The grove of trees stood before me, lighting up the night with memories past memories. This would be the last time I see it. My memories replaced the dark surrounding me, internally and externally. They lit up the grotto, and they were all that was needed for the fear to melt away. The years flashed before me, starting in 1789. The first one I saw was a mother and a little girl running through the grove. They were picking the flowers that were growing in the center. The little girl had more purple flowers than blue or yellow. The mother tried to make hers even, but her bouquet showed that even she was biased to purple. The purple flowers were vibrant, with at least four different shades weaving through the petals. Beams of sunlight were shining through the trees and reflecting off of the girls’ hair, making it shine like a river in the countryside. The mother’s had darker brown strands than the little girl’s, but it was easy to see they were related. As they left the grove with big smiles on their faces, they talked about showing the flowers to the girl’s father when he arrived home.
He never returned. He was killed in the first battle of the French Revolution.
The next memory I saw was of two best friends. One of them was the little girl with the shimmering auburn hair, but three years older. It was greener in the grove, and the sun was warmer. They were braiding each other’s hair and talking about which boys we thought were the most attractive in the village. The girls spoke about the black smith’s son the most. He was mysterious and alluring all at the same time. ‘I’ve seen him smile at you,’ said the other, and the other one’s eyes widened in amazement, while her cheeks started to blush. Her? Really?! She took a strand of her auburn hair and twirled it around her finger nervously. The thought of him possibly smiling at her didn’t leave her mind for the rest of the day, even after they abandoned the topic. In fact, it didn’t leave her mind for the rest of the month. Then the leaves in the grove changed once more to oranges and reds and browns, but it was three years later now. The girl with the auburn hair walked through the forest, a young lady now at age 15. The skirt was a light green, like the color of new leaves in the spring time. The skirt under it was a dark emerald, as dark as the color of the boy’s eyes. She had done that on purpose. Purple flowers were stitched along the sleeves, and the bodice had gold lacing done up the sides. ‘The color of the leaves match your hair,’ said the boy as he brushed the girl’s hair behind her ear, and he smiled quietly. It showed just a flash of his white teeth, which contrasted greatly with his soot-coated skin. He had just gotten off from working in the forge with his father. The two stepped closer together, and he bent down to her height to press his lips tenderly against hers.
This time, the memory was not her own. The grove was darker, and snow was everywhere. It had been one of the hardest winters the country had experienced. There were dashes of blood sprinkled around the grove, with the snow matted down by constant foot prints. A man in a soldier’s garb circled around another man, this one in rags with a tangled brown beard. ‘Please sir, no more,’ the bearded man groaned from the center of the grove. He could barely kneel. The soldier chuckled, amused by the begging. He kicked the man with the beard face down in the snow, and walked out of the grove. The man with the beard was left alone. He tried to get up, tried to at least crawl out of the woods to call for help, but could not. He couldn’t even get up from his place in the snow. He coughed up blood, soiling more of the white snow, and breathed his final breath. ‘Father,’ a young man called out from behind the trees. The fear was rising in his voice. He ran out to the man, shaking his body. ‘Father! Please, father!’ I heard the screams echoing through my head. The young man’s emerald green eyes became teary, and he wept quietly over the body of his father, his only remaining kin.
His father was beaten for being associated with the rebels.
Now I stood outside the grove looking in. The memories would not form again; the happy ones, at least. All that I could see now were the memories of my father in law’s death as my husband told the story to me. His voice was breaking at the end. All around us was the massacre of those who tried to change the world we lived in; this broken image of France, where the only beauty was that which was kept secret, with their memories never leaving us.
It was raining this spring night in 1798, and the paths were muddied up horribly. I held the hand of my husband tightly. I was afraid. You could say nothing without a spy or a loyalist over hearing you. I learned from the mistakes of others, and of my husband. Did fleeing make me a coward? Glancing up at him, I stared viciously at the black patch covering his left eye. It had been my final straw. I would stay no longer, not when my love was being harmed for trying to make things better. It was too much, for me and for him.
I, the girl with the auburn hair, and my husband, the boy with the emerald green eyes, turned away from our country and the grove of trees in the forest, the only peace one would find in a country of death.