fiction short story Trace

Endings

The cyclical nature of life, family and grief is explored in Emilie Kristensen-McLachlan's short story.

By Emilie Kristensen-McLachlan

My cheeks prickled and my hair kept blowing in front of my eyes. Mum was on the path in front of me leading the way past the familiar graves with unknown names. She always visited on the same dates every year. I wasn’t always back to come with her but this Christmas Eve I was home. We stopped at Grandad’s grave on the top of the hill on the south-facing side of the church. I put down the candle I had been holding and leaned over to try and light it. The wind kept forcing its way into the smallest cracks in the shelter I was trying to make with my body. My fingers were stiff after just a few moments outside the knitted protection of the glove. The wick remained unlit. The smell of sulphur was blown away so fast I was unsure whether I had imagined it. Mum was picking up dead flowers and any of autumn’s overlooked leaves.

We always walked the same way back to the car. Past my great-grandparents, to the right of their siblings and left of their children. We went through the short alley of trees and mum pointed over to the right.

‘And that’s where my godmother lies.’

I stopped next to her and while she admired the rose headstone of Elsa Pedersen I looked back up at the church. The lime-washed exterior looked exactly like every other village church in the area. The same kind of tower rising over the same kind of nave. Yet this particular one stood out to me. The backdrop of us.

“The white gold was glowing, revealing that there wasn’t yet a scratch on the smooth surface of my new piece of jewellery.”

I saw my mum standing perfectly still in front of a grave we didn’t usually include on our route. I walked over to her and read the inscription. Thomas Nielsen & Anne Nielsen. Thomas passed away at fifty. Anne didn’t even make it to twenty-two. I stole a glance at mum. Without me saying anything, she started talking.

‘I went to school with Anne. Thomas, that was her dad.’ She said it fast like they were declarations to get rid of, forcing them out one by one; a metronome on overtime. The two of them had gone into town to collect Anne’s wedding dress. On the way back a truck drove right out in front of the car. Mum paused.

‘Anne’s mum never really got over it.’ Then, she was quiet again. She seemed lost in thought for a moment before she squeezed the dead flowers in her hand, almost like an ‘on you go’, and walked over to the compost bin. I squatted down, took off my glove and touched the stone. A-N-N-E. In the wind, my wedding ring felt like ice against my finger. The white gold was glowing, revealing that there wasn’t yet a scratch on the smooth surface of my new piece of jewellery.


Emilie Kristensen-McLachlan| @emiliedotkm | emiliedotkm.wordpress.com

Emilie is a writer and journalist based in Denmark. She recently made the move from Glasgow to Aarhus. Her work primarily consists of flash fiction, short stories and essays.

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