I have no idea where we’re going.
Dad has taken my hand, clammy with sweat, and guided me through the endless bracken and bramble bushes that make up the forest at the end of our practically deserted road. The wind whistles, and I shiver slightly under my coat. I’m tired and struggling to keep up. Dad’s strides are large and fast paced, while my petite legs struggle to keep moving. As we go deeper and deeper into the forest, I feel a sudden urge of distrust, and that maybe Dad has no idea where we are going either. I realise that I could easily let go of Dad’s hand and bolt back to our cottage, but my curiosity has got the better of me. I need to know where we’re going.
I look above me, to find that the sky is completely blocked out by grand, towering oak trees. I can practically hear the leaves whispering to each other and realise that the forest is more eerie than I had ever imagined. I almost expect ghosts to jump out of the verdant, overgrown grass behind the shrubs. I feel as though I’ve been caught up in a horror movie, set in a dark, haunted forest.
But suddenly, as I look ahead of me, I see where the trees give way to their hidden secret. The vegetation is parted, creating a clearing in the seemingly endless woodland.
And through the clearing beholds one of the most breath-taking settings I have ever seen.
The sky is a wondrous array of different shades of orange and yellow; you could become mesmerized and lost in its beauty if you stared at it for too long. And below it lies a river, as still as can be, amber in colour from the reflection of the sky. I daren’t say a word, out of fear that I would break the glorious silence.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Dad says. I look up at him, a radiant beam adorning my face.
Dad grips my hand a little tighter, and leads me down to the edge of the river. Autumn leaves crunch under my feet, a refreshing sound after having heard the dull squelch of the leaves in the heart of the forest for the past half hour.
We settle down at the side of the river, sitting on our coats to spare the cleanliness of our clothes. I expected to feel cold after taking my coat off, but the scenery has filled me with so much warmth that the chilly breeze is ineffective. Dad and I hold hands as we stare out across the water.
“Your mother used to take me here,” Dad tells me. This suddenly grabs my attention. Any thoughts of my mother intrigue me beyond belief. I never really knew her; she died when I was only about two years of age. But, I do vaguely remember a pair of warm, brown eyes, which I believe were hers.
“Tell me more,” I say, deliberately keeping my voice monotone, for I know we are reaching a sensitive topic. Dad supresses a sigh.
“She had lived in this area for nearly all her life. When we finally bought a place together, she guided me into the forest, in the way I have done to you tonight. She showed me the lake, but I could never truly appreciate its full beauty, for I knew in my heart that the woman who stood beside me was ten times more beautiful. It was here, in this very setting, that I realised I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.”
I try to fight off the urge to cry. I ask, in a shaky voice “What happened?”
Our eyes connect. “A few months later, I proposed to her. Right here, at the lake, under the amber rays of a golden sunset. And in about another year, you were born. Everything was perfect; I had a wonderful wife, a gorgeous baby daughter, and pure happiness.” He suddenly averts his gaze, turning to face away from me. “But she fell ill. So incredibly ill. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces, and I knew, deep down, that she couldn’t fight it. And one day, I woke up, and she was gone.”
My tears are flowing freely now, trickling down my face and wetting my cheeks. Dad turns back to face me, covering me in a warm embrace, and I understand the hardship he went through.
“I still have you though.” He says. The tears stop, and I stare at him lovingly. “I still have my darling daughter, who I would do anything for.” He gently plants a kiss on the top of my head, before we trail back through the forest, to our warm, cosy house.
“I would do anything for you too, Dad.” And the image of his smile, at that moment, stayed with me forever.