She ne’er did love me better than when she died.
The priest had gone, the black backed beetle taking his spell book, the vial of magic potion that was to shield my Mary’s passing to the Otherworld. He left the smell of incense and pudding and fear, scurrying back to his plump little wife and her baked apple cheeks, leaving me to witness the final breaths of my own dear one.
There were no plump blushes in our marriage bed that night. All fat had been worn from Mary, as if the fever was a living thing that had crawled beneath her skin, feasting on the layers laid down by every Harvest Home and Twelfth Night cake. There was nothing left of her I’d known, that merry, scolding, worrisome woman. One last look she gave before those yellowed lids sealed forever.
And that was Love.
And this it is that brings her back. Out of the cold, cloying ground, clawing through rotted wood, through tree roots, cuffing away sleeping larvae. From the graveyard she comes, past the graves of mother, sister, our own lost babes, shadowing the path she trod the day we wed, beneath the black limbed yews and their shining, bloody berries. Through the village, past thatch and tile and folk she called neighbour who bolt their shutters against her coming, whispering incantations to keep her bony fingers from their doors.
Tis not them she seeks.
I listen for the slip and drag of her feet on the path, the broken china ting of her fleshless heels on stone. I throw wide the door, inhale the scent of falling leaves, the smell of summer dying.
‘Welcome wife,’ I say as she comes home.
Happy Haloween All – may your life be filled with Treats and devoid of Tricks