If I’d Known You Were There
We would have walked across thick moorland, you and I. Damp heather softening under our boots; a quivering autumn sunset, golden red feathers fraying at the edges and brushing across the sky. You were too young to see, but I would have described it all to you. How the sheep paid us no mind, how they were beginning to huddle into clumps of shadow by the stone walls. How the crows gathered and disappeared into the valley ahead. I would have held your hand, the darkness drawing us closer together. Would you have lifted your face too, and sniffed the air? Peat, woodsmoke, cold. I don’t think so. You were too young to smell, and there are some things that can’t be described.
We would have stopped here, you and I. Our boots crushing grass instead of heather, and moonlight blossoming like lichen on the stones. I would have told you how some of them stood taller than me, how their perfect circle aligned to the rhythms of the sun and moon; that there were eleven stones and we made thirteen; how the Goddess wound a milk-white thread around us and bound us together, giving you what my body and heart never could. I would have asked you if you could feel it, the faint heartbeat that echoed in the stones. If it echoed in you too.
I would have held onto your hand. I wouldn’t have let go when the clouds drifted across the moon, inking us into blackness. I wouldn’t have let you melt into stone, into earth, into the sighing song that lingers above these hills even now. I hear it sometimes, and I think it sings forgiveness even though that’s not possible. Only love can forgive, and you were too young.
Elodie Barnes is a writer and editor living in the UK. Her short fiction and poetry has been widely published online, and is included in the Best Small Fictions 2022 Anthology published by Sonder Press. She is Books & Creative Writing Editor at Lucy Writers Platform, where she is also co-facilitating What the Water Gave Us, an Arts Council England-funded anthology of emerging women and non-binary writers from migrant backgrounds. She is currently working on a collection of short stories. Find her online at elodierosebarnes.weebly.com, or on Instagram @elodierosebarnes.