HE SLOWLY walked up the stone path to the door. The dry leaves had been swept into a neat corner of the front yard. He stood on the steps a full minute before knocking on the door. It opened immediately. She was wrapping a blue knit scarf around her neck. They mumbled hellos.
“Are you ready?” he asked, pulling his coat closer around himself. “It sure is cold.”
“Yes,” she said as she locked the door and shoved the keys into her coat pocket.
He opened the tricky latch in the gate with ease and let her out first. The red jeep was parked right in front, just barely blocking the driveway. Several grey mud clods had fallen from the encrusted underside to crumble onto the black asphalt.
“New car?” she asked.
“Sort of,” he said. “Got it in May. Janine likes to go 4-wheeling through the back country.”
“Last fall it was a Celica,” she said.
He opened the passenger's door for her, offering a hand to help her climb in, then went around to the driver’s side. She turned around to inspect the interior. There was a pile of lilies carefully wrapped in blue tissue paper on the back seat.
“How’s the lab? How’s your research?” he asked as he pulled away from the curb and careened down the quiet street. Her right foot pressed hard on the carpet in front of her in response.
“It’s fine,” she said. “Could always be better. What about you? Last we talked you were starting a new book.”
He chuckled, but it sounded hollow. “Oh right, that was a flop, like the last one.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, looking at him for the first time. There was a streak of grey blooming from his temples and creeping into his black hair.
“It’s okay,” he smiled thinly. She watched the wind pile giant, grey clouds on the horizon. The streets were empty, but for the naked trees with their crispy leaves swirling in the gutters.
He stopped the jeep gently in front of a giant wrought iron fence. She opened the door before he could come around. Their footsteps crunched in the gravel. Above, lettered with a solemn curl, were the words Oakfield Cemetery.
She opened the rusted gate to let him through. He hesitated, cradling the lilies in his arms. The blue tissue paper made his eyes seem even bluer.
They walked past the towering mausoleums with their weeping angels and protective lions. The winding gravel path led down a hill through the tombstones in their many shades of grey and black. Leaves crumbled under their feet. They could see mist coming in off the lake down the valley.
They turned off the path onto the broken grass, no longer green. Stopping in a little grove of bare trees, they knelt before a small black tombstone.
James Raphael DeLaney
Together they brushed away the leaves that had blown up in a little pile against the tombstone. He laid the lilies out in front. The wind picked up the leaves and tossed them back again and then swept them away. The blue tissue paper rustled.
A tear balanced at the corner of her left eye, and then toppled down her cheek. He looked at the ground. She took off her blue scarf and wrapped it around the tombstone, struggling as her vision blurred. As he helped her to place the scarf he brushed her hand.
“You are like ice,” he said, grabbing her hands and rubbing them between his own.
She pulled them away and shoved them into her pockets. A look of hurt settled across his face, but as he turned away, her hands came out again with a tiny pair of blue mittens in them.
“I remember, you made those when you were pregnant, and the doctor insisted you stay in bed for the last month,” he said. “I have never bought so much yarn in my life as I bought that month.”
She smiled, brushing the tears from her face. “I never gave away so many hats and mittens and scarves as I did that month. But these, these were for him.”
“You said you were making them blue to match his eyes.”
“You said, ‘How do you know his eyes will be blue?’”
“And you said, ‘I just know.’”
She handed him the mittens. He placed them in front of the tombstone by the lilies and the scarf. They stood there in silence as the wind tugged at the spaces between them, and the clouds continued to pile up.
Amethyst Loscocco is a freelance writer and web designer. She studied Molecular and Cell Biology at U.C., Berkeley, and completed a writing program at the U.C. Berkeley Extension. She lives in Oakland, California, with two dancing German shepherds. You can find her online at amethystloscocco.com
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