Across the Bridge The place we cannot follow

It is my daughter, Laura, who discovers the bridge. Bird song and insect buzz fill the woods. Emerald leaves blanket the branches and make the tree canopy a reflection of the pool below.

“Dad!” Laura calls from the path ahead. Sight shielded by brush, I lose sight of her until I turn the corner past a fallen oak. The yellow of her shirt, a daffodil among a sea of jade, flashes through the forest.

“Wait!” Breathless, I jog after her. Too late. She stands on a faded bridge; the wood gone gray as smoke. Her hands grasp broken rails and I open my mouth to call out, to warn of splinters and scrapes, but sound feels like a sacrilege. She steps over the black gap of a missing tread.

“Come back!” I find my voice and rush toward the bridge.

She tilts her head, not to my cry, but to whatever whispers to her from the forest. With another step, she is out of reach. I rest my palms on the rail, intent on following her, but the rotten wood will never hold my weight. The farther she crosses, the less hold I have on her, as though the years collapse beneath our feet.

At last, she reaches the other side. Laura weaves through the green, never turning back, never hesitating.

We dream of magic spells that bind our memory and heal our hearts, but the real power belongs to our children. They speak with fairies, goblins, and parents with equal fervor. Until one day they use their magic to follow a voice we cannot hear and cross a bridge we cannot pass.

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