After the ferrywoman left, I dragged the boat out of the water and onto the dry dirt. I wasn't strong enough to bring it all the way myself, so my heart helped by pushing.
Then I started to climb the mountain. It was easy going at the base. It had a gradual slope and there were lots of hand holds. I was worried for my heart at first, since it didn't have fingers to hold on with like I did, but it climbed like a mountain goat, its pointy feet as stable as cloven hooves.
I reached the point where the ground became blurry, and the climb got harder. There were fewer hand holds.
I pulled myself halfway onto a ledge and paused to breathe.
I looked up. There was a boy sitting on the ledge. He was smiling like someone who did that often, and he had clear blue eyes. A small heart, about the size of a housecat, was perched on the ledge above him. I couldn't help but notice it had a pair of tiny, fluttering, feathered wings.
"Hi," I said, pulling myself up.
"I'm Michael," he said.
"I'm Abigail," I said. "I like your heart. How did it get wings?"
"I forgave someone I was very angry with," he said. "I like your heart too. How did it get so big?"
"I fed it a lot," I said.
We talked a little, of this and that, while our hearts watched each other curiously. I asked Michael how he had come to the mountain.
"I was in love with a girl," Michael said. "But I didn't mention it to her. When she got on a plane to go live in another country, my heart jumped out of my chest and chased her. It couldn't keep up with the plane, and got lost in Newark. I found it using want ads and Craig's List. When I went to pick it up, it didn't want to go home. Eventually, it led me here."
"Wow," I said. "I guess there are a lot of different ways to get here."
"I guess so," said Michel. "There aren't that many ways to get up, though. I've been here for a few weeks, and around to a few different sides of the mountain. I haven't been able to get much higher than this. This guy likes flying up further," he held up his heart, which chirruped and preened. "But it's not large enough to carry me."
"Feed it fish and poetry," I said. "It will grow."
"Poetry?" Michael asked.
"Here," I took out Virgil's book. "You can borrow this."
I cannot climb any higher and winter is coming. I have settled in a cave near to Michael. I've been catching fish and smoking them and salting them and drying them. I showed Michael how to do all this, and he gave me some of the canned vegetables he bought in Newark. We have enough food to wait out the winter. Every few days I visit him and we talk and let our hearts play.
When I am alone I sit in my cave, curled on the soft fur coat that Nim gave me. I pet my heart and dream of climbing the mountain. When I pet my heart, I feel tiny ridges on its back that I do not believe were there before. I think it may soon grow wings.