Picture it: the cemetery looks bleached. Detergent edges between the living and the dead, cotton-fresh duvets spread over beautified bones. My mother kneels, her back to me. Blonde hair spilling over the collar of a padded scarlet jacket; colour shocking against the snow, maternal blood. She looks like a fairytale. The kind where innocence never returns from the forest, where gingerbread trails lead nowhere. Where a smell of burning wolf-hair stalks around every corner. Where a hug is never quite an embrace. Flurrying skies, that day— holding back the tenderest kiss of flakes. Flowers sleeping bright on burnt-toast soil.
I study the engraving over and over as the wind picks up; a minor tornado of ice and fluff pushes us together, when we'd both rather be apart. I erupted from her body with a yawn rather than a scream; sometimes I wonder if the universe made a mistake, if instead she should have oozed from me. I'm taller, stronger; I've eaten my nightmares and sweated my hopes out in bursts, while she seems as young as she did when we first matched height.
We struggle back to the car, snow-blind. She sits, head bowed, with both hands on the wheel. Five and seven. The engine waits patiently, as I do, and I remember I could smell nothing, nothing at all.
Lindz McLeod's short stories have been published by the Scotsman newspaper, the Scottish Book Trust, Twist in Time, and more. She has published poetry with Allegory Ridge, Hellebore, Grain Magazine, and more. She is represented by Headwater Literary Management.