Those Left Behind

  • 18 Sep - 24 Sep, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

Adele had been grieving without cease since Ed’s death two days ago. She could sleep for only brief periods, ten minutes, sometimes thirty, and the sleep was not restful; It was uneasy and fitful and she would awaken moaning, sometimes crying out, tangled in the blanket from jerking and thrashing in her sleep, and lying crosswise at the foot of the bed, having been reliving his death - which she had been the only one to witness - as she slept. The dreams were, over and over again, that exact moment he fell and never rose again to come back to her. She was one of those who didn’t usually remember their dreams, but these she did, and they were awful and vivid.

One moment he was there, walking beside her, talking to her, and the next, he had dropped with a soft thud on the thick layer of aromatic pine needles that cushioned the path they walked on side by side. He had died of a sudden and severe brain aneurysm. The very moment he dropped, he was already dead. When Christmas came three months from now, she didn’t know it yet, but she would have a hard time because the scent of pine everywhere indoors would remind her of that moment, and the moments after, when she had lain beside him crying on that soft bed of needles, knowing he was gone, until neighbours heard her mournful keening and came looking and found them both.

She and Ed were a good match. They were both the outdoorsy type and they were both active. They loved their house and its location, with the vast expanse of woods behind it and they went for walks in those woods every evening, even in cold weather. Even rain didn’t stop them,

unless it was severe.

She was the type to rise in the morning almost fully awake and already making plans by the time her feet hit the floor, but Ed was more of a slow riser and it took him longer to rouse from the grip of sleep. He sometimes woke and then dozed off again, but she rarely did. She would lay there with her head on his chest, and watch him, comforted by the rhythmic rise and fall, and she would feel a subtle tickle of love and adoration in her own chest for this good man who had rescued her at a very bad time in her life that she mostly didn’t think about anymore.

She missed him when he went to work. She loved having breakfast together every morning, but always in the back of her mind was the knowledge that he would go to work soon, leaving her alone in the house, now that the children had moved out. She found ways to occupy her time, but sighed a lot throughout the day, wanting him to come home soon.

Their nightly walks were mostly silent, a time to think and reflect, enjoying each other’s company without words. Sometimes though, she knew from the moment Ed came home, that he would talk. She could tell by a pensiveness on his face that he couldn’t hide from her, and a tenseness in his shoulders, that something was worrying his mind. On these nights, she didn’t have to speak. He didn’t want or need her to. He just needed her there beside him to listen as they walked and he worked through the problem aloud.

There were differences between them, of course, and she didn’t always understand Ed and he didn’t always understand her, but they allowed each other their idiosyncrasies, and any annoyances or impatiences they felt toward each other were small.

There were rarely terse words in the air between them, though there were a few times, when their relationship was new, and one time, when she had broken his mother’s vase. It was the most upset she had ever seen Ed and she felt awful about the accident. She was never extremely graceful for a female, had always been a bit clumsy. She should have been more careful with something that meant so much to Ed. But neither of them could ever stay upset

for long.

During Ed’s burial, she was bereft and didn’t want to leave his gravesite. They gave her some time, but eventually, they began pleading with her to get into the van so they could leave. They were worried about her, thought she wasn’t eating enough, could see her sleep was tortured.

That night, after they buried him, she woke before dawn had begun to creep forward and felt she needed to go visit his grave once more. She just couldn’t sleep without Ed’s cold feet searching for her under the covers, without the sound of him breathing. She rose, left their now lonely bed, realised she was thirsty and went to the bathroom to get a drink of water, had a moment of worry that her stomach wouldn’t keep even that down. The nausea passed and she left through the back door, careful not to wake the children. It had been nice having them all back in the house again at the same time.

The graveyard fence was shut and locked and she searched for a way in, panicked that she might not find one, but she finally did. She walked past headstones, some very large, some smaller, until she came to the unmarked grave they had all stood around that morning.

Adele shivered. Her legs shook, then gave out, and she collapsed on the ground above Ed, remembering the one time they had been apart for longer than a day.

A fine mist had begun at some point and she realised she was wet and that the ground beneath her had turned to a layer of mud. Her grief had exhausted her and she didn’t care about the mud. She lay there with the earthy smell filling her nostrils. She wished she could smell Ed through

the earth.

I can’t survive this.

I need you to come back to me.ÊShe heard the moan as it escaped her throat, heard it grow into a wail of pain,

knew somewhere in the back of her mind that she was coming apart, but was helpless to move.

Sometime after the sun had risen and the air warmed a little, she heard the sound of the gate being unlocked and rolled back, but no one saw or bothered her. She just wanted to lay there until she died of her grief.

Some more time passed and then she was pretty sure she heard their van in the distance. Sounded like it. They had come here, knowing when they woke and couldn’t find her that this was where she had gone. She heard as they got out, closed the doors, began walking over. She heard their tears and them calling to her, “Adele, please get in the car and come home with us.” Some more time passed. She heard them whispering. When they hooked the leash onto her collar, she didn’t resist, and then, something happened inside of Adele when they all knelt and began drying her wet fur with a towel, these children she loved so much and who loved her back. There was a line of sorts, behind it, grief, in front of it, the life and warmth of these three children, her children. Adele wagged her tail for the first time since Ed’s death, and then she ran with them to the van, just like old times.