They stood beneath an ancient oak tree in a little park. Known as Lovers' Tree, it was the one thing in their average town that could be called a landmark, aside from the huge fiberglass waffle sticking out from the roof of Carol's Waffle Palace.
When she was little, a birthday tea preceded the unveiling, but ever since her early teenage years it has been a fine dinner with a single glass of rare vintage wine from a crystal goblet. At the end of the meal her father blindfolds her with her linen napkin and leads her to her new domain. He opens the door, takes her in his arms, kisses her on the lips and whispers “Together. Forever.” Then he uncovers her pale blue eyes and gently wipes away the tears of wonder and delight with which she greets each new creation in her honour.
How is it twenty years since… all that? Twenty years since we buried you. Twenty years since I’d seen him, or even heard of him. Not that he doesn’t cross my mind often; he’s always hanging out there in the back of it somewhere. Cat, I says – I use Cat these days instead of Kitty. Sorry. He doesn’t recognise me, of course, with my blonde bob. Never grew it long again. And he’s gone from wavy blond to wispy bald. Some nice sense of karma in there, I thinks. Looks like he’s put on all the weight I lost. Jeans too small. Flab kamikazeing over the edges. He’s all blotchy round the nose and cheeks. Piggy little holes for eyes. Blue. Never forget those eyes.
That was the very first rule of the harvestmen. You could not just take. That was stealing. That was theft. There had to be payment first. Not cold coin, a cheap and worthless currency, but older treasures from when the world was still blood-smattered from its birth. Fear. Grief. Anger. The only things worth keeping.