She had never been much of a seamstress, thank goodness for the internet.
She had found the oversize gingerbread man pattern on line, downloaded it and printed it on the new printer he had insisted they had bought.
She had found one of his old shirts at the back of her wardrobe. One he had left, forgotten about, just as he had left and forgotten her. She had held it to herself and smelt it when she found it; old habits. There was still a linger of him on it. Once upon a time she would have worn it to bed, to keep him close to her. But not now.
Sitting on the bedroom floor, she placed the paper pattern on the back of the shirt and carefully cut around the distinctive shape. Then taking it to the dining room, where she had earlier threaded up the old singer sewing machine her grandmother had left her, she got to work. She sang to herself as she carefully placed the wrong sides together and stitched. She sang the song they had for their first dance, it was cheesy then and even more so now…
‘Never gonna to give you up,
Never goona run around and desert you.
Never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you. . . ‘
Turning it the figure the right way round, she hummed as she used one his 2HB pencil to make sure she pushed the corners out. Finally and happy with the shape, she laid it flat before carefully embroidering the face on.
She made sure she added the small freckle birth mark that he had above his top lip. His beauty spot she had called it. He has been embarrassed about it when he was younger, but she had always loved it.
He had initially hid it for with a rather bad moustache, but she had managed to persuade him to shave it off and be proud of the ‘devil’s kiss’ as her grandmother had called it.
She swiftly then stuffed the figure with the remains of the of the shirt and a few other items she had judiciously chosen:
- The small piece of paper with the distinctive marks.
- The wax from the candle she had burnt slowly over the last few weeks.
- The piece of his hair she had so carefully kept. She had cut the lock from him on their honeymoon, just after the first time they had made love. She wanted to keep it in her locket. He had found it sweet. He had whispered to her that it was ‘part of her charm’ and why he loved her so much, before he had kissed her and fell asleep.
- The tissue she had used to wipe herself after the last time he had come to see her. Makeup sex was the best he had always said. Except he had not come to make up but to tell her that he was moving on with his life. That included moving in with the mother of his new daughter.
She stitched the small figure up, leaving a small gap at the crotch, which she closed with an exquisite gold safety pin from her Grandmother’s sewing box.
For the next month she took the figure with her everywhere she went, even to her new job. She kept it in her draw, so that it was close to her. She made sure she slipped it into her bag when at lunch time she would walk to the Peace Gardens to eat her sandwiches out of the old green Tupperware box she use to pack his lunch in when they were first married. She spoke to it and ate dinner with it. She offered it wine and food, and always laid a place for it.
At night she would take it to her bed and laid it by her side. Kissing it goodnight, making sure that it’s head rested on the pillow next to hers.
Then as the moon entered its final stage, she started to get the rest of the items that she need together;
She filed a jam jar with the 50 year old Garrafeira Port they had brought back for Lisbon the year he had started work for himself.
A small pearl handled silver knife from the set they had been given as a wedding present; a family heirloom his mother had said, to be passed down’. He had never let her use it, even when they had friends or family over, just in case it got spoiled.
The bottle of plant food he had kept under the sink, for the tomatoes that they never got round to growing. She checked and it was still in date, just.
And the small flowered print trowel he had bought her from the garden centre they use to go to for coffee and cake. Neither of them were any good at gardening and they use to laugh when they visited the centre that the real reason to visit was the devil’s chocolate cake .
And the Blackberries she had picked that morning. Today was their wedding anniversary. He loved Blackberry pies and her Blackberry Jam. She had always been, as he had always wanted, the Homemaker. Just like his mother. So she became the woman who stayed at home and baked cakes, and made jam. ‘ And why not’ he used to say, he made enough money so she did not have to work. They were blessed that they could afford to do this. Wasn’t it what all her friends wanted to? They would all congratulate her and then bemoan that they had to continue to work after they had got married and after the children had arrived. The plan was, he had said, that she would be a stay at home mum. How wonderful that would be and what a wonderful childhood their children would have. But that never happened as much as they tried even after all the tests and the attempts, the numerous injections and hormones. It never happened. Not Once. Though according to the doctors there was no reason for it not to. His mother of course blamed her. He had tried to defend her, and they would laugh and say that well they had so much freedom now and they could take holidays whenever they wanted, it would happen. They had faith; it would happen, one day. So she stayed at home, doing the ‘making’, and waiting.
