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Mothers' Day

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That night, once Bernie has steered her away from the bed and forced food down a throat that had forgotten how to swallow, Serena takes out the calendar and she counts.
There are eighty one days until mother's day.
And this year, she will not be a mother.


 


Jason hands over an envelope and a bunch of white lilies, "Elinor’s in heaven now so she couldn't sign the card - but she'd still want you to have it.”
“Oh,” Serena must choose her words carefully now, as her finger traces a sharp crease of paper, ultrasound gray. It is good paper, expensive. She can see the tiny black threads of the grain. They form dot-to-dot pictures, clumsy toddler drawings once Christened as a dog, a cat, a house (don't you see, silly, that’s its tail?) and in the corner, outstretched and trusting, a fist. It is blurry at first then comes to focus all at once, four tiny fingers, a perfect thumb. It is waving. A first hello.
Then, she blinks and an envelope is an envelope and a response comes in a voice that is surely not her own.
“That’s lovely, Jason. How about we find some water for those flowers, hm?”


Later, she is made breakfast in bed: a soft boiled egg, a haphazard assortment of pale bread soldiers left wondering what exactly they are doing on that big, empty plate. The egg is liquid. The toast is too soft, made limp with real salted butter that made the tiny slices glow sunshine-on-blonde-ponytail-gold. Serena had never been any good with eggs, either, always on the phone or glancing at the hob over a pile of paperwork, they crumbled like play-doh left to hard or dribbled bright orange down a pink toddler’s chin. Those days, she would be on hand with a tea towel or kitchen roll, ready to mop up the mess within a second of it appearing. There was never time to change her pinafore if they wanted to be at the child-minder’s before seven.
It is half past now and they have all the time in the world.


Bernie suggests they go for a walk. Fresh air makes for a sharp mind. Medical fact, should Jason ever ask. They go down a route Serena had never realised existed and whilst the grass may still be bitten, the crunch an evidence of a winter just gone, it is surprisingly warm. There are buds on the shrubbery (Oh, what was its name?) and the sunlight tastes like a gumdrop in her mouth. A single red kite weaves somewhere above them, to the delight of the boys - neither could be older than twelve - as their father ran with a string in hand, grinning all the time.


Further on, the pathway becomes difficult. There are stones. Thornes. It would be by no means ideal biking territory, she thinks, staring at the imprints on soft clay Earth, but the the fact tire suggest otherwise. Serena’s lip quirks upwards. Perhaps at first, the bike’s owner had insisted on running along behind, a cautious hand to their back, still so far from grown. The bike she saw in her head now was pink, with confetti streamers billowing from the handlebars in a constant state of celebration. There were once stabilisers on the back, the same shade of nursery-wall pink, a last-bid for safety - but the road is rough and sometimes it is not possible to pass through without the risk of scraped knees.


Then, without so much as a tug of warning, the scarf flies from her neck and soars far above them in the wind, flapping purple then blue then is too far away to tell the colour. Serena holds up her hand and it is not a call to return but a last salute to the grape-sized fist that, by instinct, had once clung to her so tightly.
And somewhere, now far across the fields, is a makeshift handkerchief of silk and it is waving goodbye.