An air of desolation turned the world to grey. From inside her car, Sarah sat in silence not ready to venture out.
It was a year since she was robbed of him, and it took her a year to get this far. She had made it to the foot of the hill before; then to the edge of the cemetery from where she could make out the tops of the tombstones. And on one particularly sunny and brave day, she made it all the way to the gate, peered inside; and with a faltering heart, drove away never having set foot outside her car.
Driving to to the parking lot on the 1st anniversary of his death, wasn't easy. It was dismal out, almost as dark and dreary as the place where her heart used to beat. The tears welled up and she was no longer able to muster up numb. The scene before her became blurrier still, and she was glad for the tears as it faded out the concrete signs of death standing tall among grass and trees.
"Dear God!" she said out loud. "Oh, forgot I'm not speaking to you anymore..."
With a sigh, she ran her hands through her unkempt hair, willing the sand, the trees, the wind and the rain to feel her pain.
She had come prepared, the black umbrella on the seat next to her ready to be popped.
She played with the knob running her fingers over cold steel, applying just enough pressure.
"It's bad luck opening an umbrella in the house," she had admonished him on many occasions with the wag of her finger. He'd deliberately pop it to tease her, riling her up to get a rise out out of her so they could end up play fighting.
He'd splash the droplets on her making her flinch and ended up licking them away, from her eyelids, from her mouth, from her chin, from her neck...
In that moments, she felt like the luckiest woman in the world, thoughts of bad luck banished by his big heart and bear hugs.
The pain ripped through her chest as she remembered his tongue on her skin, the sound of his voice as he said her name down the length of her, the strength of him as he swept her up in his embrace...
Pain consumed her and her despair was a black hole of bad.
She stared at the crosses in the distance wondering what happened to God.
Squinting she saw a shadow darting from behind the old oak. The figure was shrouded in black, the coat thick and dark and heavy. The fedora was angled low, and the faceless figure meandered on sure footing along the soggy pathways through the thick mist. Her eyes like slits, Sarah leaned forward making a tiny window through which she could get a clearer view. It seemed like the darkness was trailing him. She opened the window slightly feeling the rain on her face and looked around for the caretaker, for anyone in the vicinity so she could feel safe.
She was alone.
"Dammit," she was angry at herself for coming here on her own.
"Let me go with you?" said her mother.
"I want to be there for you," said his mother.
"Let's do this together?" said her best friend, Charlotte.
She shook them off one at a time, with her words, firm and resolute, so that no one challenged her decision:
"I need to do this alone."
She was afraid her courage would fail her and she wouldn't make it to his grave.
Afraid she'd break down and pray again (for him she'd pray again).
Afraid that she would, at the sight of his resting place, stop taking a breath.
The rusty gate hanging on it's last hinge creaked as the figure brushed past it.Grabbing her umbrella she made her way to the caretaker's hut. The welcoming glow coming from inside beckoned her closer. She hurried along losing her footing on loosened asphalt; her umbrella flying. She scraped her knee and it stung as she removed stones from broken skin. She sat up rubbing her knees while the heavens opened up and all she could do was wail. It came from deep inside her, raw and uncensored and she let it out into the world, no longer afraid, no longer angry, only wanting to be saved.
He crouched over her, his skin wrinkled and pale, his eyes filled with the sadness of a million lost souls, and enveloped her with his coat, drawing her in, lifting her up, and carrying her to the caretaker's hut.
The caretaker saw them approaching and let them in gesturing to the couch in front of the roaring fire. It cushioned her weary body. The caretaker's wife hurried over to her taking charge, her big frame blocking Sarah's view.
The two men left and she found herself alone in the hut with the caretakers wife fussing over her scrapes and bruises.
"He's always here when it rains," she said pointing outside, happy for a new ear to bend with her tall tales, "his daughter loved the rain."
"People do crazy things when they lose a loved one," she said as a matter of fact.
"Sorry, dear, have you lost a loved one? I haven't seen you here before, I know everyone that comes here, all the loved ones, we like a little family, you know?"
She carried on and on, not pausing for answers, not taking a breath.
"I asked him once, why he does it, you know, when it's so uncomfortable in the rain, and I warned him he could get sick, but he just laughed and said, the rain reminded him of her, and when he stood in it, it was as if she was there giving him a giant hug!"
"A giant hug, I tell you!" Her whole body shook as she giggled, "that is the sweetest!"
She managed a smile.
"What is your story, dear, who are you here for?"
For the first time in the longest while she had enough courage to say his name: "James, his name was James..."
Finally the storm passed.
Sarah smoothed the edges of her bandages; the caretaker's wife did a good job.
She sat inside the car whilst outside a light drizzle continued enveloping her car with tiny droplets like a giant hug. She smiled reaching for her note pad and his black pen in the cubby hole.
Without hesitation, and with a huge flourish she began:
"Dear James, I miss you with my every breath, my love..."