Vivian stood on the side of the lake. Her bright hair waved like the water as the wind graciously blew in from the south. She inhaled and then looked down at her newly acquired engagement ring. She had said yes, but she knew that wasn’t what she had meant. Everyone had been there, watching them, watching her with anticipated excitement. And since she did love and respect Scott, she didn’t want to humiliate him by saying no.
But it was just too soon. She didn’t expect to marry the first guy she had fallen in love with. She wanted to love many men. She wanted to experience life and joy and … freedom. She hated — for him — that she wasn’t ready.
She easily slipped the ring off of her finger and let the sunlight sparkle off of the massive diamond. A diamond that must have put Scott back a months salary. A diamond that said, “You belong to me.” She only wanted to belong to herself.
It seemed to happen all at once: softly she heard her name, a gust of wind, the tiny splash of water, and then…
“Oh no!” she cried. Her ring had vanished from her hand. She knelt down to the ground and frantically searched. It had to be there. It had to be right under her. She dug into the dirt and pulled out grass, turning in circles, tears wetting her face and plopping on her hands and knees. She didn’t stop until she had searched every piece of earth it could have possibly landed on.
She crawled toward the lake. If she had just dropped it in there, it would be gone forever. How could she tell Scott she wasn’t going to marry him and that she had lost the ring? She placed her filthy hands on her face and cried for herself. Soon her wails could be heard for miles, and her tears had washed her hands clean.
“I can get your ring back.”
Vivian gasped and scrambled up to her feet, heavy breaths from flew from her mouth. But no one was there; nothing but a weeping willow swaying in the wind by the lake, green and lush with early summer. She wanted to run, her thoughtful time by the lake had turned strange, but she could not leave without the ring.
She heard the masculine voice again. “All I ask in return is but one small favor.”
“I’ve lost my mind,” she whispered as she frantically turned this way and that looking again for the speaker.
“I am but a lonesome tree, weeping in the mist of time.”
“Who’s behind there?” She didn’t wait for someone to jump out and scare her, she ran around the tree, ducking inside its leaves, searching in the shade and up into the branches. When she made it back to where she had started she said, “This isn’t funny.” She began to think that she should just go and get Scott; they could come back to look for the ring later. Maybe marriage wasn’t the worst thing that could happen.
“All I ask is for your hand in marriage.” At this, one of the trees branches stretched and would have touched her shoulder if it had not jumped back.
She stared up at the tree: breathtakingly beautiful, alive, and sad.
“Just say the word, and your ring will be returned to your finger.”
Vivian was positive that her distraught over losing the ring had caused her to hallucinate. So, what would it hurt to say OK? And if some extraordinary paranormal event had just happened to her — maybe she had never been aware that trees could talk because they had never had anything to say to her before — what would be the harm in saying OK. It was a tree for goodness sakes, and trees were rooted in the ground.
Her confusion and desperation collected as she cried new tears. “If you get my ring back, I’ll do whatever you want.” When she felt a slight tingle, Vivian immediately looked to her hand, and there her ring sat as if it had never been lost. Without another thought about the tree or her promise, she ran home.
Scott didn’t take the breakup very well. He had actually cried and told her he forgave her but would never forget her, nor would he stop pursuing her. He swore that she would eventually grow to love him as much as he loved her. But she had moved on.
Vivian sat at a coffee shop sipping her espresso and writing an e-mail to her mother who lived faraway. She felt a presence and glanced over her laptop and across the table. The most handsome guy in the world stared at her. His eyes blazed amazing green, and his facial features were symmetrically perfect. “Is this seat taken?” he asked.
Vivian could only shake her head, trying not to smile too widely. She was already imaging the wild times they would have together.
“You are not an easy one to find, my dear Vivian.”
“Do I know you?” she said and closed her laptop.
“You no longer wear the ring.”
“No, it didn’t work… are you a friend of Scott’s?”
“I am friends with you.”
“No. I would know if you were my friend.”
“We met months ago… by the lake.”
“Is this some kind of joke?” She knew she had told no one about what had happened. She had tried to forget it herself. “I don’t understand.”
“You made me a promise that day. You said you would marry me if I retrieved your ring.”
She laughed. “I made you that promise?” She put her hand on her face and gently scratched her cheek.
“I am the tree, cursed by the lake many centuries ago.”
“Hmmm,” Vivian said. But how could she doubt what he had said. She had been there. She had made the promise, and the tree had given her the ring back. And now, the tree sat across from her at the table. And he was gorgeous. So gorgeous, that if he would have said he used to be a frog it wouldn’t have mattered.
From that day on, they were inseparable. She spent her mornings listening to him tell of times before her own and spent the evenings in his arms. She grew to love him from her fingertips to her toes, from the depths of her soul, from there until eternity.
She decided to keep her promise.
The ceremony was small, just the two of them, and at the place where they had met. She never took her eyes off of him, nor he from her’s. As soon as he placed a ring of twine and twigs on her finger, his curse of loneliness vanished. Two blissful willows swayed in the wind by the lake, green and lush with early summer.