I hardly knew the girl and was shocked the day she tapped on my window at five a. m. Her rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes made me smile. That's probably why I didn't mind her being there so early. I pulled on some faded jeans, a tank top--forget the bra--and tiptoed down the old hallway winding past my parent's room.
"You wanna go to the mountains?" She handed me a coffee when I got outside.
"Ummm . . . I guess. Just let me grab my violin." Even at sixteen, I was smart enough to know that music and the mountains practically go together.
After I grabbed my fiddle and made it safely outside, that's what we did; I hardly knew the girl and yet we drove to the mountains instead of going to school that day.
It was the first time I sluffed and I'll never forget it.
The morning air hung thick with excitement as she parked the car at the base of a hiking trail. She threw me a leather jacket which was straight from the 70's. I slung my violin case over my back and we hiked into the foggy mountains.
"You know where this leads?" she asked.
I shook my head.
"To the place old Tom proposed to his wife."
Everyone in our school had heard about Tom. I still don't know if all the stories were true, but us kids clung to every detail. The point was that right in the middle of the city, not far from our homes, sat a castle. It loomed beautifully, with it's gloomy architecture and mystic arches. I loved the place and often went to sit under one of the many stained glass windows. I didn't want anyone catching me, especially Tom's family. Some said they still lived, always keeping watch over that strange place filled with sad memories.
"Do you know the whole story?" I asked. "I've heard so many different versions."
Kay remained quiet for a moment longer as we walked up the pebbled trail. She looked like a pixie with wavy, dark hair that swayed in the wind. Her long lashes framed green eyes that made you dance with merriment. But the best thing of all was her attitude; she refused to be caddy, gossipy or malicious. To be honest, she was like a guy, the kind of person I'd always looked up to.
"The two lovers met when they were young. Tom took her up these same mountains, confessed his love and they shared their first kiss."
We walked over a rickety bridge as Kay spoke. I held onto the fraying ropes at my side and carefully glided over the splintered, mossy boards. Her leather jacket kept me just warm enough and my violin case jarred against my back. After much teetering, creaking and swaying, we made it safely across. I think that's when I knew the day would be amazing. At the base of a small cliff, vibrant wildflowers grew on the other side of the bridge, a sign that what lay ahead was far more stunning than even the journey had been.
"But when Tom proposed, the woman said 'no'."
I'd never heard that version of the story. "Why?"
"Because she only saw him as a friend. She loved someone else, someone handsome and heroic. But Tom loved her so much, he refused to give up. So, he built her that castle, right in the middle of the city and hoped that would buy her love."
We climbed over the edge of the rock face and stood in the first rays of the morning sun. I knew that wasn't the end Tom's story, but the gorgeous scene snatched all curiosity from me. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. The wind, brushed my hair from my face and I felt like a bird gliding in the air far above everything else.
Below us rested a lake and a tall waterfall which feed it from a mile away. A deer drank among golden willows at the other side of the water's edge. "This is amazing," I said more about that silly deer than anything else! I couldn't imagine the woman turning down a proposal in such a place.
Before anyone could move, including the deer which still hadn't noticed us standing by the edge of the cliff, I pulled out my violin. It was one of those moments where time stops. I don't know what Kay thought of me then, if she wondered what sort of girl she'd befriended in the early hours of the morning. But I didn't care anymore. I placed her leather jacket on a rock and played my violin for the graceful deer. I wanted to add something to that place, do something that would couple with the canyon's allure.
The melody wrapped around the waters; it drifted sad and sweet. I felt the sun light my arms and back with heat as the orb rose higher, coaxed by my music. Tears came to my eyes. The music flowed from my soul and the power of nature's peace overtook my melody. I pictured myself standing amongst God's courts, in some gleaming castle in the sky. I wondered what He'd think of my song because I truly played it for Him--the master of creation.
As the melody continued on, I felt something strange, as if someone else stood there with us, guiding each note I played. The melody was so sad, so forlorn, yet hinted of a distant hope. It reminded me of how Tom must have felt, taking all that time to build a castle for a woman who would never love him.
When I finished, I opened my eyes and saw that the deer had vanished, the sun hung in the sky and Kay's cheeks glistened with tears.
"That was beautiful," she said and gazed toward the waterfall. "I knew there was a reason I wanted to bring you here. You know, I wish Tom could have heard you. He loved this place."
"How do you know so much about him, and his whole story?" I asked.
"Because," she choked on a sob, "he was my grandfather. An amazing man who deserved far more than he got. And he just passed away yesterday."