The day dawns, overcast , cold and grim, storm clouds banked overhead, rain threatening. The body is laid in a simple, unadorned, pinewood coffin, covered with home made posies from relatives and friends.
The time it takes, unendurable as the Priest rambles incessantly, as the funeral moves on to the final resting ground, the local cemetery. Maggie once again takes the reins, finds a song from long ago, a soulful tender ballad of love and death and the beating of wings….the final transformation.
And then it is over. Nothing more for them to do. No wake.
He drives her home, won’t stay, and at her door, pulls her to him, kisses mouth, nose, her hair.
Turns, turns again and calls “I’ll see you in a few days “, then turns again, retracing his steps, holds her hard against his chest. “I am a selfish bloody fool”, he says, “I forgot to even thank you”.
“And I was so very happy to do this for you….go now, I’ll see you very soon”, she turns his shoulders, watches him close the gate, reach his car, wave, and then his pirate’s smile, that flash of teeth. He slips into the car, drives away, and she stands for those last few moments, gathering herself, seeing the empty space, then walks inside, closes her door, still feeling him holding her hard , the strength of fingers clutching her arms and the bitter sweet taste of him, lingers on her lips.
AFTER THE FUNERAL
He calls me, late at night…”How are you ?,” I say, voice croaky with sleep.
“Arrrgh, sorry, so sorry to wake you, it’s just…..I’ve been thinking “
and coming fully awake now “it’s all right, tell me?”
“I want to spend time with my sister’s kids….get them out of the house. I don’t know if I’m asking too much of you….but I want you there with me”, I hear the breath catch in his throat, the hesitancy, but I also hear the need, and even deeper down, his knowing, knowing I’ll agree.
It’s a simple straightforward request, I could no more refuse him, than I could refuse the three children, so, I tell him “Yes”, adding “ it’s not a matter of helping you out, although I am happy to. I WANT to do something for those children, who’ve already seen too much, of one kind of life….not enough of the other” and then, inspired “let’s take them camping, what do you think?”
“Come see me, soon as you can…..we’ll figure it out”, and then another small silence, “What? What is it?” I ask him….
“I want to be with you now”, and I hold the phone, listen to his breathing, speak very quietly to him, “Come, come now, come and sleep the night with me, we’ll make some plans tomorrow “, and his voice, rougher now, “I don’t want to sleep “, and me “neither do I,” so, “come, drive carefully, but hurry,” and then there’s laughter…..I end the call and lie quiet, in the late night pre dawn dark, waiting, waiting for him.