‘No,’ I say, but when she tells me the news, I realise I had heard; a comment I picked up but didn’t understand. I understand it now.
‘I’m upset,’ she says, and I want to tell her not to be silly. Instead, I feel my eyes well up.
We talk and she hangs up. I realise I’ve burnt the toast.
I see the calm colours of autumn in the jam-jar on the windowsill – cinnamon, sage, red apple - but the sky is overcast and the colours are dull and shadowed. There is no sense of purpose to the day; no list of things to do. Time hangs on a nail behind the kitchen door. I take it down, shrug it across my shoulders and go out.
My walk takes me through the cemetery and I see the damage done by yesterday’s weather. A young couple are tending a grave. I don’t look at the headstone – I know what I might see. I’m reminded that nothing is permanent, even underground, and the peace I expected to find here escapes me. What do we leave behind when we die? A name and a memory... If we’re lucky, a touch on someone’s soul.
I cross the road to the park, narrowly avoiding death by BMW, the female driver of which has mistaken the 30mph road for the autobahn.
A man is putting tables and chairs out in front of the cafe. It’s not open yet, which means the Winter Gardens aren’t open either. Why did I think they would be? I tell myself it doesn’t matter but I’m lying. The Winter Gardens are my thinking place; the place for sitting by the giant thistles and fitting pieces of my life together.
I cut across the grass to avoid the woman who cannot control her dog and continue down to the boating pond to sit on the bench. There’s nobody here except me.
That’s when I feel it - the warmth of the sun on my face. I hadn’t noticed it come out. Across the water, diamonds of reflected sunlight sparkle - so bright they bring tears to my eyes.