Woman moving away, piles of boxes, looks sad and wistful

Such joy, eclipsed by so much sadness – it seems letting go is the only way to move forward

In her dream, they were racing through a forest of silver birch. Rain peppered the ground with silver dots and splashed onto the papery white branches so they shone in the moonlight.

In her dream they were running, side by side; they were laughing, heading for some distant castle.

She could feel his warmth, the solidity of him beside her.

Even though it was only a dream.

In her dream he never let go of her hand. The smell of rain-washed earth mingled with the scent of man.

In her dream there was love, and it painted the sky crimson.

But that was before…

She remembers a white dress, a church full of flowers and an avenue of daffodils, their nodding heads like beacons of hope.

She remembers their guests dancing and getting drunk and falling asleep on the stairs.

She remembers his eyes. His blue eyes. The shiver of his kiss on her bare shoulder.

But that was long ago…

In her dream now he has let go of her hand. He has let go of her heart. His eyes are sad and bluely distant.

When the rain stops, stills the air, there is no sound to be heard, not even the cry of a night bird, no words to light up the dark sky.

Just the tiniest ache of memory.

Now she looks down and her wedding dress is torn and grey. Spoiled like confetti in the rain.

Eclipsed by the memory of a small white box being lowered into a rectangle of freshly dug earth.

In the reality of a Friday morning she is sitting in her kitchen, surrounded by packing boxes.

There are ghostly oblongs on the walls where the pictures have been. Everything is packed, ready to go.

Except, perhaps, for her.

She hears the creak of the floorboards from upstairs and she pictures him walking around the house, taking one final look in each room, to make sure they haven’t left anything behind.

Anything that they cherish… apart, of course, from their love – where did that go?

She hugs her arms around herself for a moment. Maybe he will find it in a dusty corner somewhere, skittering out of his grasp.

Their old love – what shape would it take?

Traditionally it would be a heart, wouldn’t it? A little dented, a little crushed.

Last night in her dream it had taken the shape of their long-ago wedding.

Not that long ago – only seventeen years. A whisper of a marriage against her parents’ forty-five.

She had thought they would be together for a lifetime.

Maybe they would have been if it hadn’t been for Ailsa.

She closes her eyes against the memory of her third child.

A tiny white box and an oblong of freshly turned earth.

Their child, she thinks with a twist of pain, not just hers.

Maybe that’s why they have come to this – another ending filled with grief. Because she knows she has not let him in.

Suddenly he is there, in the doorway. The outline of him, solid and dark.

“All set?”

She nods and stands up.

“The removal van’s late,” he says.

“Good.” She moves towards him. “I don’t want this, Mathew.”

“You don’t want to leave. You don’t want to stay. What don’t you want?”

There is pain in his eyes, and wariness. They have got so used to seeing those things in each other.

She knows her words are far too late, but she says them anyway.

“I do still want us to leave this house but I don’t want us to split up.”

For a heartbeat he doesn’t move.

Then he holds out his arms and they stand in the stillness of their dismantled kitchen, their dismantled home.

When they finally pull apart, she sees his face and she thinks that the shape of love is his smile.

Just the faintest of smiles, and in his eyes something she hasn’t seen for a long time. Hope.

In her dream, love wasn’t enough. But in reality, as he wipes a tear from her face, his touch as tender as it has ever been, she realises that love and hope combined – well, that just might be.

We’re sharing another tender story from our archives every Monday and Thursday during July. Look out for the next in the series.

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