It was a brisk Wednesday morning when Aaron took his daily stroll along the hillside. The grass was painted a shade of chartreuse and the oaks trees looked elegantly frail in the distance. The sky appeared dusted as clouds billowed, covering the gleaming sun. Aaron himself dressed in a beige trench coat and trousers made of stiff corduroy. His head was still embedded with hair although now it was salt and peppered. A tartan scarf covered half his face from the strong breeze pushing against him so strong it made his sapphire eyes tear up. At this time, Helena would walk along by his side however, the argument from earlier made her second guess her daily ritual. Alone, he walked against the wind and the bleak day. Of course, days in West Burton were not always like this. In all of the 42 years Aaron Hallaway lived here he could only recall eight weather inconveniences that prevented him from leaving his spacious cottage. In all of Yorkshire, deciding to live here was a clever decision after all.
As the gale intensified, so did Aaron’s steps upon the hill. He could feel his joints stiffen with each step. Age consumed him as a lion would its prey however and yet, Aaron remained handsome for sixty-seven years. His face was imprinted with wrinkles and his hands were permanently red from hard labor and planting endless crops for the farm. Aaron never complained about his farm and how demanding the task was. After all, he thought, “It’s for the greater good. If nobody will do it, then I will gladly do so.” He began his journey back to his cottage when his eyes fell upon a crow resting on a branch of a birch tree. Its feathers were black and glossy like obsidian and its beak was a dull knife. The crow cocked his head up towards the sky then looked at Aaron. He too looked into the crow’s eyes as if it was turning him to stone. Then in a split second, the crow flew away.
Aaron shook his head and moved onward. He wanted to arrive back just in time so that he could apologize to Helena about the breakfast incident. Then without warning, he drew in a sharp breath. His reddened palm clutched his heart and he fell onto the field. “A-ACK-ACK”, he exclaimed, trying to shout. “Hele-Helena, p-please … H-help.” Aaron’s body shook and his eyes grew larger and more frightened. He knew this was the end of him and understood that there would be no more walks on the hillside, farming or being with Helena. Suddenly, his body stopped shaking and he was perfectly still. The pain of his chest terminated and peace began. The sun finally appeared through the dense clouds.
“AHH,” Aaron yelled as he woke up from his dream, but something felt strange and uneasy. He shifted to sit up and he saw himself in an open field. Nothing but fresh grass and flowers of all shapes, styles and stains ahead of him. There were no mountains, no rivers and most certainly no hillsides in the distance. “Am I lost? Where the heck am I?”
“Aaron…”. A voice called from behind him. He turned around and in front of him stood an elderly lady, much older than he was. Her hair was white snow and her eyes were tawny and piercing. She was dressed in a white cloak and in her wrinkled hand was a cane made of oak.
“Aaron Walter Hallaway…” she spoke in a soft voice. “Son of Adam and Ophelia.” He thought he was in a trance or if he was in a coma. This seemed unreal in his mind.
“Gr-grandma?” He mumbled.
“Child, why would you assume that?”
“Hey, I’m a grown man-”
“Silence Aaron. Allow me to speak.”
“Before you say another word I need you to tell me...what the bloody he-”
“SILENCE. SUCH WORDS SHALL NOT BE SPOKEN IN MY PRESENCE!.” She screamed. Instantly Aaron stopped with his attitude and realized. He made it to paradise.
“I’m in Heaven, aren't I?”
“If that’s what you believe, of course. I'm here to offer you a request. Or in this case, a present.”
“What type of request or present?”
“Since you have passed, I'm here to offer you the chance to relive one day of your life back on Earth. However, if you accept my offer, I get to decide which day you relive. There is no guarantee that the day you return will be what you hoped for. But from what I see, you wanted to speak to a very special someone. Of course, I can make that happen. After all, this is what you call Heaven, isn't it Aaron?”
Aaron thought this was too suspicious. Here he was in Heaven being granted the gift of a lifetime, or rather the afterlife. He closed his eyes and saw Helena walking towards him. His Helena, the love of his life. He knew he shouldn’t take such a vast risk from a stranger. His mind said “No.”
