By Amelia Coulon

The wind today blows softly, a cool, gentle hand on a hot August day. Her head turns into the breeze as it caresses the planes of her face like water over stone. She smiles with a pleasure born from the very center of herself, reflecting the joy of freedom and wildness. Her arms outstretch as if to capture the air around her and draw it around her body, a blanket representing all this day means to her. I feel her passion like a contagion, sparking a light inside of me I thought had long gone dim.

 The rock on which she sits creates a precarious perch, held by the curl of her bare toes digging into the grooves and cracks. Her jean shorts show the smears of dirt and cling of pine needles from her forays off the trodden path. Light brown hair pulled back into a ponytail fluffs out from its constraints, creating a snarled halo around her head much like the mane of a growing lion. She shoves at its tickling intrusion upon the skin of her forehead, leaving a streak of gray grime behind.

 Her cornflower blue eyes seem to shine with an inner excitement, reflected in the flush of pale pink on her cheeks, the curve of her smile and tilt of her head. She hums a tune which sounds familiar but is completely unique to her surroundings, swaying to the music in her mind. Her eyes close as she loses herself some place I cannot go, to which I am not invited, a place of secrets and solitude. When they open, her smile screams of satisfaction in the knowledge of something she will not share.

 She finds a loose rock, attempting to use it as a writing implement against the big, smooth stone face. The scraping noise grates on my nerves even as her leaning over at such an awkward angle awakens the mother wolf in me, as I worry for the safety of my pup. I grit my teeth against the instinct to halt and correct her behavior, knowing I will only be overreacting. I try to breathe deeply against the need to be in control.

 Becoming oblivious to the human world around her, she picks at a piece of soft, green moss until it pulls free from the stone. Withdrawing a bottled water from her backpack, she pours the liquid over the newly released plant, sending it floating down a river of spring water over the rocky surface into the dirt. I bite back my annoyance at this wastefulness in view of her curiosity, realizing the importance of allowing exploration in this moment. She drinks from the container and returns it to her bag.

 My impatience tears at my throat, longing to insist we resume our hike, eager to be purposeful at something other than waiting. I contain myself by hyper-focusing on the view from our position, wondering what she sees to substantiate a need to linger in this place. But the woods reveal none of their secrets to me, showing only rotted, fallen trees, decaying leaves and dying ferns, sodden litter and rusted metal. 

 She shifts and my breath inhales, satisfied to see her preparing to leave, but she merely digs out her phone, adjusting the settings to take pictures of what she views. Her body swivels on top of the rock, smoothly switching directions, causing my heart to jump in concern. A calculated, bright smile appears on her face as she clicks selfies to commemorate her time spent here. Inside my head run memories of my childhood and the undocumented journeys through forests and fields. 

 At last, she slides from her chosen perch, returning her shoes to dirty feet. To my satisfaction, we resume our walk along the well-worn path, quietly ruminating in our own thoughts. I spot a blue jay perched on the branch of a nearby birch and stop us both to point it out to her, glorying in the beauty of the moment.

Her lack of response causes me to glance down at her.

 “I’m bored,” she tells me, a typical look of eleven-year-old dismissive disinterest on her face. “Can we go home now?”

Amelia is forty-eight and the author of six full-length completed romantic suspense novels. She has written over one hundred different short stories of various genres many of which are under consideration for publication. Late this summer, Aspen House Publishing featured her work, “Awake” alongside the other finalists in the “Escape to Reality” writing contest. The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts has published online her flash-fiction piece entitled “Crazy Love.” Her work, “Morgan” was featured in the Twisted Love Anthology by Jazz House Publications for Valentine’s Day 2021.

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