A week had passed since her husband’s funeral when Karen encountered the old woman beneath the cherry tree. Life was torture then, every moment a death-defying feat as her pain threatened to eat her alive. So finding a stranger under the tree, her tree, the place she and her husband once danced in the moonlight, was almost too much to bear. She resisted the overwhelming urge to drag the woman away however, and sat down beside her instead. For a time, neither said a word, each lost in a vortex of thoughts and memories.
Then soft as a breeze, the woman, who upon closer inspection seemed familiar somehow, spoke.
“It’s curious how time can pass so quickly and give the illusion of not passing at all.”
Karen could only nod in agreement.
She was quickly whisked back to the moment she met the boy she would marry. They’d both reached for the last copy of Star Wars at the local video store, and he’d told her he would relinquish it in exchange for her best Chewbacca impression. Everyone in the place looked like they were questioning her sanity by the time she was finished, but she walked out that day with the movie in her possession. And a date for that Friday.
From there, Karen jumped to the night they got matching tattoos. This was shortly after the wedding when they went out to celebrate his promotion at work. Too much wine was had and somehow they ended up at a tattoo parlor in a seedy part of town run by a guy named Chester. The following morning they awoke to find In a galaxy far, far away…inked in black along the inside of their left forearms.
The memory made her smile, while another tear escaped its prison cell.
Fifteen years they spent together, but it felt like mere minutes. A life disappeared like some cruel magic trick. Now you see it. Now you don’t. And Karen was contemplating this when the woman spoke again.
“My first husband died… oh, many years ago. And I’ve lived a lifetime since then. But I can still feel the warm touch of his hand in mine and the gentle pressure of his palm against my back as we glided beneath these stars.”
There was a dreamy look in the woman’s eyes. Karen, however, was a mess of emotions, stuck between her own crushing heartbreak and the surge of love she suddenly felt for this elderly intruder.
The woman tucked her long snowy hair behind her ears then, and the soft glow of the moon caught her arm. For some reason, Karen wasn’t all that surprised to see the words etched across her skin. Though faded by time, they were identical in every way to her own. And in that moment, her pain temporarily released her from its clutches as hope flared like a torch in the darkness.
Someday she would be okay.