And so the legend goes that she sat there,
moss under toes, ivy climbing over hair, brambles wrapped around her arms – their thorns both armour and torture.
Birds nest in her clothes and mice have taken up residence in the holes where her eyes used to be.
Caterpillars crawl into her ears and nose and before long emerge as butterflies.
The roots of the tree she leans against act as armrests and binding ropes. Her spine becomes one with the tall arching trunk of the tree. The hollow of her back sometimes acts as shelter for small hunted prey where they can hide from teeth and talons.
And so the legend goes that it was only in her hundredth year that she first started to turn to stone.
Her sallow skin greyed and faded. Cracks appeared around her empty eyes and mouth. Her lips finally sealed themselves shut around the hundred and fifteenth year.
And the telling of the story slowed as so often happens with timid tragedies. And, inevitably, the town forgot her tale of heart and hope, and those promises of waiting which turned to heart ache and disappointment and all the years of waiting, always waiting, but all for nothing.
Over the years, the truth was forgotten and her tragedy became the only positive thing a tragedy still has the heart left to hope to become: beautiful.
Indeed, the townspeople do now speak of the statue as a beautiful thing; a local legend which no one can quite recall.
Apart from one young boy.
His great grandfather told him of a girl who waited for a love which would never come. A girl who would wait, remaining as resolute as the faith in which she placed in her lover, for as long as it took.
Alas, it took her life before her lover could take her in his arms.
The boy spoke of his great grandfathers’ story at school, spoke of a love which was as strong as stone but his recount fell on deaf ears. His peers laughed: “There is no love so strong it can turn a person to stone!”
But something in his great grandfathers sad old eyes made the boy believe every word of his tale.
And on the day his mother moved out, he took strength from the story of the love as strong as stone. For stone, he would say over to himself again and again, can be carried by forces as strong as rivers, and broken up in to smaller pieces and swept to the other side of the world but it is still stone.
And on his tenth birthday when his mother didn’t send him a card, he drew strength from the love as strong as stone. For, he told himself as he blew out his candles, a stone can be smashed in to thousands of tiny dots of sand which are swept back and forth by the oceans of the world but each one is unique.
And so it was, on his tenth anniversary that he chipped a crumbling piece of stone from the statue of the girl who waited and took it to a jeweller who embedded it in to a diamond and placed it in a ring.
And it was with this that he proposed to his girlfriend.
For, he told her, and would continue to tell her for their remaining years:
“I wanted to give you the best kind of love I know, a love as strong as stone. However I now know that a stone heart can be moved, broken and crushed. Which is why I want to present to you a love of diamond, for I would want to give no less a love to you than one made of the strongest substance possible.”
His fiancée would smile and reply, as she did on that very first day:
“But our love is not made of stone! It is too fragile!
And our love cannot be bought or sold like diamond.
Our love is a single flake of snow.
For it is as humble as stone and as beautiful as diamond.
But our love is a snowflake because it is wholly, completely and entirely ours.”
And so for the five hundred and something-th year, snow fell on the statue of the girl who waited.
And so the legend goes that it is only when she is covered in snow – and if you happen to walk past her on a quiet day – you can hear her sigh, content that love has finally reached her.
For it is only the weight of something as pure as snow which makes her feel like she is finally reunited in her lover’s embrace.
Little does she know that it is the love of others with which she is enclosed. But then she knew little when she enjoyed the mere promise of one false love. Now she is surrounded by many and she does not mind so much that she was never as precious as diamond to him, or as unique as any grain of sand, or even as strong as stone. At least, at last, she has known love.
And word has it, that’s worth waiting for.