My hands shiver under my furs and though the wind cuts across the brown meadow, I know it’s not the cold that causes me to shake.
We pass a young beech, leaves quivering, the sound like tiny bones – shrew, mole, unfledged robins – rattling in a purse. The church is up ahead, squat as a matron, the roof like a hat of red felt pointing heavenward.
I keep my eyes locked on the church, turned from my soon-to-be husband, his drooping lids, his idiot smile. The thought of those hands, those over-moist lips on mine …
It’s as we pass through the lychgate that Hilda Goodchild catches my eye. She presses ahead but seems to stumble at the last moment and Joshua – my almost husband, her ever loving son – dashes from my side to save her from falling.
Her look of triumph tells me the stumble is a sham, a way to draw my attention to the yellowed paper flapping in her hand. The moment I see it, see the scarlet ribbon flutter at the base, I know it’s the deeds to my father’s farm – my farm.
How fitting, this pause in the shade of the lychgate. I shift my feet, wondering if I have the spot, whether it’s here or here the coffins pause before their final journey to the church. My father, my mother, my sisters, all waited here – patient as only the dead can be – before moving on.
Soon it will be another’s turn. I feel the blade tucked in my sleeve, the metal warmed through by the heat of my wrist and I smile.