Emma knew there were 11 children in the cemetery. She had counted. She needed to know she wasn’t alone in her suffering. Sometimes she wondered what their stories were, how their families were coping. She never saw anyone at their graves. Did nobody love them anymore? Were they lonely? Occasionally a toy would appear, leaning against a headstone, but she seemed to be the only parent who visited her child regularly. Would she ever stop coming?
Jacob’s headstone bore a crescent moon above his name. They had always ended each day with a chorus of ‘Love you to the moon and back’. Night-time had been their special time. After the chaos of the day, they’d settle on his bed and read; his pirate doona pulled up to his chin and Charlie bear tucked in safely beside him. Emma would breathe in the fresh scent of him as she read. Cuddles were given freely, no big boy embarrassment like at preschool drop-off. He had taken to shaking her hand the weeks before his passing. She had thought it was cute but longed to feel his little body pressed against hers. The warmth sustained her through her long days without him.
Now here she was missing everything; the warm cuddles, the soft handshakes, the whispered words before bedtime, the smell of his hair.
Emma took the store-bought flowers from her basket. A fresh bunch every week replaced the dry, drooping ones from the week before. A spider had made his home in last week’s bunch, weaving his intricate web between the leaves and petals. Dewdrops shimmered like magic diamonds between the strands. She’d take the spider home and put him in her garden. Jacob would like that. He had always loved animals, especially insects. It drove her to distraction finding bugs in boxes beneath his bed, and she was never allowed to kill anything that had made its way inside her home. She relocated everything.
“Hello there. Lovely day,” a groundskeeper said to her as he tended a nearby rose bush. Emma smiled and nodded, unable to return the pleasantry. She worried if she started talking, even to say hello, she would start crying—again. The well of tears never seemed to dry up. The only time she had been unable to cry was at his funeral service. She had been numb from head to toe, as if she was floating above the scene, watching another’s tragedy playing out like a tableau beneath her.
She took a bottle of water from her basket and filled the vase cemented to the little grave. She’d paid extra for that. She trimmed the stalks of the flowers she had brought— yellow roses and white carnations today—with scissors from her kitchen. Yellow was Jacob’s favourite colour. The ritual was almost complete. Emma said a silent prayer to a God she no longer believed in, gathered her things and began the long, lonely, silent trip home.
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