It was just an old piece of faded lace, blowing across the Arizona desert like an orphaned tumbleweed.
It was nothing, but it was everything, and Craig Starnes cursed himself for being so careless. He had to chase it. Had to keep his promise.
It was a vow he made when he was just fifteen years old, but one he’d held in his heart every day of his life. Just as he held that hunk of tattered cloth in his vest pocket, right next to those infernal cigarettes.
First loves aren’t supposed to last a lifetime, but he and Violet were different. And, well, their love had lasted her a lifetime.
Craig wasn’t sure if it was tobacco smoke or driving sand that blurred his eyes with tears as he pursued the tumbling lace, but it brought Violet back to him like he hadn’t had her in years.
There she lay, tiny body struggling for breath as consumption took hold for good. She was wrapped in a wool blanket, only her head and hands exposed. He kissed her forehead and squeezed her hand.
Words sputtered as she tore loose the lace from around one wrist of her gown. “This … will … lead … you … home … to … me.”
He held that offering in one hand, her frigid fingers laced in his other, while she drew her last breath.
And now … no matter how hard Craig pumped his legs, he couldn’t catch up.
He stopped on the verge of collapse, leaning on his knees. A shadow fell over him like a question, and then found its voice.
“Did you lose something?”
He looked up to find the most beautiful young woman standing in front of him , wrapped in a blanket. In her outstretched hand, she held the tuft of lace.
“My name is Violet.”