Published in the United Kingdom.
Colin Abbott looked down through the darkness of his shadow at the smooth white headstone and the grooves of words cut into it; truth, set in stone, few things could be more final.
The grave beside his mother’s was still new enough to be marked by a name etched into a small wooden cross. There was also the rounded mound of earth, discoloured by the glorious life of flowers placed on top – a beautiful shroud of sadness for the body within.
The rotting of petals and stems on his mother's grave had happened weeks ago. The sight of it hadn't been as sad as Colin expected. Reading both his parents’ names on the headstone that day was the first time he really understood why. Part of Colin had always thought his mother would find a way to live forever – which had made finding her cold, lifeless body both unexpected and traumatic – what he hadn't realised until then was that he'd actually been preparing himself for it since the day his father had died.
After his death, she'd never quite been the same woman. All Colin had been able to do was watch while the goodness she once had in abundance slipped away. He'd spent the best part of twenty years grieving for that loss.
He sighed and turned away
from the grave. Someone was standing right behind him.
“Hello Colin! How the devil are you?” the vicar asked with a smile.
Colin didn't come close to making sense of his strangely ironic question. Reverend Peters was the first person to speak to him in nearly three days. As a result, his response came more from surprise and politeness than honesty.
“I am fine thank you," he told him.
“And back here again,” said the Vicar.
It was neither a question nor a statement.