He appears, like an indistinct smear on glass: sitting in the shade of an apple tree; pottering about the kitchen; walking ahead of me.
But I never see his face. Not even when I feel his eyes on me. Watching.
When I turn, he’s gone.
Then there are the scents, so easily recalled: ground coffee beans, prepared with care; the musk of his skin that embodied ‘home’; the sweet tang of sherbet lemons—the first eaten with relish, the rest turning sticky in their bag, welded to an inner pocket.
I do not fear these things. They enliven the days, providing brief islands of happiness, in an ocean of lonely, empty gestures. In those moments, he is beside me still.
I can see him now, there, at the end of the garden. He’s leaning against the fence, staring out at the fields beyond. It was always his favourite view; especially at this time of night.
How near will I get, before he disappears?
Beneath my feet, the grass is damp, bedecked with gem bright trails, soft as carpet. And all around me, twilight’s gloaming transforms the world, bringing with it a sense of anticipation. Or, perhaps, it is simply down to the time of year. An October night’s extended embrace, hiding reality and opening doors—to other planes of existence.
Crowding in from every angle, orchard paths direct my route, from house to boundary fence. Above me, the wind takes shape amongst branches, as fruitless boughs trace its passage, and autumn-dried leaves applaud its progress. Though the air around me should feel cold, and my elderly bones ache from it, excitement keeps me warm and whole.
My goal is in sight.
I can see the moon, low in the sky, suffused with orange and bigger than I have ever seen it. Against a backdrop of steadily increasing stars, it brings me comfort as well as pleasure. Where hangs a moon such as that, on a night where none should be, all things are possible.
His hair is grey, streaked with black, just as I remember. It reflects the moonlight, silver not gold. The wind drops from the trees, ruffling the short, shining strands. And his body, in a pose so achingly familiar, surely, it is closer now?
My breath stutters in my lungs as hope unfurls. I reach out a hand, fingers hesitating, to breach that final gap.
Be brave. A single step—that’s all it is.
I feel his shoulder beneath my touch, watch him turn towards me.
The urge to scream is overwhelming. Tortured sound cleaves the darkness. Before me lies an open grave, death and decay: bare bones and empty eyes.
Until, I blink, the world slipping from my mind. Now there is flesh, full of life, and a gaze I have missed.
“Hello, my love,” he whispers. “I’ve been waiting for you.” Then he smiles, mischief lurking. “You’re late.”