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(Author’s Note- Readers of a sensitive nature may be disturbed by this story.)

“I love you,” he said.

The beautiful girl looked away into the distance, shading her eyes with her hand.

“I said I love you,” he repeated.

She glanced back at him. “Prove it,” she said. He leaned forward and gave her a kiss. She laughed. “That doesn’t prove that you love me,” she told him disdainfully, “Only that you can kiss.”

He knelt before her. “I love you more than anything,” he said. “And I’ll prove it to you. Just tell me how!”

“If you love me, you’ll give me the three things I ask for,” she said. “Into this river, I once dropped a ring,” she said. “It was the most beautiful ring ever made, and I want it back.”

He jumped up, took off his shoes and dove into the river. The river was wide and fast and dangerous, but the young man was strong and determined, and he swam deep into the river and searched its bed until he found the most beautiful ring ever made.

He came straight back to the girl, still in his wet clothes, and knelt before her. “I brought you the most beautiful ring ever made,” he said, holding it out to her. “I dove into the river, fought against its tide and searched its beds until I found it, and I brought it back to you. What else do you need to prove that I love you?”

She put the ring on her finger, where it paled against the beauty of her delicate fingers and her pure white skin.

“That doesn’t prove that you love me,” she said. “Only that you can swim.” She pointed up to the mountain that towered over their town. “There is a silvery blue flower that grows only on the highest slopes of the mountain. It is said to be the most beautiful flower that ever grew, so beautiful that men weep to see it. Bring that to me.”

The boy jumped to his feet and ran as fast as he could. He ran to the mountain, the sun and the wind drying his clothes, and he climbed it as nimbly as a mountain goat. The mountain was high and cold, and stones fell around him as he climbed, but the young man was strong and determined, and he found the flower. It was so beautiful that he couldn’t hold the tears back, and it was so cold there, high up on the mountain, that the tears froze on his face. He plucked the flower and tucked it safely inside his shirt, climbed down the mountain and ran as fast as he could back to the girl. He ran so fast that he arrived with mountain snow still on his boots, and the tears still frozen to his face.

“I brought you the most beautiful flower that ever grew. I plucked it from the highest slopes of the mountain and brought it back to you,” he said, holding it out to her. “What else do you need to prove that I love you?”

She tucked the flower into her hair, where it paled against the beauty of her long, dark hair.

“It doesn’t prove that you love me,” she said, “Only that you can climb.”

“Three things, you said. I have brought you the most beautiful ring ever made, and the most beautiful flower that ever grew. Neither of them compare to your beauty. What can I bring you that is better than these?”

She looked up, shading her eyes with her hand. “Bring me the sun,” she said. “It’s the only thing that is as beautiful as me, and I want it.”

He jumped to his feet and looked up. “I love you,” he said, “So I’ll give you the sun.”

He reached up and plucked the sun from the sky, kneeling down and holding it out to the girl as his skin blistered and burned from the heat.

“I brought you the sun,” he said, “I plucked it from the sky and I brought it down to you. What else do you need to prove that I love you?”

Screams rang out from all around as the world was plunged into darkness. The girl’s beautiful skin blistered and burned as the young man held the sun out to her, for no beauty could outshine the sun.

“Put it back,” she screamed, as the sun melted the most beautiful ring ever made from her finger and her dainty hand blistered and burned.

“You asked me for the sun, and I give it to you,” he said calmly, his hand now nothing but charred bone.

“Put it back,” she begged, as the most beautiful flower that ever grew withered away under the heat of the sun, and her hair burned away in a cloud of smoke and stink.

“You asked me for the sun,” he repeated, “And I give it to you. What else do you need to prove I love you?”

“Nothing! You have proved it,” she cried, “Now please put the sun back!”

He tossed the sun back up into the sky, and light returned to the world. Screams echoed around them still, however, because the girl was no longer beautiful. Her long, dark hair was gone, her delicate skin was burned and blistered, and her dainty hands were barely more than bone. People looked at her and screamed.

“I love you,” he said, and she believed him.

© Kari Fay

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