She was just fifteen years old when I first met her. I was seventeen and, according to her father, Col. James Lieves, totally unsuitable as a companion to his daughter. She, fortunately for me, had other ideas, and we enjoyed clandestine meetings as often as we could. Usually, these happened when her father was away, often facilitated by her mother. Autumn’s mother didn’t disapprove of me and couldn’t understand why her husband did. She used every excuse she could find to spend weekends, and longer, away with him, so Autumn and I could meet.
I had an idea what caused her father’s attitude toward our developing relationship: firstly, every father’s conviction that no man could possibly be good enough for his princess, and secondly her age. I think he was afraid I would try to cajole her into becoming sexually active before she (or more likely, he) was ready. That I had been raised with a strict moral code, a code to which I had every intention of adhering, didn’t impress him. He kept going on about ‘natural urges’, urges that no man can control. Projecting? Not for me to suggest, was it.
Let me tell you a little about Autumn Lieves. What a beautiful name, for a start. Some people suggested that her name predicted that she would become a ‘fallen woman’, but that’s not the picture her name gave me. To me, autumn leaves represent the epitome of nature’s beauty, ranging from the most subtle of yellows and pinks to the extreme ostentatiousness of deep reds and oranges, and the sad, almost despairing tones of brown that signal the end of their majestic reign over the forest.
And that was Autumn: stunningly, vibrantly beautiful, yet with undertones of sadness. She had long, wavy hair that was so red it was difficult not to think it had been dyed that shade. Her skin was the lightest I had ever seen, topped with rosy cheeks and the most adorable freckles over the bridge of her sweet little turned-up nose.
Like the season after which she was named she could at one moment be bright and sunny, radiating joy and light, the next quietly sombre. At other times she was capable of rivalling ‘her season’ in the realms of moodiness, storminess, and downright tumultuousness. Yet, through all that, I couldn’t not love her; as a mother loves her child even during its tantrums, I loved Autumn even through her darkest periods, periods when, had she the courage, she may well have chosen to end her very existence.
Happily, as we became closer, her stormy days; days of darkness, of depression and self-loathing; became ever fewer, and her bright, sunny, vibrant times increased in number, in frequency and in duration. This coincided with, and was probably brought about by, a softening of her father’s attitude to me and to our relationship, which started after her sixteenth birthday. She and I were permitted to spend time together, although her father preferred that either he or his wife be present at all times. I was invited to Lieves family occasions, introduced as Autumn’s ‘young man’, and treated as one of theirs. All this helped Autumn immensely, as it was validating, in her eyes, her choice of me as partner. By the time she was eighteen, we had complete freedom to meet however, wherever and whenever we wanted. Her father, who had by then retired from active service and was becoming daily more mellow, actively encouraged our union.
I had attended university in our town, so as not to have to be away from Autumn, and graduated a few weeks before Autumn’s eighteenth birthday. Autumn and her parents attended my graduation ceremony, and I was delighted to be able at last to formally introduce them to my family. When Autumn’s father introduced himself and his wife to my parents as future co-grandparents, I knew that we were, at long last, fully accepted.
I secured employment as a management trainee with a local company with whom my father had some influence, having been, in part, responsible for their growth during his service with their biggest customer. Autumn and I had discussed it in detail, and as soon as my twenty-first birthday had passed, I took the major step of asking Col Lieves for Autumn’s hand in marriage. He wanted to know why I had left it so long, it having been clear to him for some time that we were so right for each other.
We became engaged and, as we had always planned, married on Autumn’s 21st birthday, on 21 September. Yes, that’s how she got her name. After the ceremony, we walked out to the strains of Justin Hayward’s “Forever Autumn”. That was a day never to be forgotten; the happiest day of our lives.
None of us, neither Autumn nor I, nor her parents, had any inkling at the time that there was anything amiss with her. Barely six months after the wedding, Autumn’s moodiness returned, her periods of depression deeper and more frequent than ever. When we finally persuaded her to seek medical help, she was found to have an inoperable tumour on her temporal lobe, a tumour that was growing rather aggressively.
The following year, on 21 September, Autumn left us. It seemed only right that the music used at her funeral was the same as we used at our wedding – Forever Autumn.
Video from YouTube, uploaded on 1 Nov 2007 by user amethyst2001
“Forever Autumn” by Jeff Wayne, Gary Osborne and Paul Vigrass.
This week's challenge at esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com asked for a story about autumn.