Maybe, if he hadn’t loved her so much, letting go wouldn’t have been this hard.
But in his heart, nestled next to Delphine, lies the truth.
A truth so raw that it leaves him sobbing behind closed doors, down to his knees – because who knew that her love would be the hardest thing he would ever have to endure. Devils, he’d been beat before, spent most of his life in manual labor, he’d gone through hell and back. Yet, this – the way her tearful eyes look at him when she murmurs to him that she doesn’t want to die, not yet. The way Delphine begins to stir, sensing her mama’s distress – that, is what breaks him. That is what makes his heart feel as if it’s being torn away from his very body.
But the dark and tormenting truth is that selfishly, he wouldn’t change them, wouldn’t change their relationship, not for the world.
Because she came into his life, even if it was just for a moment, and changed everything.
All this, all the events leading up to this tragedy had brought him so much happiness. The type of happiness he thought to be make-believe, a blinding satisfaction that will remain with him for the rest of his days.
It had brought their Delphine to them, proof of their devotion to each other, proof that Mary had been there.
She’d brought happiness and love to him, her soft smiles being the first thing he woke up to every morning. Her boisterous, yet slightly shrill, laugh could be heard rooms away, always bringing a smile to his face.
The way her mirthful eyes would crinkle whenever she saw something amusing, her eyebrows scrunching together when she was deep in thought.
Her finger tracing his hand late at night, when she couldn’t sleep and the way those same fingers would sink into his beard playfully. The way she held Delphine in the mornings, almost as if she couldn’t believe she was real. The weight of her hand as she would smack his shoulder, amusement clear in her eyes.
These were the things he would keep close to his heart; these were the things he’d tell Delphine about when she asked about her mama.
Because even if Mary was gone, her legacy would remain.
Mary had always been a sun; too powerful to be considered a simple star, burning much too bright for a place such as the Bog, too bright for Avonlea. Warmth spilled from her words, kindness dripping from her clothing, love caressing everything she’d ever touched.
Her smile blinding, rivalling the sun’s brightness.
“Papa?” asks a girl, head poking through the door carefully, Bash raises his head, motioning for her to come sit between him and Gilbert, “I have a question.”
Bash nods, kissing the girl’s brow softly. Delphine was merely a child, she was but six years old, barely beginning to attend school.
“I – where’s my mama?” she asks quietly, curling into his side gently, her finger squeezing Gilbert’s hand. For a second, Bash swears the world comes to stop because he’d not ready to talk about this, not yet.
“She’s gone, Delphie,” responds Gilbert hesitantly, noticing Bash’s predicament, Gilbert musses her hair gently, clearly unsure as to what to say.
Delphine stays quiet for another second, relief floods Bash because he thinks it’s over, “will she be back?”
Suddenly, Bash’s mind is full of a life left behind, full of Mary and her contagious laughter – he finds it hard to breath, finds it hard to remember her so vividly but not have her there beside him.
“Not anytime soon,” murmurs Gilbert, his voice earnest and pained, “but if you want, I can show you her favorite poem.”
Delphine jumps at the chance, dragging Gilbert over to the worn out bookshelf, watching as Gilbert picks up the book and leads them back to the chair.
The girl refuses to leave until she can properly read the entirety of the poem and the whole time Bash remains rooted to his spot, unable to move.
All because she’s scrunching her eyebrows the same way Mary would.
For months, Delphine will mutter the poem under her breath, hoping to bring her mother home.
Six years later, Bash has practiced what he will say next time she asks more details about her mother. He and Anne have gone over it multiple times, he knows what he has to say by heart.
But the second Delphine’s eyes turn to him and ask about her mother once more, he can’t seem to say anything.
Instead, Anne shows her the book of recipes and all three of them; Anne, Gilbert, and Delphine will begin to make each dish, one by one.
This gives him a bit more time but not enough, because there will never be enough time to prepare himself for this conversation.
“Why don’t you like talking about mom?” she asks him one night, both of them lounging outside, admiring the stars, Bash freezes almost immediately but deep inside him, he knows that it’s time.
“It’s hard,” he admits, attempting to piece his words together, “it’s hard to talk about something I had – we had, but will never have again.”
Delphine’s silent for a second, listening with rapt attention, clearly expecting him to continue. Bash is hesitant and once he starts talking, he can’t seem to stop, words pouring out of him.
“Wait here,” he tells Delphine, hurrying back into the house to find his most treasured possession, knowing exactly where it was. Over the years, he’s run his fingers along the envelope so often that it became worn but he never dared to open it, knowing the words inside of it to be sacred.
He returns to his daughter mere minutes later, handing her the envelope and watching as she curiously holds on to it, “she left this for you, wanted you to have it.”
Bash kisses his daughter’s cheek, wiping tears from her face before telling her he’ll be inside. Whatever Mary wrote in that letter is between herself and Delphine, between mother and daughter so he’ll step aside, no matter how much he wants to know of the letter’s contents.
He feels the stars looming on his back as he walks away, listening to the paper rustling behind him, and briefly wonders if Mary is out there, resting in the heavens.
An hour later, Delphine will come back into the house, tears in her eyes and her heart full. Together, the two of them will talk about Mary until the sun begins to rise, both of them at peace and content.
Mary had shone as brightly as the sun but the sun must always set, no matter how hard it resists.
(Just as the sun sets, it will rise once more)