The clopping of horses hooves was accented by the groan and grind of wood upon the pitted dirt road. Henry noticed a young lady perched upon the rocking box of the old flatbed pulled by two black horses. Steam escaped their nostrils, and each breath sounded like a snort in the cold fall air. The woman’s skin was dark, but her pale eyes glowed in the night. She wore a cream-colored wool coat with a hood that covered her hair. The woman’s eyes seemed to cut through Henry as she stopped the wagon a short distance from where he and Lewis were standing.
“Well, are you boys going to stand there all night, or are you going to help me? Climb up in the back.”
Henry looked over at Lewis and raised his eyebrows. Lewis just shrugged and started for the old horse-drawn wagon. The pair climbed in, and the horses jerked the old flatbed forward. Lewis and Henry nearly tumbled off the back of the cart from the sudden start. Once they regained their balance, Henry looked over his shoulder and hollered, “Where are we going?”
The woman looked back, smiled, and said, “Henry, you ask the same question every Halloween. You know the spot we need to go to. It was our spot, back when you said you cared.”
“Back when I said I cared?” asked Henry. “I think you have me mistaken for somebody else. I don’t even know your name.”
The pretty woman scowled, “How can you forget your Delilah?” Delilah pointed to the dilapidated hospital. “I suppose it’s that place. They can make you forget anything they want.”
Henry smiled and tried to sound convincing. “Oh, come on now. How could anything make me forget someone as beautiful as you? Maybe I’m just having some trouble remembering, that’s all. How long has it been?”
Delilah turned and leaned on the back of the old box seat as the horses slowly trodded in a direction they seemed very familiar. “I guess it has been a year,” said Delilah. “I can forgive you for forgetting. Well, I can forgive you a little bit.” She stretched forth her arm, and Henry let his pale fingers wrap around her cold black hand. She pulled Henry, and he attempted to scoot closer to Delilah. There was something familiar about her beautiful face.
“Hey, you two,” Lewis’ voice broke into the enchanted moment between Henry and his new found love. “Three’s a crowd. I’m not sure how you have my buddy so smitten, but could we save the googly eyes until I’m not around?”
Delilah released Henry’s hand, spun to face the front, grabbed the reigns, let out a laugh that seemed to echo in the night air and slapped the leather straps across the horse’s backs. The horses jolted forward, and Lewis tumbled off the end of the cart. Henry watched in horror as Lewis rolled and bounced over dirt, gravel, and rock. His body finally came to rest. Henry held his breath. He saw his friend slowly begin to push himself off the ground. The smell of jasmine and lavender wafted in the air from next to Henry. He turned and jumped with a start. Delilah sat next to him as the driverless cart rolled up the hill, it’s speed decreasing ever so slightly.
Henry was wide-eyed with fear. “Who is driving this thing?” he asked Delilah.
Her laughter sent a chill through his body, and then warmth and calm replaced it. “Oh, the horses know where we are going, Love.”
Before Henry could ask about Lewis Delilah’s lips were on his own. His heart stuttered in excitement and the cold night air seemed to melt away. Their lips parted, and he opened his eyes. The warm sun was beating down on the two of them, and they were no longer in the back of the cart. Delilah now wore a sheer white dress, and her dark frame was easily deciphered beneath her covering. “Where are we?” asked Henry.
Delilah’s dark, smooth hand gently stroked Henry’s pale, rough face. “Don’t you remember?”
Henry pulled his knees forward and looked around. The two of them were sitting in the grassy meadow by the New River. Its waters sparkled like diamonds against the late spring sun. High bushes surrounded them save a small dirt trail that led from the outside world into their secret hiding place. Here the two could be alone, away from the world beyond. They had to hide from those who hated them for their love of one another and needed protection from the hatred that wanted to do nothing else but destroy the beautiful joy and peace they felt whenever they were together.
The memories began to flood back into Henry’s mind. He was with the love of his life. Henry reached over and kissed her until he was sure her lips would never leave his memory again. Her hands slid around his waist and pulled him close. It felt like an eternity of joy. Jasmine and lavender filled the air. Her smooth skin and soft curly black hair brushed against Henry’s face. Delilah buried her full, glossy lips into his neck and he sank his stubbled cheek and chin into her neck and gave her the softest of kisses.
The birds seemed to grow louder, the sun brighter, and the plants were greener as Henry let go and gazed into her haunting eyes once more. They held hands, and both let out a long, relaxed sigh.
“I don’t understand,” said Henry, “How could I forget?”
Delilah pointed over his shoulder, “Because of them.”
Henry’s mind seemed to lose focus, he lost balance, and his world spun around until it settled on the dirt trail and four large young men in t-shirts and hoods that hid their faces. They had come to take Delilah, but Henry would die before he let that happen.