The Road

Monday

Gerald stood at the window of 36 Primrose Avenue looking up at the tree outside, admiring the blaze of late autumn colour.  He deliberately looked up and not down at the foot of the tree. Twenty-five years he had been looking out at the majesty of the trees which lined this quiet avenue where he and his wife lived.

He knew he had to look down just to see if they were still there. He knew they would be. They were. An agitation stirred within him.

Little Sophie Jackson had died in late July on a hot day. A car had met the 5 year old on her bike outside Gerald’s house. Now there was just the unending floral tributes which sat at the bottom of his favourite tree.

‘I blame Princess Diana’ Gerald said to his wife, ‘all this flower nonsense has got out of hand. It’s morbid, I cant deal with it’

‘Gerald you must calm down, let the family grieve’ but Jill knew he could not let it drop.

‘I am going to write her a letter’

Jill sighed. The length of their marriage felt all of its 38 years.

2 days later

Gerald answered a very loud knock on the door.

‘How dare you, you nasty little man’ Gerald looked at the short dumpy and rather angry young woman who was shaking on his doorstep. It was Sophie’s mother.

‘Calm down Mrs Jackson’

‘Don’t you tell me to calm down. My little girl, my precious little girl, how could you object to people grieving. You are a monster.’ She was waving the letter in her hand, her voice was choked and her face red.

Gerald felt a pang, of guilt or maybe relief.

‘Please, come in and let’s talk about it’ he opened the door wider.

‘No’

‘Please’

She suddenly looked smaller and defeated almost.

‘Please, I am sorry’ Gerald offered a weak smile.

He went to make a cup of tea.

She had been crying when he came back ‘I don’t understand why the flowers have upset you so much, are you worried about the value of your house? For goodness sake my poor little girl’ she was becoming agitated again.

‘I want to explain but it’s difficult’ Could he tell her?

‘It is only three months it is still so raw for me’

‘I know’

‘How could you possibly know?’

Gerald looked at her and spoke softly ‘I really do know.’

A calm descended and there was an awkward silence.

‘You have a lovely house Mr Wilson, have you lived here long?’

’35 years and it’s Gerald please. You are Rachel, aren’t you?’

‘Yes’

‘Do you mind if I sit next to you?’

‘No, of course’ she smiled.

‘This is hard for me Rachel and I really can’t explain my feelings about the flowers maybe I was jealous. I have always treasured the trees on this road’

‘Jealous? But..’

‘I know’ he interrupted ‘but you see I suffered a loss like you, 20 years ago’

‘Oh, I see’ she hesitated ‘Was it on the road?’

‘No. I came home from work one day and sat looking out of that window just relaxing and I just wish I hadn’t’ he voice wavered

She waited for him to carry on.

‘You see I just sat here and waited for my wife and I will always regret it. She came home and went out the back to get the washing in and found our son hanging in the garden shed’ he struggled to hold it in.

Rachel bit her lip and held out her hand. ‘I guess it was too late’

‘Yes, he had taken his own life, he was 15. We have never worked out why’

‘I am so sorry’ she squeezed his hand ‘I will stop laying the flowers’

‘No, please don’t’ he took her hand ‘but maybe we could plant a tree for your Sophie’. They embraced

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