It is a voilet-tinted world they go to sleep in, lying side by side in separate beds. Janie thumbs through the pages of her book while Richard fixes his eyes on the shadows, thinking about his childhood and idly wondering why the two of them never touch anymore. The night has washed them away from the passions of their marriage bed it seems, like flotsam swept away on seawater, but although they lie strangely apart, they are close still, contented and cloaked in domestic love.
“He would have been twenty today,” she blurts out.
He glances at her with concern, his thoughts interrupted. “I know, darling. We’ll go and see him, visit his grave tomorrow.”
Janie remains silent after that, picturing little feet and soft blond curls, blue eyes peeking out from under the duvet. To her he would always remain a little boy, cheeky and cherubic.
Sensing her silence, Richard returns to his thoughts, making a mental note to ring for a taxi in the morning, their car being a write off after the accident. There are moments in life, he thinks, that can be recalled forever; it’s been stamped into the neurons that fire the brain, suddenly and irrevocably; his son’s death was one such moment, the other the smell of the mixture that makes up brake fluid & oil and rain and smoke. He grimaced remembering the terrible pains in his chest after the collision, the stinging in his streaming eyes from the black cloud of poisonous smoke, the sense of terror that gripped him as he scrabbled for the door handle. He couldn’t remember much else after that, he must have passed out, swallowed by the enveloping relief of unconsciousness.
He shuddered, grateful for the morning saving him from the nightmares and waking him up to sunlight and the trees casting their shadows over the lawn. He tried to breathe in the sweet scent of the roses that grew wild with neglect by the hedge. They loved it here in the country, being so quiet. It was a perfect place for them to retire to.
As they approached the cemetery later, they encountered a wonderful sense of peace and tranquility, but Richard couldn’t get past his anger at the injustice of it all. Jack had suffered a violent death; blown up in Afghanistan on a mission against insurgents. Five soldiers lost their lives on that dreadful day. Richard presses his lips together, inwardly cursing the futility of war.
Noticing the absence of flowers by his grave, Janie felt a burning sense of shame in her cheeks. She swallowed hard, staring down in silence at the headstone that read:
Here lies our beloved son
1992 – 2011
May he rest in peace
Jack was already there however, standing to the side regarding them quietly. It had been a while since he’d last seen his parents.
“You look just as solid and real as you did when you were alive,” he thought, glancing over at their fresh, marble headstones. “Was it possible they didn’t realise?”
“Death must make people less perceptive,” he thought, stepping forward to greet them.
© 2012 Louise Hastings