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Saturday, 8 February 2020

Flash Fic Challenge: Waiting For You

Waiting For You

Alice leaned her elbows on a marble slab and watched as Antonia's coffin was brought in. Against the cold, pale, walls of the mausoleum, the black clothing of the few mourners looked like smudges of smoke. Like smoke, they didn't stay long, but drifted away, splitting between the main house, and the cars that would carry them even further. They didn't notice or speak to her, but then she always had blended into the background rather well.

Antonia had noticed her, but then Antonia was - herself. Bright firelight to Alice's moonlight, warm and inviting and getting into things and places that she shouldn't. They'd first met on a winter's day when the clouds had hung low and dark like a shawl pulled tight against the cold. They hadn't touched then, of course. Antonia had been so young, and so alive, blazing with delight at finding someone to talk to. And talk they had, for so many snatched hours, as many as Antonia could spare.

"Go," Alice had told her, the last time Antonia had been out here. "Live life to the full. Live and laugh, love and learn, as you are made to. I'll wait for you, for as long as it takes. I'll be here when you come home again." And now here she was again, hair gone to starlight, eyes framed in laughter lines, reading callouses on her old hands.

Everyone else had left, except for the workman. He closed the lid on Antonia's dead body, pulled welder's goggles over his eyes, and sealed the lead lining on the coffin. The tomb closed, the man left.

Alice drifted closer. "Olly-olly-in-free!" she teased.

Antonia's ghost sat up through the lid of the coffin, looking only a little older than the young woman who had helped Alice grow ivy over her tomb. "You waited," she said, sounding surprised.

"As I promised," Alice retorted, with a wide, delighted, grin. "You haven't changed."

"Neither have you," Antonia quipped back. "But that's to be expected. It has been a while though, hasn't it?"

"Just a few decades." Alice extended her hand and bowed over it, courtly style. "May I have the pleasure of this dance, my little dearling?"

Antonia laid her hand in Alice's and stepped down from the tomb, as elegant as any courtly lady of Alice's time. "The pleasure is mine," she said, "and I have so much to tell you."

"I missed you," Alice admitted, "but we have all the time in the world now."

They ran together, ghostly hand in ghostly hand, down the line of marble slabs, past Antonia's new, sharp-edged carvings, past Alice's older resting place where the ivy hid the name she'd been wrongly buried under, until they came to the empty end. And there, unshadowed by loss, they danced by the light of the moon.

1 comment:

Jeff Baker said...

Oh, that's wonderful! Loved it!