Sitting by the gravestone, I let my mind drift away from the grey drizzle and damp moss clinging to the granite…
And daffodils are now blowing in the breeze. Their scent is in the air and my step is light as I reach for your hand. It was warm, sweaty even as it was an unusually hot spring in 2010.
The hills of Cumbria rose majestically as if they had just erupted from the earth, to say ‘hello.’ Their green carpet dappled with fluffy white clouds, on legs. Tiny bleats calling for attention from passers-by.
But we only had eyes for each other. You lent me your hankie to mop my top lip, and then you put it on your head, after knotting the ends like an old man on Brighton beach. You looked so silly, and we laughed and laughed. But it stopped the sun from burning your, ‘in denial’, bald spot.
Do you remember feeding the ducks on the lake, with the crusts from our meal at the Bed and Breakfast? We had to hide them in our napkins so that the landlady didn’t see. She was so fierce, we didn’t dare say, ‘no’ to her huge English breakfast, even though we were full of our delicious candlelit meal the night before. Still, we ate it, didn’t we and savoured it too. All the time talking and giggling like teenagers. The other guests must have known we were newlyweds.
The cold crisp evenings were my favourite; wrapping ourselves up in that enormous scarf that your mother made for us. One long scarf around two people in love – perfect. Life was perfect, then.
Even when the honeymoon was over, our life was bliss, me nesting and you riding off on your motorbike every day to, ‘bring home the bacon’, as you used to say. I’d wave you off every morning with the knotted hankie and feign heartbreak like an old-fashioned Hollywood idol. ‘Keep safe darling,’ I’d sometimes call, but you didn’t look back.
Cooking was never my forte, but I tried to put a decent meal on the table for you. I know there were times you’d pretend to like the food and slip some to the dog when I wasn’t looking. But I didn’t mind. Even when you re-stacked the dishwasher after I’d left the kitchen, I didn’t mind. I miss that.
Do you remember when I put the pregnancy test result on your pillow in our huge double bed and you swung me round in our bedroom? You said it was the happiest day of your life. And then you told me to lie down and have a rest. You treated me so carefully. Precious moments. I didn’t mind you fussing over me. I know some women do. But I enjoyed it.
I loved being pregnant. ‘I want a dozen,’ you said, cradling my swollen belly. ‘A whole football team.’ And then, when we found out our baby was to be a girl, you told me that you were starting up our own girls’ football team… But that wasn’t to be.
These flowers are nice. They’re like the ones you used to bring me every Friday when you finished work, arriving home in a puddle of sweat with your helmet skew-whiff, a silly grin on your face, and a bunch of carnations picked up from the garage on the high street. Pink ones usually but sometimes yellow to match the kitchen tiles. I used to sniff them in a dramatic manner and say ’mmm lovely,’ which always made you smile. These flowers don’t smell.
How can one year bring so much drama? That year, hospitals became a big part of our lives. The midwives were great. They made me feel so special. ‘It’s a girl,’ one would say and then the next one would say, ’rapid heartbeat means a boy.’ I wish I could have had twins for you. One girl and one boy. He would have been handsome too.
Dad’s death hit us all hard, didn’t it? I don’t know how Mum coped. The Macmillan nurses were amazing and you were so kind to her. I know you helped her so much. The death of a loved one is so tough, but it’s not the end.
‘One in, one out,’ she said to me one day, looking at my bump. ‘Your dad would have loved being a Granddad.’ I know he would have, he told me. My heart broke but time heals.
How happy you were when our baby, Ellen, came along. ‘She’s the image of you,’ you said. As I lay exhausted on the hospital bed, even though the nurses were fussing around me checking things, I remember the look of absolute adoration on your face as you held her close to your chest, a look that said, ‘I will die for you.’
Four years to the day. I can’t cry anymore.
Mum came to see me yesterday. She looks well. Her face was strained but she smiled a lot. I’m glad she’s got Ken now. He brought flowers and she arranged them. They acted like a team. It’s sad when you lose someone so dear as they both have. They stayed a while and then went to see Ken’s wife, Mary. She’s in the Garden of Remembrance. They took her red roses. She likes red roses.
Our daughter looks lovely today, quite the young lady in pink and yellow. You’ve done well with the matching frilly socks. I love the see-through raincoat. She’s as pretty as a spring photograph. I’m glad you gave her my name – thank you.
You are doing a great job of bringing her up. I wonder if you play football with her like you said you would. I hope so. You are a good man and I love you still. But maybe it’s time that you started to look for someone to help you. You might get that football team yet.
I must go now, so I’ll say goodbye. Thank you for always coming to see me. I hope Ellen enjoys her fourth birthday and isn’t too sad that Mummy isn’t there with her. She’ll be able to read soon, and know that the date on the headstone is the same date as her birthday.
Remember to tell her that Mummy loved her very much and I always will.
About the author
Lynn is a regular writer for Cafelit. Her first flash fiction collection, The City of Stories,' is published by Chapeltown Books. See 5-star reviews - #amazonthecityofstorieslynnclement
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