To move the sofa you have to first shift the pile of books balanced rickety on the coffee table, then the half-read gardening magazines with their seed packets – the uninspiring ones – still stuck sadly on the covers. You feel worse about binning the seeds than you do the books you will never read because they are all murder mysteries, the kind given prominence in supermarkets and airport shops, and not your thing at all. There are two mugs lurking beneath the table, hidden by another pile of books and, inexplicably, an exercise ball the size of a watermelon. One of the mugs you gave her two years ago, and it makes you pause, and then you shake yourself, put both quickly into the nearest box and turn away. It’s best not to stop, you’ve found.
So, table out. It’s old and dark, with snakes carved darkly at the tops of the legs, and you remember vaguely that it was her sisters before. You should keep it. You will regret not doing so, but the same could be said for almost everything and where on earth do you draw the line? You wish there was a manual for this. The sofa at least is easy, on the front garden for collection, the patchy sunlight showing wear from a thousand nice sit downs with a cup of tea. The TV out likewise, the DVD player last used god knows when. More books packed for charity. You are avoiding the mantelpiece.
You sort the DVDs into piles for charity and unutterable obsolescence, you find last year’s diary and cannot look, and cannot look. You got her that too. A picture of flowers backlit by sunlight on the cover, photos of flowers for every week. The page edges are irregular and off white from all the times her fingers have riffled through them seeking, and you remember her on the phone once, planning a visit and as she turned the page, exclaiming at the photo. ‘Oh, well that’s lovely,’ you said, ‘you don’t see tradescantias much anymore. I do like them. I wonder if you can grow them from seed, do you know? Maybe I can order some and see, what do you-’ You’d interrupted her. Because you were at work, and because you didn’t realise there would be a day like today. Or you did, of course you did, but you never thought it would actually come.
The diary goes in the rubbish bag. You turn away, turn back and pull it out. You will throw it away, you tell yourself, but there may be addresses in there that you’ll need, or phone numbers. So not yet, but soon.
The chair goes out to the lawn, the TV table. The footstool you’ll keep. It is dented in the middle with the memory of repose, not hers but his, and she kept it for the same reason you are. The leather is cracked around the studs and you aren’t sure it will survive the children but when you run your fingers around its edges, it is warm.
You are avoiding the mantelpiece.
A cup of tea first, you think, to strengthen you. You drink it standing, staring out at the sunlight instead of the half-hollow room, dust wavers in the air with the memory of movement, yours, perhaps hers. You ache, you breathe.
How is this ever borne?
You sweep everything on the mantelpiece into a box unlooked at, almost fast enough to shatter glass, almost angrily. Not angrily at all, but it feels similar. You hold the closed box against your ribs and it does not weigh enough, you think. None of this has weighed nearly enough.
Having spent many years working in remote corners of the world, Loarraine now lives by the sea in Scotland writing stories that are touched by folklore and the wilderness. Her debut novel, This Is Our Undoing, was released this August with Luna Press Publishing. She also has short stories in several anthologies and magazines including Strange Horizons, Forge Lit, The Mechanics’ Institute Review and Boudicca Press. Twitter: @raine_clouds Instagram: @raine_clouds_writes Website: shadowsonwater.wordpress.com