His heart burst; “Yes, I accept.” Not knowing the consequences of his decision.
“Very well Aaron. Before I offer this notable opportunity, there are a set of rules you must abide by. First, you only have one day on Earth until sundown, no more, no less. Second, you must not tell anyone you have been resurrected. Lastly, after the day is complete you will return to your mortal state, so I intend you make the most wonderful of memories.”
“I will. When do I get to go back?”
“Now. Close your eyes and hold my hand.” He obeyed her command and shut his eyes once more. The thought of the cottage, the farm, West Burton and Helena filled his head. His veins pulsated and adrenaline rushed through his body. He was ready to return and reached out for the Elder Lady’s hand. Aaron waited until a flash appeared.
He woke up and breathed in deeply, catching the scent of fresh lavender and cinnamon. The sound of big band jazz played from a record player in the other room. Aaron looked down and noticed he was in his bed, then he took a glance at his hands. They were plump and veinless, his eyes trailed up his arms and didn’t see any sunspots or dark marks. He has his muscles back, just as they were when he was young. “Young...no, it couldn’t be.” Aaron rolled over to his right side and felt the warmth from the bed. Not realizing it, he ran to the mirror and saw himself. Indeed, Aaron was young and muscular again, possibly the same build when he was twenty-five. His hair was the color of the night sky and his eyes appeared more misty blue than he remembered. Not a wrinkle in sight nor signs of aging. All of a sudden the door shattered open. Standing in the door frame was a stunning young lady Her honey blonde hair was long and curled into two victory rolls. She had eyes of the sweetest chocolate and lips painted a fiery red. She wore a yellow dress with lace trimming at the bottom, Aaron’s favorite.
“Well Mr. Hallaway, you do know I don’t have all day. Don’t you?” Helena blurted with a snappy attitude. How could he forget about that stubborn personality he loves so dearly.
“Helena … I-”
“Are we going for a walk today or not?” Her American accent became more prominent. He stood up and walked over to hug her tightly. He held her as if it was an eternity.
“Is something wrong with you Aaron? Do you wanna rest a bit more or-”
“N-no. I’m just so glad to see you. You know how much I love you.” He meant that more than anything. Helena was his life of course. He wished he could thank the Elder Lady now.
“Yeah, yeah I love you too.” She giggled. “Come on, let's go.”
The both of them walked along the hillside and discussed all types of things from when they were children and even if they would have children, which Aaron knew the answer too.
“Oh, I just hope we have a little girl someday. The dresses I’ll make for her and how she’ll have
“Well...I don’t know…” Suddenly becoming dejected, not wanting to tell Helena of her future.
“What about pets? Like a cocker spaniel or even a terrier?”
“What’s with the sudden change in mood. Do you not want children? I thought we were on the same page, Aaron?’
“I am Helena, I just want you to understand that life isn’t one tremendous checklist. You must live life as it goes, like when the sea makes waves. That’s what makes it worthwhile. Of course, they’re going to be hardships we’ll have to face together. But we must do so together. You have to promise me you’ll do that.” Aaron pleaded. They looked at each other and for a while, there was a long pause. The warm breeze brought the sweet smells of spring. Aaron glimpsed over her shoulder and saw the sun beginning to set. It was almost time to leave. “Promise me, Helena.” He urged.
“I promise.” He knew there wasn’t any time left as the sun almost collapsed on the horizon. He sealed a kiss with Helena. That was the last he remembered before he returned to that empty field with the Elder Lady.
Nine Years Later … Helena walked along the hillside of West Burton in solitude. Aaron’s memory remains precious in her mind. The life she lived would have never been possible without him. She inhaled the scent of autumn as the leaves of oak danced until they fell on the ground. The sky was cerulean but the sun was nowhere to be found. Over her curled blonde-silvery hair flew a butterfly. Its wings were colored white and crimson. Helena opened her pink palm and the butterfly rested in it. She admired its strength and beauty and it fluttered away rapidly towards Heaven. The sun finally crept out to say hello and so did her soul.