He walked along the pathway, clutching his patched knapsack to his chest. The wind blew into his face, chilling him through his thin flannel shirt, making him shiver as he made his way down the cracked pavement. He looked down at his trembling hands, the once strong fingers now reduced to the skeletal bones showing under his papery skin. He shook his head sadly, wondering how the years had passed so quickly.
The doorway loomed ahead, the handle rusted and worn with age. His fingers closed over the cold, rough metal, and he pulled gently. The door creaked open, the hinges groaning with misuse. The cold gray light of the cloudy day filtered in around him, showing the thick layer of dust upon the broken-tiled floor. He closed his eyes, remembering, his feet growing steadier with each step, taking him around through the familiar hallways and corridors. A lone hand trailed along the peeling yellowed walls, guiding his way through the maze-like building.
Then his eyes opened, taking in the sight of the stage, the rows upon rows of shabby seats, the tattered remnants of the last banner, the shattered windows letting in shafts of icy sunlight and swirling wind under the threadbare curtains and drifting cobwebs. His grip hardened upon the canvas bag he held as he shut his eyes again, unzipped the pack, reached in. The crackling shriveled leaves crumbled under his gnarled fingers, pieces floating to the ground as his hands shook uncontrollably with emotion. His arms rose to place the withered wreath upon his head. The dry twigs scratched uncomfortably against his sensitive scalp, but he ignored them, caught up in the memory. His eyes cracked open a slit, then flew wide—
The vacant auditorium was transformed, the banner once more replenished and glorious, the seats refurnished with smooth red velvet, the wooden stage polished and shiny. His feet tapped out a beat as the festive music drifted through the air, and he could see his talented friend on stage once more, singing and acting, the very same wreath that he had received at the funeral placed upon the well-remembered thick mane of dark brown hair. He grinned broadly, cheering along with the crowd as the play ended, and then shuddered as he was overcome with the feeling of fear and impending trouble.
The man in the greatcoat, harsh and stiff, burst through the entrance and strode up to the stage as the players bowed and the audience departed. The old man watched in helpless anger as the colonel thrust his way out of the double doors, forcefully pulling his dark-haired son behind him. He had never known why the colonel had refused to let his son show his talent, and he still didn't this many years later… He found his youth again, his no longer aching muscles dragging him along the aisle. He followed at an unsteady gait as he witnessed the stern colonel shoving his son, the star actor, out the exit. Jostle as he might, he was still too late and could do nothing but watch the colonel drive off with his friend, the shadow of Puck's wreath perched lopsidedly on his silhouette in the rear window. Snow crystals coated his light brown hair as he stood forlornly among the thinning crowd, watching the taillights disappear into the distance as they drove away, the vivid crimson a prediction of the future.
And then he was standing at the door of the school once more, his scarf fluttering in the cold December wind, the beginnings of a flurry settling on his thin eyelashes. A lone tear made its way down the wrinkled cheek as the old man bowed his head in memory and perhaps also tribute to his friend's perfect last performance. The now-aged wreath rustled as he removed it from its perch on his head, and as he looked closely through his bleary eyes he could see the faint outline of a bloodstain among the withered chestnut leaves.