The air was crisp with the promise of autumn and the setting
sun cast a purple-orange hue across the headstones. Della closed her eyes and breathed in
“Ashes to ashes. Dust
to dust,” she whispered to herself, remembering the words of the minister as he
dedicated the grave on that dim and rainy day.
Her friends had been supportive, but she could tell there
was confusion, and possibly some resentment, over why she hadn’t shared her
secret relationship with them. She still
hadn’t told them much. To talk about it
felt like she was betraying him. Of
course, there was no hiding it once the details of the event had become public.
Della looked down and wondered, was he was facing east? Or west?
Was the marker actually placed at his head or over the center of his
body? Could it be at his feet?
On the day of the funeral, while she stood amongst the crowd
of people who had gathered to honor Steve, she was busy making mental notes to
herself to remember which side the head of the casket was on. He would have wanted to know. She completely missed some of the comforting
murmurs because she was busy familiarizing herself with the cemetery landmarks in
relation to the position of the casket. She
wasn’t there when they finally placed his marker and when she went to see it,
she found that the details that she had so desperately tried to carve into her
memory had become fuzzy and she couldn’t tell where his head was. The details that had been so important had
been replaced with fuzzy flashbacks of shock and pain.
She could see the older portion of the cemetery in the
distance and recognized the little lamb on the top of Ivy’s grave marker. Della remembered standing at the Anders’ family
plot with Steve. The fullness of that memory made her emptiness all the deeper.
Della kissed her fingertips and pressed them gently against
the top of Steve’s headstone. “I’ll be
back next week,” she told him. She
paused and felt an uncomfortable tingle in her jaw as she fought back her
tears. “I’ve been waiting…don’t forget
She walked towards her car and was momentarily distracted by
her shoes sinking into the drying lawn with each step. She knew there would be dirt and blades of
grass stuck in the gap of the heel protector and she hoped the leather would
not be ruined. Cleaning them could wait
until she got home. Della sunk into the
driver’s seat and swung her legs in. This
would’ve made him crazy, she thought.
A shadow passed to her right. Della looked up momentarily and quickly brushed
it off as dancing leaves in the dying light.
She turned the keys in the ignition. Wisps of blue exhaust ballooned into the air
as the muted figure of a man with a suit coat carefully folded back and draped
over his arm, stepped from behind a nearby tree. He smiled wistfully as the car disappeared
into the purple haze of evening.