Brown Leaves
By Victoria Slotover

You sleepwalked through the flaky brown leaves, flimsy as moth wings, as they put me to bed and covered me with a dirty blanket which made me think of that quote from Hamlet. Remember how grey the sky was, colour drained like you, we both worried it would start to rain before they’d tucked me in.

You’d left your umbrella behind, not that you cared about getting wet, in some ways it seemed right to you that the heavens should open, as indeed they had. The others had huddled under unruly black brollies which made us think of flapping crows. You were the only one who wanted to feel the downpour wash you clean, or was it that you wanted it to wash you away, I wasn’t sure? They tried to move you along but you wouldn’t be hurried, you wanted to become part of that earth as you had become part of me and the truth is, right then I wanted that too.

I watched you, shoulders hunched and shaking, and reached out to touch you. You shivered and a ripple of cold worked its way to the fingertips I longed to hold. Funny then that your thoughts rose like steam above your head. I floated towards it and shared your memories with you even though you weren’t there to share them with me.

I lived again our first kiss; the feel of your lips moist with Merlot and tasting of black fruit, pressed firmly against mine, and in that kiss every kiss since- as we walked in the bluebell woods with your spaniel at our heels; on our wedding day, private yet public; after Mary was born and lay swaddled in my arms and of course our last kiss when you took my breath away, as in fact you had every time.

And in those memories, other memories of a life together; the coffee cup you put by my bed every morning before you left for work, the dregs of cornflakes that never made it down the drain, the ticket stubs buried in your suit pocket, the dress you gave me last Christmas that hangs empty in my closet as though stood up for a date, my trainers abandoned and useless by the treadmill you complained I didn’t use enough and the dog-eared novel on my nightstand whose ending will be one of the many things I will never know.

Then the other thing you think I’ll never know but that in fact of course I do- how much you love me, how much you’ll miss me, now, later and always but what you don’t know and I do is that you will love and be loved again. Your freckled hands that I know as well as my own, will hold another’s, your arms will coil around her in the dark as you kiss her just, yet not quite just, as you kissed me.

You look cold even though the fire’s on. You’ve tucked your hands between your thighs and the tip of your nose is pink. There’s a mug of tea on the floor beside you, drink it before it goes cold too. I kiss your forehead and your shiver shudders through me. I must stop touching you; it’s not helping either of us. I wish you’d eat something, darling Mary’s loaded the fridge with soup and casseroles, there’s no excuse not to look after yourself. You turn away to face the wall as if trying to block me out. Maybe you are. Maybe you should.

The leaves littering the lawn are still brown and the sky is still covered with dust but soon the sun will shine through and you will drink your tea.

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Victoria Slotover writes fiction for Mumsense Magazine and her short stories have been published on The Writer’s Hub, Short Fiction Collective and in the Ham & High as well as being accepted for publication by Bartleby Snopes and Families Magazine.

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