Love sticks and stays.
Each year someone would nudge her, point out a handsome face in the street, or theatre.
“You’re only twenty five. He wouldn’t want you to mourn forever.”
Even his mother’s grief seemed to wane before hers, smiling when Frank was brought to memory and able to talk about her son with warmth and mirth. Lily smiled weakly and sipped her tea, aware of the minutes until she was alone and could weep.
“It’s…. Lily, it’s been three years.” Mrs Bates eyed the wedding band on Lily’s hand. “Frank would want you happy. Not weeping for him still.”
How could she tell her mother in law how she’d grown so unhappily used to the space on the bed beside her remaining cold and still, that she could not bring herself to think of another man’s warmth enveloping it.
“There is time.” She said at length, and Mrs Bates nodded.
The year dragged on. Snow began to threaten. Lily reached for her darned woollen stockings each morning, the fine nylons tucked away for warmer days. Still her poor heart didn’t heal, stagnating in her chest like sour meat. It was heavy to carry around and wearied her.
With no children to care for, she went through her days in a kind of repetitive haze. Wake. Work. Bathe. Bed. She barely ate. She was a ghost, keeping to a tight beat of streets and buildings. Venturing outside of comfort – to the park when she and Frank had met, or the pub they had visited often, was out of the question.
December began and the darkness was pricked with sharp white lights. Each shop window she passed was full of painful wonder, but she steeled herself to look. At the toys she would never buy for the child she didn’t have. At the pearl-handled razor she would never wrap in delicate paper, eager to see Frank open it on Christmas morning. Tears began to seep out from under her frost-tinged lashes.
“Sadness in winter burns brighter and more sorely than the summer, don’t it?”
Came a voice at her ear.
Lily turned her head; beside her was a woman a little taller than herself; older, perhaps sadder. Her hair was hidden behind a brightly coloured turban.