Edward sat alone on a shaded park bench, his hands supported by a wooden cane. Pigeons fluttered and called beside him, fanning the wind, teasing his nose with feather dust - their coos melting into soft warbles to sweeten the morning air.
A canopy of ancient oaks tunneled before him, a dappled path of red bark laced with green ferns, white inpatients and purple morning glory. Sunlight teased the path, patches of pale light, allowing hope of a veiled world beyond the tree tops.
At the end of the path, some three hundred yards distance, a brighter light shone in brilliant golden hues. Beyond that still, the path opened to a rose garden encircling a fountain. A gentle breeze waxed along the sheltered corridor of the trees, carrying with it the mist from the fountain and the perfume of the roses.
Edward breathed deeply and a distant, winsome smile broke on his weathered face. He looked down at a solid band of gold on his ring finger and fought the gasp escaping his soul. The struggle brought tears and an ache that further collapsed his body into that of a helmsman battling a bitter wind.
Reaching into his vest, he pulled out a laced hanky. It was embroidered with purple and yellow pansies with the name Chelsea embellished in blue silk. Dabbing his eyes, he drew in the lingering scent of roses and bread crumbs.
A pigeon flew to his tremulous shoulders and then took flight, shooing his companions above the covering trees.
Alone in the stillness, Edward lay his cane aside and smoothed the damp hanky over his crippled knee, remembering.
“Daddy, Daddy, look what Momma and I picked for you.” Amanda ran up to him from the rose garden at the end of the path. Seven thorn-less yellow roses were clutched in her tiny hands.
He glanced from her to his wife, Chelsea coming up behind her. His heart raced as it always did when he saw them. He smiled. “Why it’s like you plucked the very sunshine from the sky, Amanda. They are so beautiful.” He kissed her on the top of the head and took them to breathe their sweet bouquet.
“Momma said yellow’s your favorite color. I like it, too.” She sat beside him, swinging her legs. “I wish you could join us in the garden; it’s too shady in here.”
Chelsea sat on the other side and he laid the roses in his lap to take her hand and place a lingering kiss on her cheek. He put his other arm around his daughter. “Someday I will, Princess, but not just yet.”
Amanda jumped from the bench. “Can I feed the pigeons? I brought bread. She showed him an embroidered pouch identical to the hanky in his vest.
“Of course, but don’t wander far.”
“Don’t be silly, Daddy. I can’t get lost, never again.”
Watching her leave, he turned to Chelsea “Will this memory ever fade? I couldn’t bare it. Not that.”
She clutched his hand. “Remember what you said, here in the park, on our eight anniversary; the day before the accident?
“The day I gave you the three embroidered hankies?”
“I had asked why you chose pansies as the boarder. You said because they were the flower of remembrance.”
“And you placed one inside my vest; next to my heart…I still keep it there.”
The question startled him and he looked away, as if the answer was suspended in the air, hiding in the shadows cast by the trees. He released her hand and put his head in his hands, squeezing his eyes. “Because it brings you and Amanda back to me.”
His voice broke, struggling for words, “Memory is an invisible gift, Chelsea, precious and weighty, yet its very transparency demands I never take my eyes from it least you and Amanda be lost forever. The hanky, the scent of the roses…this park…all of it keeps you close.”
She put her head next to his heart. “We always will be”. She glanced up, daylight ebbed above the trees.
“Amanda,” she called. “It’s time to go. Come give Daddy a kiss with me.”
Amanda skipped up to them, her embroidered bag of bread crumbs now empty. She handed it to him with a kiss.
Chelsea kissed him also, leaving a lingering remembrance on his trembling lips. He held it there, an invisible weight of memory to recall - allowing them to live as a family yet one more day, one more time.
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