You walk down through your dark garden to the bench at the far end, and you sit there, pulling your knees up and folding your arms around them. Your feet are wet from the grass, from the rain earlier and tomorrow’s dew. There is the very faintest of breezes, but it is enough that where your hair lifts from your neck, the skin cools. You don’t mind at all, the chill in your extremities and the way your shadow lurks at your feet, they hardly register as you tip your head back and fill your eyes with the night. Mountains rise around you, a steeped blackness that swallows monstrous shapes out of an indigo sky where the stars are unfettered tonight by either cloud or moon, and their presence feels so close, so tangible that you almost convince yourself you can hear their voices, murmurs from the abyss, or from the past.
It is a comfort, that thought – that the stars dusting your eyelids are so far in the past that you were not born when these photons were. You wonder if the light is altered somehow, by touching you. If it is tainted.
An owl calls in the trees, half of a song, and you and she both wait in silence for her mate to respond. He doesn’t. She calls again, from further away and he answers her. The forest murmurs on, teetering on sentience under the cover of darkness and you can feel the lure of it, the utter pitch of the shadows beneath its branches that stretch from the slopes above almost to your garden. It would be easy to do. Step down off the bench and take two paces through foxgloves and early borage to the fence. Climb over into the sheep field just as you do during the day, cross ten metres of hagged and frayed grass and then step into the forest.
Maybe that complete, inkwell blackness would offer you a better oblivion than the starlight. Maybe. But it would also offer splinters, twisted ankles, a compassless disorientation.
There is a temptation in that, too. You pretend there isn’t, or that you don’t feel it. But there is, and you do.
A tiny spark of pain lights upon your temple and your response is reflexive, brushing away at the unseen insect with the edge of your hand. It brings your mind back into your body, reluctantly, sadly, back to the cold creeping around your ankles and the tangle of hair against your cheek. Back to the ache in the pit of your abdomen, the pull of gravity and endings within the cradle of your pelvis.
You take a breath, rest your forehead against your knees and close your eyes. You do not cry. Not now, although you did earlier when the pain began. You did when you stood in the shower and watched your red blood spell out the breaking of your heart.
The thing is, you think, you do not know how to say goodbye to someone you never got to meet. You do not know how to let go of someone whose cells still circulate in your veins, whose bones and heart you were building from your own.
The thing is, you think, this is not the first time and you still have not learned how to bear it.
Above you, the beech trees tap out leaf-and-twig signals, and you can smell their new growth. It is a part of the night’s scent, the beeches, sheep and wet grass, pine and the tang of peat, solitude. The world turns, and sitting so still, you almost believe you can feel it. The world turns, the present becomes the past; becomes memory, scar, secret.
You realise that you are now entirely cold. Perhaps that was what you were waiting for, to be fully numb. Rising to your feet, you press one hand over your cramping muscles, your empty womb and you take a last look at the forest with its outheld promise of shadows.
Then you turn around, to the house where a light is still on in your bedroom. Where your child, the one who made it, the one you are so lucky to have, is sleeping and will soon wake. Where your husband is sleeping and will not wake, but will bring you tea in the morning, and will love you.
The grass leaves remnants of itself on your feet, and over your shoulder a gibbous moon lifts one corner of itself above the moors. The night is kind to you, and you are grateful for it. As you open the door and step into your home, it is almost enough.
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