Unseen, she had watched them; her daughter and the twins, her grandchildren, unaware of her presence. Watched as the children played in the park and pleasantries were exchanged between her daughter and other parents by the swings. Not long ago it had been her chatting with likeminded parents as her daughter had scampered around with her friends.
A lifetime ago now, she sighed, as the autumn breeze scattered yellowed leaves about her. She yearned to talk with her daughter, to play with her grandchildren. What had they argued about? It all seemed so trivial and yet it had led her to this juncture. One of the children looked over and spotted her, smiling as if in recognition, the child called out, causing the daughter to look up from her conversation. No, not like this. She backed away between the trees, disappearing between the trunks retracing her steps.
Everyday had seemed the same since the event that tied her to this routine of secretively watching her daughter and children leave their house. The twins would be going to school very soon and these park visits become a memory just like her own, with her daughter. She sighed again causing a passerby to look her way in puzzled questioning. You wouldn’t wish to know, she said to herself. The man gathered his scarf around his neck with a shiver and hurried on.
She found herself drawn to the crematorium graveyard, sweeping along familiar steps, once seen through a blur of tears, until she was before the headstone that marked where her husband’s ashes lay. Her hand traced, unfeeling, the words inscribed, his name, date of birth and of death, so long ago now, beloved husband and father. She wished she could cry, wished she could wash the stone with her tears, but it was to no avail. She saw that the flowers had been replaced, her daughter visited here regularly. No such visits for her. Why? She remembered then. The drinking, the self-pity, the arguments, the hospital visits, the betrayal of broken promises that she had made. The final straw the drinking while supposedly watching the twins, it had all proven too much. No, no more visits for her.
She would have lingered there, yearning for a glimpse of her husband’s ghost, perhaps he would have offered a path to redemption for her? But he was long gone, leaving her, bereft in self-imposed solitude, walking the same streets, day after day.
A feeling suddenly came over her, she needed to get home.
She hurried along back to her flat, very fast for the old woman she was the ache in her hips and back a mere memory, the urgency to get home was all consuming. She could hear them banging at her door, the wood beginning to splinter. As the door gave way she rushed past them, over the piled post behind. She could hear them gasping in shock, hands clasped to mouths. She rushed to the room, darkened by the curtains still drawn. She scurried over the empty bottles of spirits that littered the floor to the form that lay on the sofa. She implored herself to rise, to get up and face those that entered her home, without invitation. But the dried and drawn face just smiled its endless smile.
The invaders spoke behind her, their voices muffled by masks.
“God, the smell! Poor woman, forgotten and ignored, how long has she been dead, do you think?”