6flashbacks : Michael

Margaret brushed crumbs of dried mud from her fingernails. Her visits to Michael’s grave was a regular habit, almost to the exact hour of each other day. She used her finger and thumb to pick away unusual looking sharp green weeds, keeping the tufts of what she thought to be clover through a sense of superstition. Silly girl, she chided. Streaks of silver-grey clouds dissipated over head, around which seemed to expand a deep and wide blue sky enhanced by the warming summer sun.

Your father and I….please….I know all this has come as something of a shock but…
Oh spare me all that, just get out! Get…out of my house!
Love….please just…we…all need to talk this through….

A cold presence tempered the gentle breeze, which Margaret understood as a suggestion of a message with her familiar superstitious sense. She brushed her coat and trousers, began her way under the overgrown trees which effectively created a tunnel through which she could walk with her head looking straight ahead, walking surely with her thoughts flickering without any facial feature to belie her confident stride. By the gates she was distracted by two bearded men standing in the gated section for Muslim burials. The men were standing opposite each other reading from a large book, their heads nodding occasionally reciting prayers. Lost in her own solemnity she did not notice the intensity of her staring at their private reflections; a shake of her head brought her back to the walk home.

This too was routing, habit, a walk with purpose tinged with the muddled senses of guilt and remorse. Walton Road, Dixon Road, Dalesfield Road, so familiar names which should trigger mundane reminders of daily tasks, Margaret thought. The bus shelter on the corner of Dixon Road had been smashed again; glass scuttered around in clumps of hailstones and shrapnel.

We thought it through a million times and of course it was a hard decision….
You make it sound like….a…bank account form or….For God’s sake please, can we talk about this at some other time?
But it’s all out now, sweetheart, I can’t think of anything else now. You’ve got to believe me…
Don’t start with what I must or should be doing…He wasn’t given a fair chance in life at all…

The recollections and occasional vivid hallucinations were increasing now, to such a degree as would knock Margaret into bewildered silence. She had talked through everything with Robert through weeks of debate and argument, straining every inch of her person and each facet of their marriage. Robert had been a bank manager, such hard-fought diplomacy was not in his character. Every clock in the house seemed louder when they clicked and ticked the march of time, the shoosh of cars outside thump-thumped over speed-humps with a harsh determination.

I always promised myself that you would be told, in time, I mean that…
He got nothing from life, Mum, nothing. That’s what I don’t…I can’t understand.

Past conversations and arguments were now recalled in her own voice, the rise and fall of the instant recall now faded by time. Margaret had spent the rest of the night lying on the bed in the spare room, eyes wide open, wanting sleep to wash away every last thought hurting her head and pushing pain through her fingers. When Robert tapped on the bedroom door their eyes did not meet, nor any words exchanged. He accompanied her downstairs into the kitchen where she rested her hands against the sink, stared into the water.

Yesterday was terrible, you know? It felt like…some form of rehearsal for what we were going to do. He just lay there…Led…down making this snoring sound and…My eyes were filling up, just thinking about…
Ssshsssh, please…
Everytime I close my eyes I can just see….He was so beautiful, I’ll never forget how….So beautiful.

Robert kissed his wife on her cheek, they nodded to each other an awkward wordless greeting. Somewhere else in the country Evelyn was happily living her life without parents in a house where abstract prints replaced family portraits. Michael lay in a cemetery 5 miles away in a well tendered plot under a clear summer’s sky, the soil around his grave marked by the impression his mother’s shoes walking to, and from.

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