had laboured so hard. Were they entrapped by the tumult of war, or did their hearts wander afar somewhere free?  She turned her mind from such thoughts and pressed onwards, sure-footed and nimble.  A soft pink bloomed on her cheeks as she climbed the stones up the next knoll, always on top of the ancient, wide wall.

A few droplets of rain smattered onto her face and she let her hood fall back to feel the invigorating coolness, her hair flying free behind her. Where would they go from here, she wondered? What world would they find beyond?

Do you know where the Sycamore Tree stands? It is said that a door lies hidden within, a door only the truest of hearts may pass, he had joked in one of their hushed snatches of conversation. A door to where? she had replied. A realm of this world but out of time, he whispered dramatically, a smile lighting his eyes.  The realm of the little folk? she asked, her breath catching in exhilaration. He had laughed softly. Maybe, he said.

On the day of the Half Moon’s rising, that was when they had agreed to meet and disappear from this land into a better one. Away from the rolling, windswept grasslands to somewhere with many trees, she hoped.

A startled crow flapped away as she crested the last knoll and it flew into the wind cawing softly. She had arrived.  She looked down into the dip on to the tops of the Sycamore Tree rustling softly, and caught movement beneath the boughs. And there he emerged, standing tall with eyes uplifted, looking for her.

I am found she thought, and smiled.

***

Inspired by my recent trip to Sycamore Gap at Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland.

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