Originally posted here, on Halloween. A few minor edits along the way, though the illustration that went along with it does still relate to the story. We had some wind in Savannah, and it reminded me of this story. So today felt like the sort of day to put this up.
On All Hallow’s Eve, A story of Rodille
by A. M. Bell
It was not uncommon to find her there, at the graveside. Even years after the grass had grown over the turned earth from when he had been buried, Rodille could be found there often. More often since the children were all grown and mostly independent from the house.
The sun had long since set by the time she left the house. This was not a problem. Even the veil she wore did not impede her progress. Neither it nor the dark bothered her, she knew the way. She would probably walk the same steps if she was blind, until she simply joined him beneath the tree.
At her loneliest, she took breakfast there, shaded by the tree, seated at a table carried out by the gardener. But only when the children were gone, and could not see. They would not understand, she knew, the pain she felt, or the loneliness. Rodille knew that their children missed their father, but not in the same way that she missed her husband.
It was not the place of a child to miss him as she did.
Whether they were home or not, she spent this night with the grave.
As she headed down towards the tree, a breeze picked up.
His grave was in his favorite spot. She could recall him here, easily. The skew of his white collar over his jacket as he leaned against the tree. The pale fall of his hair against the dark bark.
She cast a glance over her shoulder, back up the path towards the house, and hoped that neither Leon nor Mardigale had seen her leave. Or that if they had they would not recognize that it was there mother who went out veiled into the night. Leon was worried about her health, of course, but this was not something to hurt it, despite the chill of the evening air or the cold of the ground beneath her bare feet.
“Cershe,” she said as she neared the stone.
The wind gently rustled the veil, almost as if in greeting. The noises were soft, as though mindful of her unpracticed ears to true sound.
It was strange, the relief she felt as she neared the tree and the grave that lay beneath it. The oppressive, empty feeling that followed her throughout the house could not come there. The dreadful silence of the empty rooms and servants with kind eyes but no seeming tongues was lifted. Here the wind played gently in the leaves that still clung to the old tree. There was air here to breathe, which was a blessing when so much of the world felt devoid of it.
And it felt like he was breathing beside her, when the leaves rustled.
Rodille sank to her knees slowly, mindful of the age that had robbed her of what grace she could once claim, and how little she had been walking of late. She tucked her knees at her side and adjusted the blanket around her shoulders.
Turning slightly, she let her eyes rest on the stone that marked his end. It had long since ceased to trouble her, the sight of it. It had become a comfort.
A superstition brought her out on that night every year, one that had never panned from hope into satisfaction. It did not stifle her hope, so she continued to come, even though she knew that if she did manage to see him he would not come back for long.
She had always wondered if the pain would come back after seeing him again.
Sitting as she was, time passed. Her eyes drifted shut, and she swayed, head turning back towards the old tree.
The wind rustled, and it sounded like he sighed.
Her veil shifted in the breeze, and her sleepy mind supplied the feeling of touch against her cheek just like the brush of his knuckles that she had not felt for so many years now.
Keeping her eyes closed, she tilted her cheek into that imaginary feeling.
“I love you, Cershe,” she said softly.
The tree rustled in the wind again, and shifting of leaves and branches sounded almost like words. Words that were supplied by her imagination. ‘And I you.’
The wind fluttered around her, and she opened her eyes quickly. The veil flapped in the breeze that curled beneath the branches, but there was nothing there that she could see through the twisting of it.
Why was the sky so light?
Turning, Rodille saw that the first shades of blue had long since colored the night into dusk, and turned back to the tree. How late had she come? How long had she dozed?
Her heart stung to think she had slept away the night with him, but the leaves of the tree rustled again as the breeze died down, and the pain she expected did not come. Instead, she felt warm.
Rising, stiffly, she turned back towards the house. Dew clung to the blanket wrapped around her, cold and still as the night she had missed.
Turning, she heaved a fond sigh, eyes lingering on the stone. “Goodnight,” she said softly.
The breeze tried to shift, but the leaves barely shook this time.
Glancing up at the tree, Rodille smiled and touched her lips through the veil.
The blue was becoming orange over the trees, the sun was up. She turned her bare, cold feet back towards the house and picked her way home.
~ Andrea M. Bell (c) 2009