[Editorial Note: a short story with a surprise ending is usual fare for this outstanding writer of short fiction.]
I always look forward to our walks through the woods that are situated just on the outskirts of town. Rose and I have taken a trip out there every Sunday, on and off, for the past fifty years culminating a small lunch in the large field of daffodils at the end of the track.
They are Rose’s favourite bloom – which is ironic, considering it is not her namesake flower. This was the small joke we enjoyed on our first date all those years ago, one of the many small pleasures that tied our fate of becoming husband and wife. We married not two years after that wonderful day in Greenwich Park. Love was to small of a word for what we felt for one another then. We still love deeply to this very day – for it was a bonding of souls rather than a mere falling in love. But I will still use the word love, as my limited vocabulary and poor education has provided me with no other descriptive to express the feelings I have for my wife.
After two years of marriage Rose gave me a son. Shortly after, a daughter followed to add to our little family, but an illness that I will not go into, stopped any further additions to our clan. The sudden halt in our procreations did not mar our happiness in any way, for we felt blessed and at peace with what we had been given. The children were a great source of comfort to her and an anchor of sanity during my absence as I left to defend our shores against a great advancing evil until I was sent home from the front line with an injury, one serious enough to keep me from my duties to my country, and from returning to that terrible war. Thankfully though, I was not injured so badly as to prevent me from being at my dear wife’s side, something I am sad to say cannot be said about so many others that fought as my comrades in arms.
When peace came and sanity returned to our way of life, Rose and I opened a small grocers shop in the small village we called home. It provided a small, but comfortable income for all of us and gave our children – Sophie and Stanley – the foothold they would need in the years to come by financing the education needed to secure a well-paid employment and to provide a solid future for their own families.
They are all grown up now and have moved to far away lands, leaving us to grow old together, happy with our lives and our walks in the woods. Stanley, after many years as an underwriter, became a lawyer and has recently been made a partner within the firm that he has been with for almost thirty years. He married at a young age to a girl by the name of Alicia, a short red-haired girl who has the air of someone out of time and out of step with the rest of the world. She is a strange woman who has a smile that is warm and somehow comforting. She dresses in a free-spirited way … sometimes a little too free I fear.
Sophie became, of all things, a travel writer. She flits here and there around the globe sending reports to various magazines about the best and worst places to go. This always seemed a bit presumptuous to me as I feel that one should gain an opinion of people and places based on your own experience and not the one-sided view of a single person, even though it be my daughter. I am wrong in this thinking of course, as she is very well thought of in this field. Her opinion is widely regarded to be the proper one to have.
They both have families and homes of their own now, and both of them have planted daffodils in their gardens to remind them of the happy days of their childhood and the walks through the forest. This makes me smile.It has brought Rose to tears on occasion, as this seems to her a validation of her value as a mother and mine as a father.
When we where younger, Rose and I would always walk the track to the field of daffodils, hand in hand, using the time to discuss all manner of things, putting to rest any matters of disagreement that had caused strife between us.
It seems of late that I do most, if not all, of the talking and Rose just walks by my side, seemingly lost in her own little world. We have had our times, as most couples do, when we would not see eye to eye and argue over trivial things such as expenses and the like, but it was bickering rather than a full-grown row and was usually laid to rest by the time we reach our destination.
As I look at Rose now settled down amongst the daffodils, I smile as she starts to unpack the little basket that contains the small lunch she had prepared earlier. As I smile, a small tear of sadness rolls down my cheek because I see that the lunch she has packed is for one person only. Since my passing from this existence and from her life not six months ago, she was left her to continue the walks alone.
As Rose stares out into the distance she chews slowly on her sandwich, I can see in her eyes that her thoughts turn to me at these times. I hope one day she will be able to see me again and we can continue to walk together again in another place.
Until then I will walk by her side every Sunday and sit next to her in this field of flowers.
Iain Cambridge has twice appeared in Helios. We look forward to more of his work.