“What are they?”“Us.”
she said, as she took my hand “When we die.”
The studded shimmering jewels lay before us, winking and dancing above the earth
. She held my hand so tight, and I smiled. The playground was ours. We lay there under the stars together on a tyre, playfully swinging, our feet beneath us, hers dragging along the stones. She lay so close I heard her heartbeat drumming in her chest, every blistered beat… slower… slower...“You’ll look up and see me there one day”
faded and I gripped her hand tighter. She let it go.“One day,”
she said “soon.”
I lingered in the doorway as they took the picture down from her room. It used to hang beside her window, next to the wooden dresser she’d sit at for endless hours. I remember how I used to burrow myself within the snow-white shawl she kept perfectly draped without a crease over her pillow, and glance at the picture from time to time as I watched her amazedly apply layer upon layer of ashes on her papery skin. I’d watch her harrowed hands as they would delicately finger each brush and tube so indecisively. The large black brush was my favourite. It reminded me of a ballerina. The darkened bristles would gladly plunge into the powder and twirl eternally. She’d lean over to me and dab my nose with a playful smile. I’d smile too. She’d hold it out in front of me and I’d blow the ashes dancing and gliding into the air. Wasn’t that a game I used to play once? To tell the time with dandelion seeds. 1 o’clock… 2 o’clock…
I glanced away from the dusty filled air to see her again, and laughed as I caught my mirrored me with a crimson tinge left on her cherub nose.
The picture, she said was her favourite. It soon became my favourite too. We only ever saw the real night sky together in my dreams. In reality, it was the picture we lived in. The canvas was ours within that fiery night sky. I watched as they took it down from its musty place beside the window. It was the first thing they removed and the room looked bare without it. The walls stained a pallid grey, with the fingerprints I’d left when I was younger, guiltily marked as I’d dabbled in her lipstick drawer.
They took the photo of my grandfather too. It used to sit on the dresser, as I’d watch her between the ashes. I think she loved that picture more. I caught her looking at it a few times, a softened coy beam bereaved on her soulful face.
I miss that smile.
The room was stripped bare.
All the dresses that hung in the wardrobe I once sat between for hours, after reading of the tales of Narnia. All gone. The linen was taken from the bed. That snow white cotton blanket she used to keep swathed over her knees during the winter when I’d sit on her lap, no longer existed.
That colourful room, once full of laughing, and loving and living was washed white that day.
Life ceased to remain there.
On the drive home I stayed silent. Hardly anyone spoke. They thought I was asleep.
“Best not to wake her,” they said “she’s had a long day.”
I spent the journey gazing through my fur hood, out of the car window at the blissful/soulful sky; blackened, dark and dead. The radio stayed silent too.
There’s one more star in the sky tonight.