Lili Somers (June 2018)
Tears drying on wrinkled cheeks
The hint of a smile
The promise of a rainbow
He’d not wanted to leave, had clung to his independence and this old house of his like a chrysalis to a branch. But it was hardly likely he’d burst forth into new life now, spread his wings and fly. Why, these days he could barely raise himself from his chair.
And as for this wretched trembling, pretty it might well be, in small-winged things, but in these gnarled old claws, hah, they were nothing but a sight for sore eyes. Not to mention the inconvenience, so many spilt teas, looked more like incontinence.
But, his mind actually as sound as his bladder, he had to admit it was probably a darn sight more inconvenient for his daughter, having had to traipse across town to check on him, bring his dinner too. Fiona, darling girl, he often wondered what he’d done to deserve her, heart as big as an ocean-liner, she’d gather the whole world in her lap if she could.
He felt ashamed. Since Elsie died, well, ever since Malcolm ran off with their life’s savings really, he felt so shrivelled inside, he imagined his own heart resembled a walnut. He sighed, tucked his pyjamas into his overnight bag. Then he reached for the rug. Elsie had knitted it for him the winter he’d been laid low with a broken leg. She made the pattern herself, a shiny white house on the hill, a sky, 2/3rds blue, 1/3 wrought in billowing shades of grey, and, of course, boldly, the whole meaning of the piece… oh the colours.
He lifted the rug to his face, breathed. And there she was, bent low over Cindy’s mane, her hair, still wet from the rain, whipping her face as she turned, laughing, calling, ‘race you!’ He could still feel Ned’s muscles bunching beneath his calves, hear the muffled thundering of hooves, could even taste the mud flying from the horse, just metres ahead of him. Drawing level, they’d raced for the hills, for their house, not just glinting white in the sun, but sitting dead centre of the most glorious rainbow either of them had ever seen.
He breathed in deeply again, smiled; granny smith apples, the hint of lux. She was still in there, her rainbow colours too, near bright as ever. He’d held the blanket up briefly, before folding it over his arm. Apart from photos, it was all he’d kept, of her.
Els was still there in their daughter too. For when Fiona pushed open the door to the little flat she and her husband had had built on the site, he caught his breath. How was it possible? Made charming enough already, with his favourite bits and bobs, something else made him wonder if he’d finally lost his marbles. He gazed in awe. And then he saw. The sun was slanting through the window. Hanging from a chain in the centre of the glass was a large prism. What stunned him, was opposite: Arched across a bare white space of wall, orchestrated, obviously by his one and only daughter, another glorious rainbow.
Something cracked inside his chest. Bordering on pain, but exquisite and then changing, movement beneath his ribs, a flutter, the unfolding of wings, becoming a ball now, growing, exponentially, and spreading, spreading, warm and delicious as sunlight advancing across a frozen field. Inseparable from hope, he remembers this, turning, his arms already wide -