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In the soft soil along the banks of the jungle-hidden Lake Phanta, just past the curve where the Creeping Falls gurgled, lay an aged bottle. Stoppered with browned wax and coated with a mottled decor of muck and algae, the bottle sat lodged, its squat bottom stuck between the twisted roots of an ancient willow.

The narrow neck popped free when yanked, leaving behind a perfect ring of thick glass. Just inside, kept clean and supple for centuries, a note unfurled.

With the rush of the falls echoing across the lake, a young man plucked the note free with two fingers and unrolled it, the broken bottle quickly forgotten at his feet.

It read:

To my first love,

We’d met in the morn hours, before the sun awoke, while the birds cooed their greetings. The falls drowned out our voices, claiming our lusty sounds as its own. The jungle paths remembered our footsteps, echoed them through the trees. The moss-lined curves between the roots cradled us as we slept in each other’s arms, the scent of our lust embracing us just as surely.

No one ever found us, not in all the times we’d discovered ourselves over and over again. At the time, I’d been thankful for that privacy, you my hidden secret that kept me running wild rather than taking up the burden of responsibility.

Now though…

They say you never existed. You were a creation of my mind, my loneliness enough to make you feel real.

I learned to draw for you, to prove you alive. Never could capture the exact way your eyes would twinkle when I dragged you beneath the splash of the falls. Never could shade how the water sprayed off your shoulders, how your lips would glisten when you leaned in for a kiss.

Your likeness has faded from my memories over the years. Were your eyes a bright green? Or did they claim the shadows of the forest as their color?

Did you mouth curve more right or left when you grinned? Which hand had you scraped over the bark, the scar a series of broken lines? Your voice, was it as tender as I thought? Your laugh as infectious? Your kiss as sweet?

My lovers after never compared to my memory of you. Was that only because you were perfection imagined? Unreal. Unrealistic.

I knew the answers then, when we’d scarcely spent a day apart. When I lived and breathed waiting till I could sneak away to you again. It’d all seemed so easy. You’d been unquestionable.

Now I question everything.

I ache for you. But I can’t tell if I just ache for the unattainable.

Ever yours,

SJ

He lifted his gaze from the parchment, from the ink holding onto one man’s conflicted memories. His own chest grew tight, at the possibilities, at the history etched into this lake. He could almost hear laughter of two youths from a time long past.

And then the laughter came again. In the here and now.

On the opposite bank waved an attractive young man with brown hair, a tanned complexion and a lopsided grin. He pulled his shirt free and dropped it onto his boots before doing the same with his pants. Then he was in the water, swimming with smooth, strong strokes across the center of the lake.

The note went back into the broken bottle, abandoned, but not entirely forgotten.

When the young man drew closer, his eyes shone a bright green as the sun caught his face. Yet, when he pulled into the shadows along the bank, those same eyes reflected the secrets of the forest, and in his voice, an offer to expose them all.

~ ~ ~

As I said last month, this was a picture prompt of a small, pretty lake :) Moss-grown and overhung with trees, with a small falls off to the side. I guess it’s a take on that boy who never grows old, a la Tuck Everlasting.

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