Millie walked through a field of wildflowers. Monarchs rested on asters and bees buzzed around buttercups, pollen from which stuck to the hairs of their little legs. Millie found them remarkable, perfect works of God's art, all of them.
And when she reached the creek that divided the leah from the forest, she sat in the cool reprieve of a weeping willow and she, too, wept.
She knelt at the water's edge and looked at her reflection. A water strider landed on the illusion and the water rippled, obscuring any outward evidence of the tears she cried. But she could still feel them as scorching as the August sun the willow shielded her from, trickling down her nose and her cheeks.
But she didn't wipe them away. She liked feeling them. She wanted to feel them. As long as she felt them it meant she was still alive. And, more than that, they were all she had left of Bryce.
Each teardrop burned just as his kisses had, and they reminded her of every kiss he ever smothered her in, and of all the ones he could no longer give. She savored those salty drops. And when they ran down her face and soaked her lips, she drank them in, just as she had his passion, his love.
She looked at her reflection once more and didn't recognize the girl who stared back. She was sallow and thin-lipped and hollow-eyed, and she beckoned Millie to join her beneath the water's surface.
Millie was tempted, as she had been every other day before. But the dead, they feel nothing, and she'd rather continue feeling Bryce's kisses than join him in the void.
She reached in and stirred the water. The ghoulish reflection rippled away and, for a moment, a rainbow appeared in its place.
A sparrow landed in a nearby oak and, defying the heat, whistled a most beautiful tune, and, in the chattering of the breeze-driven leaves, Millie thought she heard a whisper of I love you.
She walked beneath the oak and looked up at the songbird perched upon the branch Bryce had surrendered to, a frayed length of rope still knotted to the limb dangled in the summer breeze.
"I'll always love you, too" she whispered, his kisses drenching her lips.