Love and Time
By: Gabriella Balcom
Biting her lip, Kryssi stared at the river but kept her distance. Although the current drought had made it shallow, sometimes the water level rose dramatically after flash-flooding and runoff from the large lake feeding into it. Debrisbranches and stonesoften washed in, lying partly-immersed in silt. A few stones with striking patterns and beautiful colors seemed to wink at Kryssi now as water trickled across them.
Daddy used to ask, "Are they calling you, sweetie?"
She'd say, "They want to come home with me." Their little joke. The loveliest stones went into her collection. Not that she had it anymore.
Misery overwhelmed the nine-year-old. She buckled at the knees and collapsed to the ground, sobbing. Everyone was miserable, and it was all her fault. Grammi had stopped smiling and eating. She often said, "I should've gone first, not my only child." Kryssi wished Grammi would get out of bed instead of lying in it all the time. She wished Mama would stop crying. Kryssi also wished she'd listened.
This river had always been a part of her life, and her parents' and grandparents' lives. Grandpa had proposed to Grammi on its banks. Daddy to Mama. Kryssi had dreamed of marrying there herself someday, with her family beside her. But that would never happen now because Daddy was dead.
Whenever the river was a dangerous mass of churning water and hidden undertows, Kryssi was supposed to stay away from it. However, she'd disobeyed and gone in one day, and strong currents had pulled her under. Daddy had jumped in, managing to keep her head above the surface, but a branch had come hurtling down the river. After it struck Daddy's head, he never came back up.
Kryssi studied the now-shallow river, and a glint caught her eye. Wading into the water, she gasped and picked up a gold ring.
"Bad things happen, but life goes on," a voice said.
Turning around, Kryssi saw a red-headed girl. Her feet never touched the ground as she glided across the water toward Kryssi. "Who are you?"
"Lyriiaa friend." Tucking her hair behind one pointed ear, the redhead smiled and plucked the ring from Kryssi. It glowed on Lyriia's open palm. "Love runs true in your line."
"My Daddy's dead." Tears welled up in Kryssi's eyes.
"He died because of me."
"Your father loved you very much. That is rare and beautiful."
"But he's gone."
Lyriia raised her eyebrows. "Yes, but only for now."
"What do you mean?"
"I can't restore life but I can take you back to when your father was alive. For a price, that is."
Kryssi's eyes widened. "I have no money."
"Money means nothing to me. What I want is for you to believe in love." Lyriia placed the ring in Kryssi's hand, then closed Kryssi's fingers over it. "And I want you to remain by the river."
"How long do you want me to stay?"
"The rest of your life." Lyriia sighed, and then spoke. "I lost those who were precious to me, and I can never get them back. My gift to you honors them. Cherish your loved ones, and follow the rules. They exist for a reason."
At first, Kryssi couldn't speak. "I promise to do what you say."
Lyriia nodded, and everything went black.
Kryssi woke, leapt from bed, and got dressed. In the kitchen, Mama and Grammi had a picnic basket ready, and she looked inside.
"No peeking," Daddy said before he peeked and winked at her.
She winked back.
"Peas in a pod, you two." Grammi lifted Kryssi off her feet, hugging her. "You need to stop growing. I can barely lift you up."
Snickering, Daddy wrapped his arms around Grammi and picked up both her and Kryssi.
"Show off." Mama giggled. Baby Myra slept soundly in the carrier strapped to Mama's chest.
Recent flooding had raised the river to a dangerous level, but they hoped it had gone down in the last few days. Grammi and Kryssi wanted to look for stones. Daddy brought his fishing pole and tacklebox, and Mama had a new book which she hoped to read.
After they reached the river, they saw the water was still high, churning crazily in the center.
"The side looks pretty calm," Kryssi said.
"Strong currents can run even to the edge of the water," Daddy cautioned. "We never know what could happen when it's running fast. You stay out of the river."
Sighing, Kryssi picked flowers for Mama and Grammi. Once everyone else was busy setting up the tent and gathering firewood for later, she crept toward the water. She lifted her foot to step in, but froze. Daddy said not to, and her family would be sad if anything happened to her.
As she turned away, something shiny on the ground caught her eye. She picked it up and read the inscription on the inside: B.S. Eternally yours. T.S.
"Wow," she murmured. Then she yelled, "Grammi, I found your lost wedding ring!"