Martha edged closer to Thomas.
‘That’s good keep up the good work.’
‘A great sermon as usual,’ Thomas said, and flourished his hands to the heavens.
‘I do try, yet so few attend these days.’
Without any movement she stared at the open plan churchyard.
‘Why don’t you visit your mum and dad’s grave, while I talk to Charles.’ Thomas said.
Martha edged away from the conversation and into the shade of the oak tree. For the first time that morning her shoulders dropped. She commenced the short walk to the graves. It was here amongst the dead, that Martha experienced a transformation. She had no reason to lie, and they didn’t tell tales.
She was engrossed with the expressions of pain, which were on the children’s graves she had to pass, of parents who had suffered the greatest loss. Tiny gravestones with fenced off play areas always made her cry. Some were as young as five months old when they died.
At least they had got to live.
She knelt in front of her parents’ headstone and removed the plastic roses from the black vase. A small bottle of water removed from her bag she wiped the petals clean. Each flower was carefully positioned around the rim.
‘Hi, Dad. Hi, Mum.’
Martha looked down at the date of their demise and sobbed into a tissue. She would give all the money in the world to see her parents one more time. ‘He’s trying his best to stay dry, but I caught him looking at the drinks cabinet the other day. I said he should throw it down the sink, so it wouldn’t be a temptation. Thomas said he was strong. The reason he kept it. To show how far we had come. But it’s only been a few weeks. I telephoned Laura the other day. It was the first time I spoke to her since I returned to Thomas. I tried to tell Laura he was different now, but she can’t forgive him. It has been promised before. Two weeks was nothing. I talked to Tabitha, and she told me about nursery, about her paintings. Inherited my talent, Laura says. I’m not so sure I had talent to begin with.’
A butterfly, white with red flecks in its wings, hovered over the headstone. It gave her comfort. Even if God had forgotten her, angels spread their wings far and wide.
‘If you could only see Tabitha Dad. She looks so much like Mum, and she is a bundle of energy. Sometimes I can’t keep up.’
The sun bore down on her shoulders, and she looked back. Thomas’s gaze was still fixed on Charles. Martha knelt on the small piece of cloth, so that her clothes weren’t stained, and wiped away the frost.
Lost in the moment she longed for all week Martha carried on. ‘Laura is working now. She asked me if I could pick Tabitha up from nursery next week. I want to, but it’s a little too early to see them again.’
Held on to the stone to support her, she gradually eased herself back up into a standing position.
‘I know what you would think, but Thomas needs me more.’