Chloe was born in the pouring rain and blinding dark, under a thunderstorm that cut power to five counties and lingered for days. Her first memories were damp and earthy and fresh--watercolor paintings of wildflower fields, thunderheads, and pale yellow dawns.
She grew up with summers swimming in lurid heat and trembling cicada calls; in winters soft with snowfall and tree limbs upraised to the icy light. She was a tiny sun in herself, glowing effortlessly. Plants reached up to her, swayed with her voice. Given enough space and enough time, her hands could have delved into the earth and come back up trailing with trees and vines, with berries falling from her fingertips and thick pale roots curled around her wrists.
I met Chloe in the middle of one electric summer, when the heat was aggressively breathtaking and I had to continuously swipe sweat from my eyelashes. Chloe was a breath of undying spring--cool to the touch. She tasted like almonds and cinnamon and clean, wet dirt, and like the dirt, she rubbed off into my hair and under my fingernails. We knelt together in her garden, a lush wild tangle of herbs and flowers that burst through the fence trying valiantly to contain it. Camellias for luck, irises for hope, holly for happiness.
Chloe was keenly attuned to mortality. Each winter, she watched her impatiens and marigolds wither with the frost, leaving quiet skeletons to guard the dormant perennials until the spring--watched as they became part of the earth again and the tiny seedlings of the summer before poked through the ground to take their place.
She told me her plans one chilly autumn night, lying in a cornfield under the stars. "When I die," she whispered, low and sad and melodic like rain, "promise me you'll bury me under an oak tree and plant a garden. Creeping thyme, and daisies, and white chrysanthemums, and heather and poppies and orchids. Plant foxglove for the butterflies and bluebells for the bees and lupines for the hummingbirds. Promise me. Promise me."
I promised. The sleeping crows were our only witnesses.