Looking Up

As Mary prepares to move on, she must first look to the stars

It is late afternoon, cold with a chilly wind. Mary stares out of her kitchen window morosely, then, on the spur of the moment, decides to follow her husband’s grand hobby.

Tonight will be the only night, she thinks ruefully. Tomorrow she will be moving to her new, smaller home in another district. Finally she has agreed to live near her daughter, and tomorrow the family will arrive to take her to theirs, while the removal men will come to collect her things.

Forty-five years is a lifetime to live in one house filled with countless memories.

Filled with determination, Mary begins, nervously, to climb the stepladder to the loft which hasn’t been emptied yet. The ladder seems so high, but, in a frenzy of excitement, she pushes her heavy old legs up until she manages to open the trapdoor.

Somehow she manages to heave herself up and sits down with a plop on the hard wooden floor.

Reaching up to switch on the light, Mary looks around her. This is the first time she has been in the loft. Jack
always did this job.

Hastily, Mary rubs tears from her eyes on the sleeve of her cardigan, and, leaning forward begins to rummage through the well ordered boxes.

Stuff they had decided wasn’t needed, yet too memorable to throw away. Old books, photos, children’s toys and favourite games.

She clasps her hands together and glancing to her left, spies what she is searching for.

Carefully pulling it over towards her, she inspects it, finding it still as good as new.

For a moment she holds it to her, reflecting the way Jack would reverently use it, which makes her yearn to do the same, before her daughter and family arrive to take her to the bungalow.

“This damp old house is too big for you now you are older. Sell up and live near to us,” Melanie, her daughter, had urged. Mary agrees it will be for the best but, she has so many memories.

“Time for you to enjoy the future,” they are all fond of saying.

Yet her past had been so wonderful, what did the future for an old woman possibly hold?

Mary sighs. How on earth can she return to the bedroom with this item and climb down the ladder at the same time?

Now she smiles as she spots her old knitting basket standing in the far corner.Edging over to it, she finds the thickest wool she has and ties her prize to the front of her until she feels it is safe and secure.

Nervously, Mary manages to climb back down the ladder, until she has reached the landing once more.

Sweat is pouring from her, but also a certain pride. She managed it.

Left the light on, but no matter, her son-in-law can turn it off tomorrow.

Sitting on her bed, Mary begins to chuckle. Jack had so enjoyed using this.

Outside the late afternoon has turned to night, blackness leaning over the land, but it is a clear night and already a few stars are peering down.

Mary cleans the dusty old telescope and goes downstairs and outside. She has on her thick coat, to keep away the winter’s chill.

Chuckling, Mary positions it and begins to stare upwards through the hole just as Jack had shown her, all those years ago.

“Oh, yes, wonderful,” she cries, staring up at the stars.

They appear so close. Sirius. Orion. Vega. Mary is amazed she still remembered the names of so many formations.

She is searching for the brightest one. She named it, Jack, then.

Over to the left – it’s there, it’s there. A beautiful, twinkling delight.

Staring, she remembers such fun times they had together and can’t help laughing happily, until she spots another star, a smaller one in the distance. Jack named it Michael, for their lost boy.

Gone from them when little, now forever chasing across the universe, waiting for them to join him.

She can hear Jack’s voice attempting to describe the wonder of space, noting the planets. But she hadn’t been interested.

Look Mary, there is my mum and your brother, and over there is our lost boy.

She gazes at the dark shadows in the garden that momentarily become her two children at play. Again she looks into the telescope remembering Jack telling her, They are not gone, but here – the stairway to heaven.

Now, wrapping her coat tightly round her she stumbles indoors and makes a cup of tea.

A whole lifetime that has suddenly faded away. Yet not gone.

She claps her hands together realising that where ever she is, she will still be close to them.

The stairway to heaven, watching, waiting as she carves out her new future. Her brightest star, still there, following her, keeping her safe.

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