HomecomingThey let her out of the home the other day. Said it would do her good. She was becoming too institutionalised, just sitting there all the time, staring out of the window and talking to it. He had tried to resist, saying he couldn’t cope. Said his heart was playing up. But they were having none of it. Expenditure cuts and all that. Everybody had to tighten their belts. It would only be for a weekend they said. Surely that wouldn’t be too much of a strain. She was his wife after all.

He collected her on the Saturday morning. She hadn’t changed. She was still wearing the old striped cardigan with the traces of egg stains engrained across her breasts and her hair was still matted on her forehead like a wig. She emerged with it tucked underneath her arm. It was wrapped in a shawl with only its head protruding. It stared at him trancelike.

‘Couldn’t leave him on his own,’ she smiled, pushing it forward and manoeuvring herself into the passenger seat next to him, ‘he’d get lonely without me. Might have just flown away.’ She placed it on her lap.

‘He’ll be getting hungry soon. Hope you’ve got some nice fish in for him. He likes his treats at teatime,’ she said, stroking its head.

He turned and smiled nervously. She nodded and pulled it towards her, cuddling it.

‘He’s been a good friend, he has. Always watching out for me. Always making sure those pigeons keep their distance. Bloody vermin.’

He drove her home, placed her in her favourite chair near the french windows and left to make her some tea. When he returned, she was gone. The shawl lay on the chair, crumpled. He checked outside but there was no sign of her. He rushed upstairs and scoured the rooms but she was nowhere to be found.

He picked up the phone and was about to dial when he stared out of the bedroom window. That’s when he saw her. She was face down in the pool. He was about to rush out but he just stopped and stared as her body sank into the murky water. She didn’t struggle and just disappeared slowly. A few bubbles floated to the surface, and then there was only stillness.

He stood there for a while, staring at the pond. He lit a cigarette and blew the smoke into the air, watching it spiral upwards before being sucked out and disappearing over the garden. He turned, sat on the bed and stared at her photograph. She was on a pier laughing, trying to hold down her skirt and stop it blowing up around her waist. A tear ran down his face. He dialled.

They fished her out quite quickly and laid her on the grass. She looked serene and happy, contented almost. Her eyes were wide open staring upwards at the blue sky and white fluffy clouds. Her arms were wrapped around her chest, clutching it, holding it tightly.

The heron stared at him as if it knew. He smiled and stroked its head. Its cold plastic head.

© Graham Walker 2012

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user chiotsrun.

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