So consumed was Honeysuckle by his grief that he did not notice the swaying figure behind him. Only little by little did he differentiate between his utterances of grief and the long, queasy moans of the newborn female sprite. When at last he did comprehend he was not alone, he rose in surprise with a sudden leap.
“Who are you?” he demanded, the words barely finding a path through his sadness.
She did not respond. She rocked slowly, and her arms and neck moved in a delicate, mournful choreography. She was unlike anything he had ever come upon. Her flesh was porous and granular.
Where her eyes should have been were pits which cried constant, thin streams of sand. And her groans of grief issued forth from a mouth that was tightly, painfully clenched.
“Who are you?” Honeysuckle said again with a mingling of fear and pity. Instinctively, he reached for her as if he would touch her face.
As he did this, she quieted instantly and came toward him like a child taking its first, wobbly steps. He recoiled at once and fled into the forest, not looking back. While Honeysuckle was much quicker than Grit (he had left her behind on the beach in no time), the loss of Dogwood had slowed him considerably. Heartbreak weighed him down and he soon found rest upon a hill within a thicket of briars and vines, wondering what other horrors awaited him.
Honeysuckle was quite content to lay in the thicket, to fade away like so many other Passions had done before him once their strength had waned. He was finding desperate comfort in the darkness of closed eyes. If only he could rid himself of the stubborn consciousness that clung to him so obsessively.
A shuffling in the forest down the hill woke him from his black contentment long before he heard the accompanying moans. He looked through the leafless, dead thicket he lay beneath and perceived the female sprite as she staggered toward the hill. She stood at the base, her face tilted upward, her hands gesturing an embrace in lyrical dance. She tried to climb the hill, but was unable to traverse the steep incline. Immediately, she stumbled, falling to her knees. Moaning anew from the ground, she peered up at Honeysuckle.
“Go away!” Honeysuckle cried. “I do not know you! I do not want you.” Yet, as he said it, he knew there was something in the tortured sprite down below that was all too familiar. “Go away, Grit,” he said, knowing her name as easily as any being would innately recognize its kin.
But she didn’t go away; she remained. And in her remaining was Honeysuckle’s deliverance from nonexistence. Even as he had wanted to disappear, to vanish completely, the image of Grit waiting for him at the base of the hill kept him preoccupied. Her need for him was driving his need to die further from his mind.
Days and nights passed and neither of the two moved from their positions. Every morning Honeysuckle would wake to see Grit still at the bottom of the hill, still waiting and moaning plaintively. Every day his cries of resentment toward her became less forced. At last, he thought of coming down the hill. He was hungry and he knew she had to be as well. But reluctance won out and he remained in his fortress of dead vines for another night.
As he slept that night, Honeysuckle wandered into a dream: He slid down the hillside to where Grit lay slumbering. She grumbled and kicked like a dreaming hound. The imposing trees barely gave the moonlight admittance to the forest. As Honeysuckle watched the sleeping Passion, tendrils of honeysuckle began to climb delicately over her. And behind her a small tree sprouted from the forest floor. Both the honeysuckle vines and the tree grew very quickly, many seasons in only a few seconds. When the sudden growth stopped, Grit lay covered in a blanket of honey ivy and cradled lovingly by a large dogwood tree.
There was movement in the darkness of the forest beyond which distracted Honeysuckle from his adoration of Grit.
“Dogwood!” he gasped as he saw the certain form of his beloved walking away. Dogwood turned and grinned with a nod to Grit before fading into the night of Dreamland.
Honeysuckle woke to the morning, tears dripping from his cheeks like dew. He knew then he was not meant to suffer through his sorrow alone.
As in the dream, Honeysuckle slid down the hillside, though now in the clear light of morning he could see perfectly. So quick was his descent, he nearly fell on Grit as he approached the bottom of the hill. She was still sleeping. He watched her momentarily, still somewhat scared.
“Grit,” he whispered, extending his hand and this time not recoiling. “Wake up, Grit. I’m here for you now.”
Grit rose with a twitch, and turned her head about as if trying to see. The sand dripped from her face in heartbreaking streams.
“Grit. It’s me. It’s Honeysuckle Sycamore.”
She moaned quietly with a strain of uncertainty, then made another attempt to embrace him with a lurch, a lunge, and a fall into Honeysuckle’s waiting arms. She whimpered and sobbed there, at least minutely comforted.
“I’m here, Grit. It’s you and me now.” He held her closely for the rest of the day. The forest had never seen such brokenheartedness. Every willow in the vicinity wept at once and continues weeping to this very day.
They both retreated like fading shadows swallowed by the deep forest of the valley. The sheen of the world that Honeysuckle had known had dulled. There was no mirth or wonder left. Honeysuckle and Grit became but omens of grief and solitude to whatever soul they came across.
In the evenings, when light struggled through the trees and a cool breeze crept over the hillsides, they made their beds in tree hollows and sinkholes. Honeysuckle would hold Grit like an older brother or a concerned parent. In holding her, he perceived there was something about her that didn’t quite fit. That is, though she was of Dogwood and Honeysuckle, something in her being was neither of them.
When Grit moaned and rocked in her sleep it would break Honeysuckle’s heart. And it was during these moments that Honeysuckle would smell the faintest hint of Dogwood in the air and would know his beloved was still near watching over them both.