Simon Cordell left his dark, empty home and headed deep into the woods. As usual, he was restless, filled with too many memories and no longer able to stand his own company. The nighttime suited him. The darkness and density of the woods helped hide his disfigured face…his guilty soul.
Light from a full moon sifted through spidery branches of the wintry trees. From the distance, the howl of a wolf filtered to him—eerie…haunting.
Frigid wind bit through his coat, but he welcomed the pain. Pain made him aware he was still human, that his tragic act from one year ago today hadn’t rendered him the unfeeling monster he sometimes felt himself to be.
The soft ground gave beneath his feet. Tree limbs whipped against him as he plodded through the thickets. The sting of the branches, the piercing icy wind on his exposed flesh, were all welcome sensations. He was alive, although he had no right to be.
The sound of music and cheerful voices interrupted his self-recrimination. He peered between the trees where a faint light shone. As if he had no control of his own body, his feet took him toward the light…toward the sound. From the edge of the woods, he stood, staring at the mayor’s mansion. Guests in colorful finery exited vehicles and made their way up the path to the door.
Simon was about to step back, to fade into obscurity, when a particular guest caught his attention. His heartbeat sped up. He nearly called out her name but stopped himself just in time. Dark hair framed her pale face. Beneath her black cloak, the skirt of an emerald green gown floated around her. The woman paused for a moment and glanced in his direction. He slunk back behind a tree, pulse pounding. Had she seen him? He didn’t know. He did know that he had to see her. Had to get a closer look at the woman he hadn’t seen in ten years but had been unable to erase from his memory.