Purple Braided Rose
It's Ulric. I know him well. When we were cubs we would play together, he at the edge of the wood, I at the edge of the swamp. And when we were older and knowledge of love and bodies had blossomed in our minds, we kept each other's bodies warm at night.
But life, like the river, is full of twists and turns. I ended up with my husband, and Ulric ... I was never quite sure who he ended up with. Or what.
I clear my throat softly to catch his attention. "On a gloomy evening in this stagnant swamp, who would imagine running into you? Not I, for one."
"I wouldn't imagine running into you under any circumstances, Katherine," he replies. Despite his words, he doesn't seem surprised to see me. "We haven't spoken since your wedding."
"Ah ... well. Married life. Always hectic." I try to laugh, but the sound gets stuck in some hidden pocket in the back of my throat. "Pardon me, Ulric, but is that a picture frame you're holding? I think it may be mine."
"I think so, too. Especially considering that it holds a photograph of you." He turns it around in his paws, and I can see a portrait of myself and my husband on our wedding day. "I found it on the bank here."
"May I please have it? I think it has something important to me inside."
He considers me quietly for a moment. "On one condition, Katherine. I want you to answer a question - one I've been meaning to ask you for years, but have always been prevented from asking thanks to your persistent avoidance of me."
I haven't been avoiding him. I really haven't. It's just ... difficult, with a husband, to justify running off to the woods to talk to a former lover. It's difficult when I have to cook and clean and keep my husband happy. It's difficult when seeing him makes the flickering fragments of my heart twitch and sear in my chest. "And what question is that?"
"Why didn't you marry me?"