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I can't believe that she left. It seems too sudden, too fast. One summer of love, and now she's gone.
I met her purely by accident. I was walking down around the Arc du Triomphe when we bumped into one another. As we both bent down to pick up our belongings, our eyes met (yes, I know it sounds corny) and something clicked. Even on our first meeting, I noticed that there was something about her, something special. She seemed frail, almost birdlike, with a long white neck, and slim white arms. Her hair was black, and her clear brown eyes seemed to look straight through me. I was enchanted.
We exchanged names and addresses, and after that I met her frequently, joining her for long leisurely walks around Paris, visiting cathedrals, museums, and all of the other tourist spots. She told me she was visiting from Italy, a student, as I was, of French language and culture. It was a wonderful, golden summer, and I wished that it would never end.
We almost inevitably became lovers, and some nights, after making passionate, tender love, I would wake and find her sitting at the window, gazing at the moon, almost reverently, as though she were praying for something. If she noticed that I was awake, she'd return to the bed, and distract my attention deliciously, but if not, I would fall asleep again, watching her silent prayer.
Summer passed, and blurred into autumn. As the days grew colder, and the leaves began to change, she seemed to become more and more anxious, as though she were frightened of losing something. The sight of birds flocking together to fly away made her frightened, and she would draw the curtains, blocking out the sight. Our lovemaking began to have a desperate quality, as we strove to imprint the memories of each other's bodies into our flesh and minds. Her anxiety communicated itself to me, and I became desperate to keep her with me.
One day, I returned from buying groceries to find the house deserted. Her clothes had been abandoned, nothing was missing, except for her. A letter lay upon the table, from her doctor. It took me a long while to decipher the handwriting, but I eventually worked out that she had been confirmed as being pregnant. Beneath the letter, there was a note to me from her, saying that she had to go, a note which chilled me to the heart.
I spent the next three days touring all of the clinics in Paris, trying to find out if she had been there. I was so afraid, so frightened for her. I found no trace of her, none at all. My despair knew no bounds. I spent my days combing the city streets, searching in all the cafes where we had become familiar, asking every person I could find whether they had seen her. No reply. No sign of her.
A week after she vanished, my searching took me along the Seine. I was asking at every door, desperately seeking some information, when I noticed the swans. There were two of them, swimming along the river, a cob and a pen. The pen was pure white, and something about the curve of its neck reminded me of her. I stood watching for a while, remembering her, remembering the way that she moved, the grace of her body, the smile in her eyes, wishing that I could find her. Then the swan turned and looked at me, looked at me with her eyes.
All of a sudden I knew, although at first I did not believe. This bird couldn't be the woman that I loved, the one that I adored, the woman who had smiled, albeit somewhat sadly, at my stammering proposal of marriage to her, before gently declining. Then she looked at me again, with those clear brown eyes, that could always look straight through me, and I believed. I turned and walked away, eyes full of tears. The betrayal, the loss was just too much.
A few days later, I received a note in the mail. It didn't contain much, just a single white swan's feather. The swans flew off, to the south, a few days later. I watched them leave, with my heart breaking as I did so. The chill winds of winter had started to blow.
Now I wait for the spring, and for the return of the swans. It may be that I will see her again, and that we'll be permitted by the gods to spend another summer together. However, the chill in my heart where winter has frozen it leads me to doubt this. Not even swans mate for life.
Copyright Meg Thornton 1987 - 2005. All rights reserved
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