Peace in the Valley
I died on a peaceful Tuesday morning as the sun peaked in full glory over the Valley in the middle of early Spring. It was still too cold to open the big bay window by my bed but to warm to light the fireplace across from the same King sized bed. I sat in an old mahogany rocking chair my father had made many years before his death. It creaked and raddled in rhythm with my old, brittle bones. It was half my age and it much better condition.
From the kitchen two floors down the laughter of my eldest sister, Hazel and her husband Keith floated into the room. The chatter was light, I could barely hear their voices, but I could imagine Hazel bustling around the kitchen, telling Keith how to cook as they cooked New Year’s dinner while he poked fun at the fact that Hazel could make up some of the most powerful vanquishing potions anyone had ever seen, but she couldn’t cook eggs without turning them.
Out in the valley, which my bedroom window overlooked, my youngest sister Kali and her husband Akinan raised the Circles of the New Year. I could see her, hands raised as she chanted the New Years chant, welcoming each element into the New Year. Four circles, one each a different shade of orange, yellow, green, blue and purple danced together with the call of magic. I was very proud of her. She’d come so far since we were teenagers, I only wish I could tell her how powerful and beautiful her family wasI’d never get the chance to.
Beyond her, the children of the valley darted around their feet, the Stone children-those who had lived within the caves of the Old City, forced to hide their magic- with their white skin the pale color of the moon and the Valley children-who lived deep in the woods away from mortals- with their dark skin tanned by the sun, even the Winged children of the fairy kingdom joined in the celebration. But what were they celebrating?
I couldn’t remember. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember any of it. I was supposed to remember, hell, I was pretty sure whatever they were celebrating, it was my fault. I had done this, something amazing and wonderful and impossible. I remembered the joy and kindness and passion of it, but the horrible memories that haunted me for decades now had faded into the night some time ago and the harder I tried to remember, the more I forgot. First, it was simple details, times and dates. The names and location and now whole years had forsaken me, save for a few of the happiest moment of my life and only one or two of the darkest.
“Hey, Teacup, it’s almost time.” His voice caught me by surprise. It shouldn’t have. Jesse Stone had been there, beside me every day since we met. Even now, some 69 years later, he was still here. He’d even aged with me. His once long, dark hair had turned an ashy mix of black and silver, his face was just barely wrinkled with worry lines, but his sea blue eyes still sparkled with that mischievous glare of his. Somehow, they seemed even softer than usual as he leaned against the wall next to the window.
Perhaps this was just more proof that something was wrong with me. I just couldn’t remember what. I knew they’d told me. I remember Kalie, Haley and I speaking of it, but the words and meaning of the memory escaped me. So I just smiled at my best friend, my once upon a time boyfriend. “How many times do I have to tell you, my name is Piper.”
“At least once more,” he grinned back. He stared out the window and together we watched as Kali danced in the light of the New Year Circle. He made a soft humming sound and pulled himself off the wall so that he now peeked out the window from over my shoulder. It wasn’t hard for him to do, he cleared my four foot seven by at least a foot and a half. Hence the nickname teacup. I’d always been the shortest of the Witch Hunters. Typically, I was the shortest everything. That I remembered clearly, Jesse never let me live it down, even after he died.
He wrapped an arm around me that was almost as solid as if he’d been alive. I leaned back into familiar warmth, the comfort that I’d known so well, letting the top of my head rest against his shoulder as we gazed out the window. For a moment, there was no difference between life and death. We just existed together. Two souls separated by a veil and bound together by something more greater and indescribable than any love could explain.
“We did this didn’t we?” I asked.
“You did this,” he said.
“How? Why?” I said, shaking my head. “I don’t remember, I’m forgetting.”
My voice squeaked, sounding smaller and more afraid than I wanted, but I was afraid.
He was silent for a long moment, his arm tightening gently around me.
“Forgetting what, exactly?” He asked.
“Everything!” I said.
I sighed leaning into him and breathing in the familiar scent of ocean breeze he always seemed to carry with him.
“The war. There was a war wasn’t there? The witches, the Burnings, the gods, that was a real, wasn’t it?” I asked.
He nodded quietly.
“And mom and dad and Max, I’m forgetting them too. And him,” I paused, searching for a name that was supposed to mean something special.
“Scotty. I loved him too, didn’t I?”
Jesse nodded again.
“Yes,” he said. His voice was sharp, short.
I shook my head again in frustration. “I remember their names. I remember their important, but I don’t remember why. Why any of this? And you-” I paused, almost too afraid to say the next words, “I’m forgetting you. Why am I forgetting everything?”
It was true. Even now I wondered, did Jesse have blue eyes or green eyes and why was that so damn important? Why was any of this important?
Jesse was silent for a long moment before placing a gentle kiss on my forehead. “You have been plagued to long by memories of a violent war that you won,” he whispered calmly, “You have fought much too hard to build a better future for the people who once mocked you and you succeeded. You have done the impossible. And now it’s time for you to rest. In order to do that, you must forget the pain.”
“Will I remember again someday?” I asked quietly, almost hoping it was to silent for him to have heard, but of course, he’d heard.
I could almost see the frown etching his face as he considered his answer.
“Yeah, you’ll remember one day. Even the bad things,” he said, running a gentle hand through my graying hair, “But when you remember again, they won’t seem so bad.”
“Things never seem that bad here,” I whispered back, “When I’m with you.”
Jesse murmured something I couldn’t quite make out and everything seemed to blur for a moment. The things which I had forgotten over time seem so unimportant at that moment. A sharp pain wrecked my chest and shot through the tips of my fingers, my body shaking with the fore of it. I sucked in air, pleading to breath, but as quickly as the pain had come, it was gone.
My vision returned and the world seemed to buzz with peace and infinite serenity sung through the air. I knew I was home, a place where I could truly rest and wars and chaos didn’t matter anymore.
I stood tall in an open field with rolling hills and valleys all around, the tall mountains that I’d grown up in surrounding me with comfort a bright, blue-eyed Jesse swept me off his feet with the laughter of an innocent child. He lifted me and carried me to a hilltop, running full speed as the wind battered around us.
He stopped short on a mountaintop where a picnic was already laid out for us, full of fruits and vegetables. And two faces that I’d long forgotten greeted me anew and I threw myself, with love and remembrance into my parent’s arms.
“I have missed you!” I cried with joy as we embraced.
“Welcome home my baby girl,” my mother replied, hugging me tight.
And I knew that Jesse was right, in order to feel the infinite peace, I had to forget the bad things. For here, everything was safe and nothing else mattered. Here, I was neither a warrior, a hunter or the hunted. I just was. The past was faded away, a drop in the ocean of time, and I was with the people I loved most.