Stars -- A Short
He looked up at the stars. Lights poked out of the ink-blotted sky. He saw the moon, a mirrored C. Veils of clouds were smudged across the sparkling dots, across the deep blue.
The air was crisp and nibbling away on his nose. It was biting at his cheeks, and he buried his face deeper into the yellow cotton scarf. The scarf had been a Christmas present from his grandmother last year. A piece she knitted herself. He cherished it – more than anything in the world. But it didn’t smell like her any more: the tangy scent of her age and the soft yet prominent aroma of cinnamon. She had smelled like Christmas eve.
Her spirit had been that of a cosy, lit fireplace. An evening of baking cookies in the kitchen, bright candles their silent witness. Of sweet apples, of cherry pies, of vanilla, of home.
In the end all she had smelled like was medicine. The bitter, angry, nasty, revolting smell of liquid, promising to make her all better. But they hadn’t. They had made her worse.
He blinked. His cold lids met the warm tears that gathered in his eyes. He buried his face deeper into his scarf.
He hated the memory of her in that bed for invalids. Her fleshy hands had gone bony and malnourished. Her skin had gone yellow and sickly.
His mum had warned him against visiting her. But he had snuck in. He couldn’t leave her alone.
She had coughed, her voice quivering more than usual. The merry Christmas spirit had left her voice and her eyes were small and shrunken.
Upon seeing him, her face had lit up like the fairy lights and he smelled cookies and cinnamon. He came closer and she put a cold hand against his cheek. She said she loved him, and he said it too. And then she spoke no more. The fairy lights went out as if someone tripped on the cable and unplugged the lights. Her face went dark, and her eyes closed.
He had called out to her, first in concern, gripping at her arm. Then in panic. His eyes went wide and hot. The bitter smell of medicine, of disinfection, of old skin – reality – hit him all at once and he couldn’t deny it any longer: happy times were a thing of the past.
He had screamed out to her. Had shouted for her to wake up so loudly that his mother burst in and pulled him away.
That was the last time he had seen her. He hated that memory, that picture of her cold face. Of the skin fallen into her skeleton.
He preferred them laughing, singing along to Christmas carols. Her laughter dancing in the candle light. Their singing twirling through the melody, among the spices and echoing in their ears.
The tears were falling now, running down, racing into the thick cotton of his scarf.
He missed her. He missed her a lot. All he had to remember her by was the scarf – and it didn’t smell like her any more.
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