He waited for her visits, fewer in the winter, more frequent the following spring. In time he forgot to tell her to close her eyes, or she forgot to listen to him. Once, when they were together in the woods, she took his hand. He burned and had to look away. He warned her not to do that again. How could her hair be so red? She’d unplaited it while they were in the woods, and he’d been made mute with desire. How was it possible for her to be there with him? Why would she search him out? He thought perhaps he had invented her the way some cruel soul must have surely dreamed him up. She was quiet when he told her not to touch him, her mouth set. She became upset when he then suggested that perhaps she should go home. She walked through the orchard on her way back to town, confused because he’d told her to go. She broke off budding branches and set them in her bedroom in vases. She told herself she was done. Nothing would come of tramping through the woods, playing at love. She told herself she needed to get back on course. It was her senior year of high school and her future was at stake. She dreamed of apples all night. When she opened her eyes the next day, she was still thinking of him.

SHE APPLIED TO Wellesley but didn’t want to go. Her mother and aunt sat her down and convinced her it was best. They knew something was wrong with Kate. Her moodiness, her solitary ways, her refusal to see friends. She got a summer job at the library and she took home armfuls of books and locked herself in her room at night. Once their cousin Henry came all the way from Cambridge to take her out to the movies in Lenox, but when he brought her home he confided to her mother and aunt that Kate didn’t seem to be there with him.

When Hannah found a bone in the garden that same summer, she thought perhaps their food had been contaminated. She had worked in that same garden all her life and had never found anything odd before. She wasn’t the sort to believe in curses, but there it was, a smooth, white bone. Kate’s aunt and mother dug up an entire section of the garden and found more bones. There were rumors that this area had once been a burying ground. Perhaps it was bad luck. They reburied the bones they’d found, filled in the holes, then tore out the seedlings and the old vines. They locked the gate and decided to forsake their garden that year. Kate no longer had homegrown vegetables to take to the woods. Instead, she saved the money she earned from her job at the library and bought food at the AtoZ Market to carry up to the mountain. Once she made a cake. Her mother spied her walking down the road with the cake tin. Then she knew there was a man.

When Kate told Matthew she was going to Wellesley, he said he understood, and he did. He took her to his house soon after. She’d always asked to see it, and he’d always been standoffish, but now he changed his mind. He took her there when it was dark. He hoped she couldn’t see him when they went inside the one room where he lived. She kissed him first, and all the rest followed. He led her back to the road in the dark so that she would be home before morning. It was not only to keep her mother and aunt from knowing she had vanished. He was afraid that the things they did and said would melt in the light.

They were together from midsummer on, and then there were no more nights and the summer was through. He’d known it was a stolen time, but he felt crushed when it was over. Before Kate left for college, he gave her a poem. He told her not to read it until she had gone to Wellesley, but she read it in her room that night.

You told me to wait in a field.
It was dusk and I could smell summer. The world was green.
I had been a bear for so long I couldn’t imagine anything human.
There was nothing I missed living in another world
Except this:
A woman cutting through the field to meet you
Grass in her hair, pollen on her fingers, your name in her mouth.
She folded the poem into a box, which she then stored on the top shelf of her closet. If she had chosen to read it again, she might not have left.

SHE DIDN’T SEE him all year after she went off to college. When she came home at term break, there was a snowstorm and the mountain roads were impassable. She sat in her room and looked into the garden they didn’t use anymore. She kept her hair pulled back. She wore glasses now. She felt desperate for him, and then just desperate, and then she felt nothing at all. Her mother and aunt still worried over her. Kate assured them she was fine. Her life was back on course. She decided not to see him. What good would it do? He belonged in one world, she in another.

He came one night before she went back to school, even though the snow was deep. He stood outside and watched her through the window as she read a novel. She was beautiful and far away even though he was standing in her yard. He knew that coming into town was a mistake. That next spring he found the old bear, dead, in one of the caves. He slept beside the body. He dreamed the bear was his father. That was when he gave up being human. He gave her up as well.

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