We are driving up a dirt road in the rustic Tuscan countryside when we pull up to a worn down villa. Withered flowers line the tops of the wrought iron fence surrounding the home. He opens up the gate as some of the dead flowers rain down on us, gently touching our shoulders. This reminds me that people have lived here before us. The stone path towards the main house is overgrown with weeds, but I can see how charming it must've been. We've awaken an old orange cat who regards us with disapproval before returning to her nap. We make our way towards the front door which is a peeling pale blue with a broken brass door knocker in its center. He pushes past me to get at the door. I'm a little irritated until I realize the door is not actually attached to the wall. He turns around apologetically and I nod in understanding.
It's a beautiful day. One of those days when you can feel the sun's warmth kiss the tops of your shoulders. So we continue working our way around the outside. One side of the house is completely beyond repair. The whole wall has crumbled away, maybe from a windstorm or an earthquake. The fallen wall exposed the kitchen inside. The walls are a faded yellow brick with a large stone sink in the far corner. This is the only thing that tells me it is a kitchen. There is no oven and no furniture. Actually there are three wooden chairs painted the same yellow as the bricks. One chair was missing a front leg and was propped up against the wall, while the two other chairs face each other in the center of the room.
I suddenly feel heavy as if the lives, loves and tragedies of a thousand people are looking straight at me. What were their names? Who did they dream of? Where did they go? He turns because he's noticed I've stopped to stare into the kitchen. He walks to my side, placing a comforting hand on my shoulder. He wonders these things too, but reminds me that this is not what we came to see. I turn and begin to lead the way, even though I don't know where to go.
We move towards the back of the house and that's when I smell it. A light breeze brushes past us, carrying the sweet scent of lavender. Proof that there is life somewhere in this forgotten piece of the world. He starts walking fast and it's hard for me to catch up. I keep tripping on dislodged stepping stones and rubble from the fallen wall. I call for him to slow down but he has taken off in a full sprint.
I see what he is running towards. An old barn is just over the hill. I can see him heading not for the door of the brown barn, but for the massive gate to the barn's left. As I get closer I can make out a moon and a sun cut out of the wooden gate. The moon and sun are combined, making a perfect circle. The moon is smiling at the sun and the sun is smiling at the moon. I am moved by this perfect symmetry.
His hand shakes with anticipation as he reaches for the perfectly polished gate handle. I find it strange that this brass handle is so perfectly kept, in complete contrast to the things I've seen so far. He takes my hand and for some reason, I close my eyes. I can tell he is smiling at me. I am guided past the gate. He lets go of my hand. I keep my eyes closed as I hear the gate creak shut. I know this place is beautiful before I open my eyes. I can smell life all around me. Even the wind has a sweeter sound beyond the gate. I can sense he is beside me and when he puts his hand on my shoulder I finally open my eyes.
I can only gasp. I am dumbfounded. I am standing at the edge of a trickling stream which leads into a pond I cannot see. I step over the stream towards the center of the garden. Flowers are in bloom all around me. Their colors are magnificent. My eye catches a pink rose so innocent and beautiful, seemingly growing on its own, from underneath the impossible weight of a stone. I then see a marble bench beside the hanging branches of an old tree. That's where he's sitting, smiling. Watching. He points over my shoulder and I turn to see. In the farthest corner of the garden is an old wooden swing suspended by ropes from a massive tree. Flowers have been woven around the rope. I run straight to it like a child. The swing is enormous, big enough for the both of us but he stands behind me. I sit on the swing and he gives me a small push. No, it couldn't have been a small push because I feel as though I am soaring. The mix of fragrances from the flowers blends so well as I push past them. It seems like the perfect place. A place for dreams. And for a few moments, I feel truly alive and connected to everything around me.
He stops the swing. I realize I've closed my eyes again so I open them as he sits beside me. He kisses me sweetly on the cheek and whispers, "For you."
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