They broke through the last barrier of trees, Luther’s broad shoulders parting low branches of excess foliage, like a large, oddly shaped hand brushing dandruff off an even odder shaped shoulder. The light accepted the two of them with easy grace.
Out in the open, Margaret appeared to be less subdued. She was as silent as she ever had been, but the rubbery sheen was gone from her complexion. As if a layer of transparent wrapping paper had been peeled away from her. She wove her fingers together with Luther’s, allowing her features to slide into a serene expression to replace the blank starkness he had become accustomed to.
“Where are we?” he asked her. He could remember the field of heather that had surrounded the crash site, had half-expected to see its furtherance, or perhaps the crash site itself. They had left the forest with no sense of direction that he was able to divine.
Instead of heather or a broken airship, he saw a lake and a great expanse of green. It was manicured and perfect, a landscape worthy of words like ‘lawn’ and ‘grounds’. It led up to a grand house, with an a-line roof and a porch that wrapped around it like a possessive granny hugging a family member. It seemed at once far off and very, very near. Details winked in and out with the rhythm of his steps, as he wobbled onward, still allowing Margaret to lead the way.
For a few moments, he had the strange notion that she was going to point out the lake and the house and explain them in a tour guide’s droning, cheerful cadences, but she did not even raise her hand.
As they approached, Luther saw that someone with a good deal of obvious dedication and time had planted an elaborate garden. Bushes several times taller and wider than he was crept round to watch them, blossoms clinging to waving branches in a sweet-scented wind. A few petals broke loose and blew towards him.
They fell at his feet, caught there by the ridge of his boots. He paused, stooped to retrieve the petals, and then looked up at Margaret. She had stopped with him, but almost too far away from him. Their connected arms were pulled nearly taut, with very little slack in the middle, where their hands met.
Looking at the fraying of their joined fingers made Luther think of a cable about to give up and snap free. He thought of tightening his grip and pulling her back, but he let his hand hang limp as he stood upright again.