Benthamidia uncurled her pale, four-petaled pink flowers and drank in the sunshine. It was a perfect spring day–the air was warm and sweet, and the stream beneath her cool and swollen with melted snow.
A human scrambled up her trunk, scraping her bark with his fingernails. Benthamidia shuddered under his weight as he settled on her lowest branch, but she ignored him until he looped a rope over her the branch. He tied a noose and drew it over his head.
This would not do. Centuries ago, all of her sisters had been cursed because one had been chopped down and used to murder a human. She couldn’t imagine what would happen if she allowed one to end himself in her branches.
She slipped out of her trunk and sat next to him. She touched his wrist. "I cannot let you do this."
The human screamed and fell off of the branch. The rope snapped taut and he started kicking and burbling.
Benthamidia fumbled with the rope, but the knot held fast. She jumped off of the branch, grabbed the human’s legs, and lifted him. The rope loosened, and he pulled the noose from around his neck. His full weight crushed down on Benthamidia, and they both tumbled to the ground.
They both lay panting and staring up at Benthamidia’s branches.
The human rubbed his throat and coughed. "Thank you." His voice was rough and raspy. "Turns out I didn’t want to die after all."
His eyes were the same color as the sky, and his hair was the deep brown of the richest soil. Something stirred in Benthamidia’s chest. "You’re welcome." She pulled a flower from behind her ear and pressed it into his hand. "Live well."
He touched her arm. He was soft and warm. She longed to stay, to listen to his story, to sleep in his arms on the soft grass. But to love a mortal was to become mortal herself, and she wasn’t ready to die. "I must go," she said.
"Wait," he said. "Please, at least tell me your name."
Benthamidia shook her head. She touched his cheek, smiled at him. She imagined a thousand other touches, a thousand brighter smiles. "I mustn’t."
She melted back into her trunk and watched him until he walked away. Her petals drifted like tears in the breeze, but she didn’t call him back.