-TWENTY-Mature

The sounds of the forest began to creep into Brida's mind, finding their way underneath her skin and causing goosebumps to rise. Shivering, Brida lay on the grass and the dirt, vaguely aware of the throbbing her nailmarks had inflicted upon her scalp.

Gently, a green leaf from the tree above rested itself upon Brida's forearm. Sniffing back her tears, Brida ran a bloody fingertip along the spine of the leaf. She was not alone; the tree, too, was alive. She propped herself up on her elbows and tentatively traced the leaf's veins. Suddenly breaking into sobs, she grasped the leaf tautly and yanked it to shreds. Whether the action was a result of anger or sadness, she did not know. "You were supposed to meet me here, Shale," she muttered, though now, she was only repeating former words.

Eventually, the time came to decide the next course of action. Somewhat subdued, Brida set her weight on one foot, then on the other. Next came the actual walking. One step, two steps, three steps. A deep, conflicted sigh. Four steps, five steps - and she fell again. How could she continue? This tree was her last connection to Shale. And Shale was the only connection she had to any part of herself that made sense. She did not know who she was, but she knew who she was to Shale. A friend. A companion. A fellow sufferer.

Keep walking, Brida. Keep walking. Shale would want you to find a good life. And so, Brida walked, propelled only by the thought of living so that Shale's legacy might live on, as well.

One step. Two steps. Three, four, five, six, seven steps. Brida forced herself onward, attempting to avoid the idea that with every step she took, she moved farther and farther from Shale's and her last meetingplace. The wind murmured encouragement as Brida journeyed forward. She would find real life, she would establish herself, and then, she would search for Shale's family.

"I will live for you, Shale," Brida whispered, and nature agreed, as it tenderly made way for the young woman who was still just a child.

The End

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