She had always seemed to be made of sunshine. Dazzling, ardent, and if he had stared at her for too long – he was sure at times he had been blinded.
He often pictured her running towards the sun in the distance. Yet when it would seem like she was touching the sky, she would become one and the same with it. Everlasting, ever changing - and that was how the memory of her had stayed with him after all these years. A woman whose radiant light would change his life for all of his time to come.
It was in moments like these that he would get up from his seat in the dining room of his house and walk over to look outside, where he might have once seen Linnea, scouring the garden for unwanted weeds whilst humming to herself. His little girls Jasmine and Azalea might’ve once been outside playing, pretending to be either dainty fairies or colourful butterflies. He would see all three of them, turning back to smile at his younger self. Then as fleetingly as he would reach out an old withered hand to grasp those times back, they vanished like light being sapped from day.
And all that would be left in the dark of his shrouded memories would be her. The remaining slither of moonlight that shone from a door that he would only keep open by a crack.
And now he here he was. Stood before her, and she was beneath the ground. He never thought a gravestone could look so strangely beautiful in isolation. He would never have thought a gravestone could be beautiful up until he had seen this one. He only thought of it for a moment to take his mind elsewhere from the past and now, both coming back to greet him like old ghosts.
It was like asking if he could turn back the clock, what would he change that could make things any different now? It left him lost for words.
Around him the graveyard was blooming with trees and flowers as the air seemed to descend heavily on the atmosphere – silence in this place, in this moment in time, was definitely louder than any noise that could be made.
He looked up to see a few metres away from, a young girl who was crying. Her shoulders were shaking with sobs where she had crouched over on the floor, her hands brought to her eyes in an attempt to wipe away the cascading tears. Frowning as he looked around to see no one else in sight, he slowly but cautiously made his way over to the girl, though he doubted his presence or anything he could say would offer any comfort.
“Hello there.” He murmured when he stopped in front of her. When the girl looked up at him in alarm, he took a step back. Swallowing, he looked to the spot where she had been sat crying in front of – like everywhere else of course, there was a gravestone. And fairly new, judging by the fresh carvings in stone.
“I’m sorry…I just came by today and…I didn’t think anyone else would be here other than me…” The girl replied apologetically, looking slightly embarrassed whilst wiping her face again for anymore tears. He looked at her, pulling a handkerchief from his coat pocket and holding it out in offering.
“You don’t need to apologise. You have just as much right to come here as I do.” He replied, waiting patiently for the girl to hesitantly take the handkerchief before rising to her feet. She looked at him more closely, perhaps even thoughtfully, as though she saw something in him that she saw in herself.
The two stood together silently for a moment, only turning once to see a bluebird landing on a tree branch and making it shake so that the overnight drew dripped like raindrops onto the ground.
“I hate saying goodbye.” The girl stated, dropping her head as though she wished she were a drop of water that could dissolve into the ground.
He raised his head to look at the sky, finding no voice that could add or take away any more meaning than what was already true in the girl’s words.
Just as he was about to say something, a distressed looking woman came up to the gate nearby, staying behind it as she shot him a wary look.
“Iris! There you are, sweetheart. Come on, the funeral party is due to start and we’ll be late.” The woman called out to the girl, who promptly nodded before looking back at him with a wan smile.
“Thank you.” She said to him, holding the handkerchief close to her heart and swiftly turning on her heel to walk to the gate. She was whisked away before he even had a chance to return the thank you.
He looked back at the gravestone he had come to visit, his eyes watering as they looked into the sun. He tipped his head back, welcoming the pale light, its rays still strong enough to render him momentarily sightless. As rainbows began to appear in his vision, he could’ve sworn that he had seen her face.
“Iris…” He breathed, “Iris…”