It’s a lettuce-crisp morning when Belinda finally visits the allotment, the first time since Richard was found prone amongst the cabbages and rhubarb. The sun hasn’t yet burned off the dawn and Belinda needs to be sure she’s doing the right thing in passing on this patch to someone else.
Malcolm from next door has tried to keep it tidy, but she can see signs of neglect that Richard wouldn’t have tolerated – nettles sprout like widow’s weeds, raspberry stakes list half-mast as if in tribute, bone-white toadstools stand tall amongst the grass like tombstones.
In the shed Belinda wipes down all the surfaces, opening windows to banish the dank decay – finding it easier, as always, to clean than to cogitate. She sets a camping chair in the emerging warmth and makes herself a cup of tea on the primus – powdered milk only, the fresh stuff turned sour and noxious weeks ago.
Richard loved this place, this space. As the silence at home between them thickened and expanded, insulating them from each other, he’d spent more and more time here. Belinda holds up her hands, inspects the thin gold band, and wonders what their marriage might have been if she’d been able to forgive; if she’d tried to share his enthusiasm when he’d finally been gifted this plot, and given up everything else – the wine, the women, the work. Would they have grown closer if they’d tilled together, if they’d reseeded and re-fertilised alongside the potatoes, gladioli and summer fruits?
She pinches the bridge of her nose to halt the threatening tears. The sun continues in its arc towards tomorrow.
Belinda slips a pair of cotton gloves onto her chaste hands and begins plucking gooseberries from the bush close by, glistening as ripe and green as caterpillars. She feels something catch and jar and, removing the gloves, slides the ring from her finger, noticing the ridge it leaves there, as if marriage has left an indelible mark. She pokes a hole in the earth and buries the gold, stamping down the soil so she won’t be able to find it.
A cabbage white flutters past, the drone of bees and distant traffic vibrate in the haze. As she continues to fill the trug, Belinda feels her shoulders lighten, sensing the corvid weight of loss take flight, catch a passing thermal and soar aloft into a periwinkle sky, weaving amongst cauliflower clouds.
Maria Thomas is a middle-aged, apple-shaped mum of two from London. During daylight hours she works in technical control in financial services, a subject so mind-numbingly dull that she spends the witching hours writing. She has had work published by EllipsisZine, Funny Pearls, The Levatio and (upcoming) Fiery Scribe Review. She can be found on Twitter as @AppleWriter.
Illustration by Sonny Thomas
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