James descended from the tree as quickly as he could. He felt numb, as if merely observing the scene that was unfolding before him. Keeper was standing over her now, sniffing her face as if checking for breath. When at last James reached the spot where she lay, he knelt down beside her. The gnarled roots at the base of the tree dug painfully into his knees.
“Mom?” he whispered, the word barely escaping his lips. His throat was tight, choked with fear.
“Mom.” he called, more forcefully this time, as if commanding her to respond. But she did not.
“Mom!” Crying now, James took her head in his hands and lifted it gently from the forest floor. His fingers felt sticky and wet. It was then that he saw the blood on the roots where she had landed and he knew…he knew.
James threw himself over her and buried his head deeply in her chest, as close to her heart as he could. He wailed and sobbed and longed for her to reach up and wrap her arms around him, to hold him close and comfort him and tell him it would all be ok. But she couldn’t… and it wasn’t going to be ok.
The blood pooled in the spaces between the roots and slowly seeped into the earth as it left her. Her body grew cold and her face pale. James could not bring himself to leave her here, but he knew he was not strong enough to carry her back through the woods himself. As Keeper stood watch over them, James lay down beside his mother and wept. A breeze blew through the forest and Keeper rested a gentle paw on Jane.
The trees knew what James did not. They had felt it when she first arrived those months ago — her silent wish to give her son a home, a place the family would stay forever. A mother’s heart is a magical place and Jane had tucked that special wish deep inside of hers. A wish that today had been granted, for she would not be leaving this place – not ever. The trees had done their part and the rest would now be up to James.
Later that night James and his father sat quietly at the kitchen table, exhausted from the weight of the emotions they now carried. Not knowing what else to do, they had pulled together a dinner of sorts from leftovers they had found in the refrigerator. But now, with the food on their plates, they realized that they were not actually hungry. The house felt empty without Jane in it. Keeper sat by the back door, looking out onto the porch as if expecting to see her return at any minute. Restless, he sniffed at the night air.
Struggling to push the image of his mother’s lifeless body from his mind, James forced himself to remember her as she was this morning….the sound of her voice as she called to him and the excitement on her face as she held out the seedlings for him to see. The seedlings. They had meant so much to her. And now James wished he had stayed with her to plant them instead of taking her to see the Tallest Tree. Oh how he wished…he wished harder than he had ever wished before. But it was of no use and he knew it. James resolved to plant the seedlings for his mother; he would take care of them himself as she would have done if…if. But it was dark now, and that would have to wait til morning. Besides, he was tired… so very, very tired…and in that moment he wanted nothing more than to lay down and give in. Resting his head on the table, James surrendered to sleep.
©Kelly Rainey and 500wordsandcounting.wordpress.com, 2015. Artwork: erin-allen-heart of life-sm
This story inspired the creation of more art. Take a look. But first…
Want to explore what else this blog has to offer, receive emails when I post new stories, or send me a private message? Just click on the menu icon near the top right corner of the page.
But before you go…scroll down if you’d like to share your feedback about this story or see what others are saying.
*Reading this story from within an email? You’ll need to click here first to be able to see the menu icon, to scroll down for comments, etc.
Become a Patron and get audio versions of all new stories! Click here to learn more.
Not ready to become a Patron? Please consider making a small, one-time donation in support of all the time and effort that goes into creating the stories you enjoy. Thanks!