Thick mist drifted between the graves, the rain soaking the already drenched ground, making the mud even more slippery and treacherous to the mourners who were trying desperately to stay upright.
“I told you not to wear those shoes,” one man said to his wife as her heels sank into the ground.
Tom gritted his teeth and tried to block out her reply as she was yanked free.
“….and those that are left behind can only….”, the monotonous voice of the Priest droned on, as if determined to finish so he could escape back to the comfort of his lounge and the packet of cream biscuits he had left open on the coffee table.
Wriggling his cold toes, Tom tried hard to focus on what the Priest was saying, strength and courage, but his mind kept drifting to the lunch that his wife would normally have prepared, wrapped neatly and placed in the fridge for when he returned from work.
“I never know when you’re going to turn up,” she would say, kissing him softly on one cheek. “And you’re always so hungry, it’s best you don’t have to wait around to be fed.”
The smell of her perfume, lavender, would drift after her leaving him in a scent filled kitchen.
“Oh, Mary,” he sobbed, a tear escaping from one eye.
A small cough next to him made him jump.
Tom turned blindly towards the man; his vision blurred.
“Tom, I just wanted to say how sorry I was,” the man said, his hands clasped in front of him and his eyes staring at his shoes. “If there’s anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Blinking, Tom struggled to remember who he was.
Maybe something to do with the Church? Or the local club?
The man smiled and briefly touched his shoulder before shuffling away.
“Thank you,” Tom said, before muttering quietly. “Whoever you are.”
The mourners around him were suddenly silent.
The Priest was staring at him, his eyes sympathetic.
Tom glanced around him, shuffling his feet.
“Mary,” one lady gasped, her hand clasping a damp handkerchief. “Oh, it should have been me who went, not you.”
Gritting his teeth again, Tom focused his attention back to the coffin. The shiny wooden surface was covered in rain drops, and the flowers lying on top, flattened, their petals heavy with water.
Mary would not have liked that, he thought. She loved her flowers.
The mourners started to drift away.
The lady with the heels, squealed as she found herself falling against an old headstone, her manicured hands scraping against the moss-covered stone.
“Come on,” her husband said patiently, tugging at one of her elbows.
“Tom,” another lady said quietly.” We will meet you back at your house. Give you some time alone.”
The lady’s eyes widened slightly,” Yes, for afternoon tea.”
“Oh, right, of course,” Tom said, staring at the lady’s hair as it started to drip down her cheeks. It would have been another thing that Mary organized, he thought.
His stomach growling with hunger, Tom tried to focus again on the coffin, nodding to the people passing him without noticing who was there.
The rain was becoming heavier, flying in all directions so the mud was starting to splatter his pant legs.
The birds in the nearby trees were chirping, maybe they were angry, maybe they were cheerful, but they were making a hell of a racket.
“Mary, my love…” Tom started to say, tears welling in his eyes.
A bolt of lightning flew across the sky, lighting up the mist and casting eerie shadows across the ground.
Tom felt his shoulders slump as he heard the lady with the heels squeal again before her car door slammed.
The line of cars started to drive away, the headlights lighting the road, leaving Tom all alone as the Priest sought the sparse shelter of a nearby tree.
“It’s just me now, Mary,” he whispered. “The last one left. But you know what they say. If you’ve loved, then you’ve lived, and I sure have lived with you.”
A lump appeared in his throat, making it difficult to swallow. How do you say goodbye to the person you love? The person who has shared your life. Who knows you better than you know yourself?
Tom turned again.
His daughter, her face pale and eyes red rimmed, smiled at him, her lower lip wobbling.
“It’s time to go, dad.”
“No, no, I can’t go,” Tom said, his face crumpling and tears pouring down his cheeks. “I haven’t said goodbye yet.”
Tears trickled down his daughters’ cheeks.
Mary would not have liked that either, he thought. She would want me to do something.
His hand shaking, he reached out and touched her cheek gently.
“Oh, dad,” she sobbed. “Please come with me now, get out of the rain or you’ll get sick.”
“Hey, you’re not going to lose me as well,” he said, trying to smile. “But I have to say goodbye. And I can’t leave her yet. Mary doesn’t like the rain.”
He saw his daughter swallow. Maybe she had a lump in her throat as well.
“Dad, let’s go,” she said more firmly, tugging at his sleeve.
“No, I can’t, not yet,” Tom said, trying to twist away from her grip.
“You can come back another day.”
“No, I can’t leave yet!”
His daughter’s gaze became glazed as if she had shut off all her emotions.
“Mary needs me.”
His daughter trudged on, her little leather boots squelching in the mud, her fingertips digging into his skin.
There was no getting away from her when she thought she knew best.
Craning his neck so he could feel his bones crunching, Tom looked back at the grave.
The priest had moved closer and was crossing himself, his head bowed as he mumbled a final prayer.
The mist was still drifting between the graves as if joining all the souls.
“Mary,” Tom sobbed, tears splashing down his jacket as they marched past a large bush.
Sniffling, he fumbled in one of his pockets and wiped his nose. The skin on the tip rubbed raw.
How could he say goodbye?
A shiver ran through his body. He could almost feel Mary there with him, a strong smell of lavender floating from the bush.
“Oh, Mary,” he sobbed. “Good bye.”