The young maple had grown into a thick and hulking steward of the old graveyard. Its trunk bulged around the carving, and Coy could barely make out the initials: “C. M. + A. W.”.
Two decades had passed like a leaf skittering across the autumn prairie.
The date snuck up on him, really, and it was only a chance freeze in early May that made Coy remember his pact with Anna.
It was cold that spring he left Bristle Bluff to find his fortune in the west, too.
He and Anna had huddled together there under “their” tree, where they had played and schemed as children, where they’d fallen in love as teenagers. It hadn’t been enough for Coy.
“It’s not a forever goodbye,” he lied to her that last day. “We’ll see each other again. “
“When?” she whispered.
Neither one of them believed it, so they settled on a fallback — if they hadn’t reunited before then, they’d meet under the oak twenty years to the day after their parting, at sunset.
Now, as the shadows grew long and cool night air settled around his shoulders, Coy realized Anna wasn’t coming. He wondered where life had taken her … what she was doing … who she was with.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said and rubbed his fingers over the carving. He hung his head and walked toward the gate of the cemetery.
When he’d gone just a couple of steps, a soft voice called out behind him.
“Coy … wait!”
He wheeled, smiling, to face his lost love.
Standing in front of him was a modest headstone, engraved with a name: “Anna Wilson.”