She brought the items upstairs where the figure laid anticipating on the bed they had shared. She removed the golden pin, opened the groin and popped in three of the biggest and most juicy blackberries she had picked. Three was his lucky number he used to tell her. Three’s a charm.
As she sewed the hole up, the dark purple stain kissed her fingertips; she hungrily licked off the juice.
The moon’s face was completely hidden as she placed the figure in the dark velvet bag. Placing it and the other items in the wicker basket she used for the cut flowers, she grabbed the dog lead from where it was always kept. He had always been a creature of Habit. ‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’ And calling for the dog, she left the insignificant semi-detached and walked to the small urban park; just behind the small new build executive estate.
The sound of the traffic faded away, as she opened the park gate and walked into the darkness. She made her way up the long avenue, until she came to the place where the path split into three. Behind the park sign post was the large oak tree. And behind it the small enclosed woodland. She paused for a moment. Looking each way to make sure no one was following her. No other late night dog walkers. She stepped behind the magnificent Oak. Opening her bag, she worked quickly. She dug the hole and placed the figure in it, kissing him goodbye one more time; then taking the small knife she anointed him; his head, his heart and his groin. She poured over the wine and then the plant food. Covering him with the moist dark earth, and making sure he was too deep to be eaten by any passing rat, though that would be ironic, she lifted her skirt and crouched over the dark spot and pissed on him.
The dog sat and watched, patiently.
She sang to herself as she and the dog made their way back down the drive way and finally back to the warmth of the central heated house. That night she slept so well, the best she had for months.
The year passed quickly, her first Yule alone, she didn’t mind too much, she kept herself busy. She volunteered for the local Homeless shelter and on Christmas day she enjoyed feeding the many.
Throughout the dark months she kept herself busy, work was good, she enjoyed it, and when she got home, she would read, listen to the radio and occasionally watch films on the television.
Then came spring, and she felt the air start to clear around her. She relished the walk through the woodland and the park. Her heart felt the sap rising as life returned to the one sleeping giants that surrounded her and the nodding of the daffodils as they danced in the wind made her laugh.
Then came the summer passed, it was a truly typical English Summer; a warm and very wet June and July, then a hot ripening August. She and the dog continued to walk through the park, nodding to the Oak as they passed.
Behind the Oak, in the woodland, the brambles grew and grew, first the flowers, the sound of bees, and then the fruit. There was so much fruit. She picked buckets of the large ripe blackberries, leaving a touch of blood as payment in return. She made pies and jam, lots of it, giving it away to friends and family. Every one said how tasty the pies were. How the jam shone when you held the jar up to the light. She would smile and say that it wasn’t her, it was the blackberries themselves.
The news came at the end of September; he had been taken ill, some kind of growth in his groin. They were not sure what it was. They had mentioned cancer, but it wasn’t like any kind of cancer they had seen. A growth that resembled brambles, leaving purplish marks all over his lower body. He had died when the growth had got so bad that it had erupted through his left thigh, bursting his femoral artery. He had bled to death before the nurse had found him.
As his wife, still, even though they were separated, she had seen it as her duty to thank the doctors and nurses for all their hard work. She had dutifully sent the nurses on the ward a card, and some jam of course to say thank you.
At the funeral, she had stood to one side as his new partner had to be carried away when they had lowered the coffin into the freshly dug grave. She had waited as the grave diggers had diligently covered the coffin and filled the hole with the consecrated soil. She had given them all a little something, a token of her appreciation of all their hard work. They all thanked her and said what a nice lady she was, even despite all that had happened to her. How gracious she had been.
As they left, she knelt at the grave side and buried a few of the dark ripe blackberries she had managed to collect before the funeral. It was late in the season she knew, but these had come from the small woodland, behind the back of the Oak tree and she knew that he would love them.
© Shullie H Porter 2016