She first saw him on a sunny day, in a field strewn with golden hay. He gazed into her eyes with a smile imprinted on his face. She blushed and smiled back, eyes sparkling like diamonds in the sun. He came closer and let his fingertips brush against her arm. She chuckled and lowered her gaze.
Ahead was a tunnel. It mystified and intrigued them at the same time. It was one none had traversed before and it conveyed a sense of foreboding inside them, of exploring the unknown. It made them feel excited, sending shivers down both their spines and rapidly increasing the beats of their hearts. Their hands locked and they entered. Together.
The tunnel was as mysterious and unnerving inside, as it appeared from the outside. It smelled of roses and lilies and offered them food and drink and luxuries to fill their heart’s desire. At first. For later, no-one was to expect what would ensue.
It was surprisingly brightly lit for a tunnel. They realized only too late that it was their own glow that provided the light.
When the first storm came they had nowhere to hide. The tunnel had only one exit and that lay straight ahead. There were no sidesteps, no alcoves, to shade them from the wrath of a suppressed storm. Yet they never let go of each other’s hand. Even if they held on by a finger, they still held on.
After the storm, peace and calm soon followed. And everything seemed to return to the bright, tranquil path in which they had commenced their journey.
“I thought we’d never come back from that one.” This was the first thought both had, grateful they still had each other.
But they soon grew tired. Of walking. Of waiting. Of expecting. It seemed that they were looking for a way out that never came. It was not yet even in sight. And the storm returned. Heavier and more forceful than the first. Everyone told them to be aware of storms and the lightening, but no-one ever warned them of the thunder that came along. For the bangs were deafening and shuddered the very center of their hearts.
They survived yet again, but it was not the same. Something had been broken inside and they could no longer enjoy the tranquilities after the rain, as they first did. Yet they still held hands. Even as the tunnel darkened more and more.
Three years, seven months and 19 days they spent in the tunnel.
When they finally found the exit at the other end, they felt the last winter snowflakes splash onto their nose. It was a pleasant coolness from the humidity from which they emerged. They smiled, but it was a crooked smile. One almost forced. The melancholy released from their prolonged sigh wafted in the air around them. And in the second blink of an eye, the sun appeared from behind the clouds, restoring its light on their darkened eyes. But it could no longer retain the glow of their souls.
They had surfaced from the tunnel seemingly unscathed, but inside, they would never be the same again. They were not the same people they were when they entered. He looked in her eyes and searched for that initial sparkle, but it was gone. And she could no longer fix a smile upon his face. They could not recognize each other anymore.
And that is when it happened.
Their hands unlocked and drifted to their respective sides.
The pain in their heart was more than they could ever bear, but all they could do was struggle to go on.
Yet they always vividly remembered their tunnel journey with its memory forever engraved in their souls.
The tunnel experience made them stronger, for it too made them wiser in the ways of this world.
Also part of Daily Prompt: Use It or Lose It