Monday, 18 April 2011

On the rock

The cool air whispered around the car as it turned off the highway onto the gravel. The red and yellow leaves rustling as the pale dust billowed around the tyres and the unsealed gravel crunched and spat; the regal sky overhead unmarred. They sat, quietened as the car rumbled through the undergrowth, dipping into ruts and brushing against the delicate sprays of wattle reaching out for the thin rays of sunlight.

Stopping, the bush echoed with birdsong as the last of the dust settled, pale grey over the car. The heavy sound of the doors closing and the simultaneous inhalation of mountain air as the trees whispered to one another. Strands of hair whipping about in the breeze, obscuring face from scrutiny. She bounded toward the path, half hidden amongst the trees as it wound downwards, sometimes steps, sometimes scree, always encased. Nature's theme park.

Part of her bounced and danced along the path, forgetting that she was not alone as her fingertips brushed the welcoming frond of wildflowers across the path. And she smiled genuinely at the sparrows darting back and forth, and the pale butterflies that lead the way, further away from the gravel path. There was an energy here, a forcefield that rippled through her and jittered like the skittish lizards, hiding in the undergrowth to peek out at the strange girl with the wild eyes.

It was cool in the patches where the sun was held back from the path by the shadowy arms of the naked trees; their elegant limbs folded intricately over the sky in a beautiful woven tapestry. But for the rest, the early afternoon sun sparkled on joyous skin, and heated down to the core.

She was aware always of him watching her. Always. No matter how quickly she stepped, the gaze was there, and she could not meet it without a blush covering her face, so she pressed forward, ever onwards until the vista opened up. There were glimpses at first, shadowy and shrouded. Pale blue mountains and secretive undergrowth, forests at their base, ever whispering. And then it was there, in brilliant light, that she stood dazzled for a moment, breath stolen as she greedily ate it up with her eyes.

They were not alone at the lookout, and as the voices of others intruded on the view, she stopped. There were the last steps to go, precariously perched on the rock, out in that wonderful vista, like a bird wheeling on the wind, but she refused to share it with others. Others and their cameras and loud voices. She stopped instead, sat on the bench and instead looked up at the sky. That big sky, so blue. Lying back as he sat beside her, her head in his lap as she gazed at the zenith, seeing cobalt for the first time. Smiling into the sunshine, alone in the moment covered in blue.

It was the first time they had touched since they had left the car and the sunlight encased them, a blue bubble, awaiting their turn on the rock. Warming like the lizards, that shyly crept out from the shadows and again soaked up the sun. He closed his eyes often in that pose, as if sleeping in the sun, but then he would open them, gaze at her for a long moment, as if opening the aperture to memory and allowing her radiance to permanently imprint itself there. He barely touched her, but all sensation was focused on the warmth across his thigh, where her head rested and her hair, splayed by the wind rustled. Alone in blue.
Finally as the last visitor wended back up the track, they descended to the final lookout, an altar amongst beauty. Starting, she caught the gasp of pleasure as it bubbled through her chest. Felt the full force of the Gleam as it rushed up the valley to meet her. Felt the urge to climb to the farthest point, reach out her arms and jump, so sure was she that the joyful wind would catch her. Frightened and amazed. Incredulous at beauty, stripped of pretence and all the fluttering veils that encased her soul.

She stood with her back to him, at once terrified, naked and trembling, knowing that if she turned, that what would be seen could never be unseen. That her light, beating strangely in the centre of her chest was visible if she turned. Fighting tears that welled up, as the wind picked up tendrils of her hair and caressed her cheek, fortifying her. Leaning out against that view, that vista, that indescribable beauty betwixt heaven and earth, as the trees stilled, waiting her choice. Would she hide or would she reveal? The light in her chest squeezed painfully, fighting for release.

He stood behind her, marvelling at the view, and in the perfection of the sun drenched afternoon. The warmth on exposed skin and the cheerful playfulness of the cool wind. He watched her hair as it danced, and felt his fingers tingle at the thought of touching her again. He had always known that one day he would feel love, and yet he had never known quite how it would feel at the instant when he knew that his heart would never belong to himself again. He ached with the beauty of the moment, words lost, unable to do anything but breathe; inhalation, exhalation.

He was backlit by the sunlight; gilded and warmed as she turned, slowly, her eyes meeting his, aflame with all that he felt; concentrated, molten, pure gold. Transfixed, unable to move, suddenly terrified, knowing that what he was about to see would never be forgotten. Unable to breathe, breath trapped painfully in his chest, as the last barrier fell, and he saw for the very first time, the golden flame of the Gleam.

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