Celeste leads Jette into the forest, without so much as a word, only the sound of the fabric of their skirts as they walk and the slight chatter of birds. Jette’s dark eyes focus upwards, where she can see the pale blue sky through the branches of the trees that tower over their two slight figures, making their way down the shaded path. Such a beautiful day, with a sun to warm her cheeks and a perfect breeze. Her gaze falls from the sky and back to Celeste before her, a cold woman with a determined pace, never even looking back. Jette’s head drops completely, in shame and despair.
“Celeste,” she whispers, “what have I done?”
The words are not heard. Celeste simply continues forward.
There was a spot in this vast forest that surrounded the small village where they had grown up where Jette would always go, a place that she loved and adored more than anything, a place where she would gather her thoughts and catch her breath when the world around her became too much. It was a place where a small river gently pushed by, actually only what could be considered a large stream, and snap berry bushes grew unabashedly around a grand old stump. The trees masked the sky, allowing only tiny winks of light through, to dance on the forest floor like faeries or sprites. Such a magical place. How cruel of Celeste to bring Jette there today.
“Celeste,” Jette’s voice shivers with despair, “please, tell me what I have done.”
There were so many memories contained in those winks of light, and Jette’s eyes shimmer with a slight glean of tears as she looks upon them and recalled them in painful detail. Some of them had Celeste in them, but those happy memories were too much and Jette focuses on the ones without that friend from her past. So many hours spent, perhaps wasted, watching the minnows in the water, darting about like thoughts, here one minute, gone and onto something else the next. She used to pick the snap berries and make a very gorgeous red ink from them, perfect for the slightly yellowed pages in her parchment journal, and then scribble away until she had reached the last page. Sometimes, she’s just sit on the large grey boulder, her legs tucked closely to her chest and her chin resting on her knees, just staring at the sparkles and forgetting about everything else in the world.
Today, she does not do any of these. She cannot tell if the minnows swim today, for every glance is blurred by her tear-filled vision. She won’t be picking any of the berries; there are probably not any there on the bush, anyway. The trees were not a mask today, but, instead, witnesses for what is about to happen. The rock is not a welcoming perch, but rather just another hard, cold thing, like Celeste, offering no comfort and only pain.
Jette drops to her knees, without so much as a word, as if by some silent force, like someone took a hold of her quivering shoulders and pushed her down. Celeste’s back is still all she can see, a curtain of golden hair hiding any hints of her face. Jette wasn’t sure what was more devastating, the extreme distance of her once close friend or the fact that she couldn’t even begin to understand what might be going through Celeste’s mind at this moment, as the birds continued their mockingly carefree songs and the light continued to dance defiantly with them. A single tear finally escaped Jette’s eye, trailing down her cheek, dripping off her chin like a raindrop into the hands settled in her lap.
A sob bursts from her, and Jette almost collapses, consumed by her misery. And Celeste still only stands there, like some statue of a goddess, barely moving save for the sinking and rising of her shoulders as she takes her slow, serene breaths. What could have gone wrong? What could Jette have done to earn such treatment, such wrath? She had never cried harder before in her life.
They used to be the best of friends, Jette and Celeste, brought together by being the only sensible girls of their generation in their small little village, with nothing that could tear them apart. Celeste had only her father and Jette’s parents were often too absorbed in themselves to notice their little girl, so they had a very unique system of support for each other. The epitome of the term “best friends”. So many laughs and giggles, but also tears and comforting hugs, but mostly carefree days playing in the orchard. Perhaps that was where it all started, on the dusty streets of their tiny hometown, shielded from the world beyond the forest, hidden away from concepts like evil and war, unable to fathom a pain greater than a broken arm after falling out of an apple tree. Was it merely the conclusion of childhood that brought a realization that such things existed? Or was it something else? Between her weeps, Jette searches her memory for something—anything—that might even hint at what changed.
Her search brings to her a vague vision of a man, stepping from the shadowed forest and into their village, wrapping his arms around the shoulders of the youth, and gently leading them away from the meager rows of homes that made up half of what they had seen their entire lives. Jette was among these few that this man welcomed into his embrace, but Celeste was the one he kept closest to him. Could he be the reason that, although they had returned home, things were not the same as when they had started? Or was it something else? Something far deeper, something built up over the years that Jette was simply too blind to see?
“Celeste!” Out of desperation, Jette cries out. “Please, tell me what I have done! Celeste, please…tell me….Celeste…Celeste…I love you….”
Jette lowers her head and Celeste lifts her sword, a sharp action that contrasts her slow turning to finally face the one she led into the forest. While she does not dare to look up, Jette can still see the hatred in those blue eyes, the disapproving frown on that perfect face. It’s almost too much for her to handle. After all the crying and all the begging, it is as if Celeste hasn’t heard so much as a word, and all Jette could do was hope that fallen friends are not merciless.