There was word that you were so beautiful that Aphrodite herself was jealous. They said your hair was spun from pure gold and your eyes were filled with clear, blue sky. But you weren’t a mythical being, you were just Isabelle. You were mine, and then you were gone.
We met in the summer of expectations and chaos. You were promised to suitors with far more money in their pocketbooks than I would see in a lifetime. But you didn’t want money, and you didn’t want the men who promised it. You wanted me, and my love, and the small peach farm down the lane. I would never know a greater miracle in the entirety of my life.
“She should rest in Charleston, with her family. That’s her home,” your mother told me after you were taken from me. The same mother who disowned you after we got married at seventeen. I had cradled your head in my lap as you wept over her vile words. It was a shame she could not see how infinite your wonder was before you were gone.
“This is her home. She belongs with me. I’m her family.” I told her. I sent her away with disappointment in her eyes and well deserved regret in her heart.
The next day they laid you in the ground, in the land we had been building for ourselves the past five years. The size of the funeral did not surprise me. You were loved by all you met. There was not a wicked fleck in your heart.
Deborah Bennett spoke of your courage, and your kindness. Mikey spoke of your homemade peach cobbler and a few other things—he was unmistakably intoxicated. Little Terra next door spoke of the time you saved her kitten from drowning. Allen Freemont spoke of your smile and his wife, Quinn, spoke of your quick wit.
I did not speak. For there were no words to say that were not to you.
Sometimes I would still see you. Saturday mornings, you were in the kitchen, flipping a stack of buttermilk pancakes. I could even smell the butter and maple syrup. Other times, it was just a glance. A flash of golden hair or the sound of your voice.
It would have been easier if we had children. Then I would have had someone to be strong for. We had talked about it – when we are ready; when the farm is doing better. How were we to know that time would slip away so quickly?
I could see your stone from our bedroom window. If I lay on my left side and positioned my head in just the right way, I could see you as I laid for bed. I had not slept much since you were taken from me. There was too much room to roll around in, and no one to hold on to. The only comfort I found at night was looking out the window and seeing what remained of you.
But even with you so close to me, it wasn’t enough. A small slab with the words ‘Beloved Wife’ did not justify the love we had shared. It seemed too trivial for a woman who deserved the world.
It drove me mad for days. Then days turned to weeks. Then I began to lose grasp on any concept of time. Neighbors still stopped by, but I knew they were distancing. I did not go to church. I did not go into town. All I could think about was the tiny tombstone and how it did not show the immensity of our love.
So I built a wall. With nothing but peaches for me to tend to, the wall grew quickly. I added brick by brick until it was so high I could no longer reach it with a ladder. So I made it wider, I stretched it from our front lawn to the far end of our acres.
At the sight of the wall, our friends stopped visiting. I did not blame them. I had no desire to talk to anyone but you.
As I built the wall, I pressed a single sunflower, your favorite flower, between each row. If you were here you would tell me it was the dumbest thing you had ever seen, but you would smile so sweetly I would know you secretly loved it.
I still sit under the wall, fifty years after you have passed. I eat lunch here every day. I tell memories of you to the kids down the road, hoping to keep a part of you alive, although I know we will both soon be forgotten.
One day I will leave this empty world and there will be no one left to remember I existed at all. But, my dearest Isabelle, long after our stories become lost to the living world, the wall will still stand, as will my love for you.