When we sit next to one another in the arbour, I always sit on the right. The climbing roses have taken and they wind themselves in and out of the lattice. We must look a pair, sitting there for hours on end, nattering about this and that with our glasses of lemon barley water and drop scones. Sometimes we talk about plans for the garden and what’s going on in the village; more often our children and grandchildren come up.
It was our children that gave us this arbour for our diamond wedding anniversary. The best present we’ve ever had. It came with a honeysuckle plant, because they know how much we love it. We weaved it in amongst the roses and when it flowers, the scent quite overpowers me.
Honeysuckle. I remember when we first came to this house, looking for somewhere to bring up our children we hoped one day to be blessed with. It was the garden that did it for us, the garden that this arbour now sits in. We had just walked round the pond, filled with minnows and bottle blue dragonflies skimming the surface when she stopped in her tracks on the path. I remember her turning, her lovely pale, freckled arm reaching out towards me and her lips curling into a smile.
"Honeysuckle," she said. "Can you smell it? Can you?
And when I smell it now, I look at her and I think of that moment. I look at her arms, still pale and beautiful. And I look at the summer light slanting in diamonds through the lattice and falling on her hands. I marvel that these hands, so twisted with arthritis, can still make biscuits. Can still wind the grandfather clock. Can still play the piano. They are small, solid, decisive. Freckled like her arms which to me look no different from when she was a girl.
When dusk starts to fall and the shadows of the arbour and the apple tree which it sits beneath grow longer, I turn to look at her. And, as her lovely spirit starts to fade into the lattice, I stretch my arm towards her and whisper, "Please don’t go."
And then I realise I’m confused. That’s she’s no longer with me. Or is she? She is so real. I can still hear her girlish laugh; smell the lavender of her skin; see the waves of her auburn hair. She is real. She is real. No, she has not left me.
When we sit next to one another in the arbour, I always sit on the right. And I feel that thrill and pride, as I always do, that tonight this enchanting woman will be with me. Only with me.
-Rebecca Stonehill has just moved back from India where she blogged about life there through her three year old daughter's eyes at http://www.adventuringmaya.blogspot.com. She has had several short stories published but dreams of hitting the big time with her novel.
-Photography by Christopher Barrio
-Model in Photographs: Richard Pollard