Sunrise had arrived later than normal, staining the horizon with a rosy pink self-conscious blush. Summer's impetus had left her.
Though no one was complaining.
From her first floor balcony Clara Manning stood alone, watching. Pre-dawn, she had heard an occasional bird call although mostly they too had waited; some warbled a few scales, warming up.
It was autumn. Clara knew Keats had a conspiracy theory about this season of mellow fruitfulness but she couldn't think what it was. Since her husband's death no poetry flowed from her heart without prodigious effort.
Don't let me become bitter, Jesus. The waters of Marah turned sweet when Moses threw in a piece of wood. Let Your wooden cross do the same for me please.
Some time later, from her bedroom, Clara heard the phone ring and her sister pick up from the hall extension. She was grateful, as phone conversations and text messages were not her forte. She'd no idea where her mobile was. Flat battery, in that handbag there, not used since before Bruce died? All three.
Her sister's voice came in snatches. '…yes a heart attack…ten days ago…awful shock… they were good together weren’t they? Yes…thank you. Goodbye.'
Clara lifted her husband's pillow to her face. 'Good together? I was so rushed and dismissive the morning he died. He wanted to show me how he would send me a text on his new iphone.'
Clara rocked to and fro: 'Please tell him I'm sorry and that I'd do anything to get one more of his texts.'
She had the irrational desire to find her mobile and check.
I'm going insane. Forgive my Lord. That's dangerous territory.
The phone rang again in the hall but she ignored it.
Bruce loved sending text messages. No day went by without him messaging: I luv U or looking 4ward to seeing U 2nite. Sometimes he resorted to Whats 4 dinner honey Rarely punctuated; much abbreviated spelling.
'You're a big kid.' Clara had told him more than a few times but far from taking offence he'd grinned in happy acquiescence and once he'd grabbed her and threatened to hold her until she changed it to: 'you're a wonderful handsome 21st century cyber man'.
Clara and Bruce had often discussed his perchance for technology and her ability to ignore her phone for days. It's tearing my heart Lord. I should have affirmed him and shown more interest. She stood and lovingly placed his pillow back on his side of the bed. Now all I can do is struggle on; draw strength day by day; live until You say I can come home. But please let me know that You have Bruce safely with You, and that he forgives me for being cross with him that last morning.
'Mummer, did you have a good sleep?' Clara's fifteen year old was standing at the bedroom door. 'I've made you some tea and toast and Uncle Toby rang. Where's your mobile? He tried that first.'
'Flat, Jess darling.' Clara nodded towards her handbag with a guilty smile. 'You know how it is.'
'Daddy said that's what he loved about you. He told me. He said you were feisty and couldn't be pushed into conformity.'
Jess picked up the handbag and searched for the phone in the side pocket. 'I'll connect this poor old thing to the charger, you eat some toast and I'll go shower.' She kissed her mother affectionately.
The message alert sounded as soon as the electricity was turned on but Jessie turned to her mother and waved a dismissive hand. 'That'll just be Uncle Toby's missed call. He's coming around for lunch.'
Clara drank her tea and tried the toast. When the alert sounded again she padded over to listen to Toby's voice mail. But it wasn't Toby.
Two messages flashed up from Bruce. Clara felt faint. He must have sent them when he was showing her his new iphone; on the day he died.
The first, timed at 8 am that dreadful morning was a picture of Bruce, grinning. It read U cant fool me-u luv me n my phone. Xx
Clara held the phone to her lips, slid to the floor and wept until there were no more tears.
Later she moved to the last text, timed 12midday. Clara stiffened. Bruce died in his office shortly after midday.
Chest pain darling! Jesus is here-such joy n peace-his scars r real- he told me 2 text u b4 we go-i luv u- forever xxx.
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