Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves by Isabel Afonso

The crunch of leaves fills her ears. The chilling winds sweep her off her feet. She tugs at her charcoal gray cardigan, hurries down the cluttered street. Her blue eyes glance at the slow dying trees. The ever changing leaves float to the ground like parachutes. Colors of red, orange, and brown swirl around her feet.  She smiles, her hand tightening around her burgundy knitted scarf. She passes by a bakery, the smell of cinnamon drawing her attention. She retraces her steps as people scurry by, trying to get home to their kids. Her eyes widen as she stares longingly into the window. Decorated according to the season, plastic leaves outline the window and circle the delicious wonders: pumpkin pies, cakes, pecan pies, cupcakes frosted in red and orange. Her stomach rumbles. She walks in line. A whiff of cinnamon wakes her senses. A couple is seated in the corner, sharing a milkshake. She averts her gaze. The cashier is a petite girl with curly brown hair and eyes to match. She smiles and says, ‘Have a great day!” handing her the chosen pumpkin pie.

She continues on her way home. This used to be her favorite season. She lets her gaze wander, watching kids tug at their parent’s jacket, begging for toys, as couples walk hand in hand, losing themselves in each other’s eyes. She looks to the floor, feeling tears gather in her eyes. Her mind betrays her, bringing back the memories she wished to keep locked up in a steel cage.

She was walking home when a gust of wind took her scarf in its hands. She gasped turning around. She began to run, her boots kicking up the dead leaves. She cursed under her breath. A tan hand reached out and grabbed her burgundy scarf.

“Is this yours?”

 A deep voice rang. She tilted her head slightly up. Big brown eyes held her in a trance.

“Yes,” she squeaked.

 Her eyes were firmly planted to the ground as her cheeks grew warm. He laughed and wrapped it gently around her neck. She could feel her face flush.

“Hi, I’m…”

She smiles as a tear trails down her freckled cheek. Her feet take her on a painfully familiar path. Fall. She remembers why she loved the fall now.

She laughed as he carved their names into the tree. Leaves were once again falling.

“It’s sad how leaves only live a short while,” she said.

“True but they live their lives to the fullest, changing colors as if they are putting a show for us,” he said making the finishing touches. She smiled, tied her long hair back, and began cutting him a slice of pumpkin pie.

It wasn’t the slow changing of the leaves. It wasn’t the way each leaf seemingly floats to the ground like a snowflake. It wasn’t the crisp wind or the smell of pinecones. None of those were the reasons why she once loved this season. As the wind picks up she flicks her now choppy blonde hair back. She can see the sign up ahead and its medieval iron gate. She can see the scattering of flowers. Another memory comes to her.

“Don’t cry.” He whispered his voice breaking. She couldn’t stop the streams of tears. Her face was red and her eyes puffy. He gripped her hand with what little strength he had left. She looked at his hand. It looked so frail and pale. Her lips tremble trying to keep her sounds of pain. She ignored the noise from the machine. She never knew she could hate a machine so much. He kissed her cheek.

“Promise me you’ll move on and try to be happy,” he whispered. She laid her head against his chest, listening to his slowing heartbeat relishing in this moment.

 “I promise.”

Her knees sink beneath her into the grass. She sits on the crushed leaves. Sad how they live for a short time, she thought.  She popped the box open and began to eat her pie. She looks at the piece of cement block that was planted into the ground, tracing her fingers on the carved letters. She sits there for what seems like ages. She straightens herself. She can almost feel him, right there, his arms wrapped around her like the autumn breeze.

“Good bye, Alex,” she whispered.

She did, and maybe always would, love the fall.

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