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Sian Altman, 23 Sep '12

Through a gap in the curtain a slender shard of light crawls stealthily across the pillow to rest on my tired eyelids. I feel its warmth and think of Edie. Her voice, from the vague, cobwebbed dimness of my memory, is gentle: 'the sun is calling you Edward, you better answer it' and through the fumbles of sleep a reply; how could one refuse?

I reach for my stick and wrestle for freedom from the blankets that have wound themselves round me in restless dreaming. 'Less speed more haste'. I shuffle safely into worn out slippers and heave my weight upwards and a little to the left, as the years have decided to tilt me. Not for the first time I am reminded that mornings are better suited to the young.

When Edie died, some years ago, Anna expressed a desire for me to relocate to a smaller house; something, she explained, that would be more manageable when faced with the cooking and cleaning and gardening duties I would now have to battle alone. In truth, she worries about the stairs. A compromise meant I kept the house and she took it upon herself to frequent it often enough to ensure I had not disintegrated within. “Fathers are supposed to look after their daughters, not the other way around” I tell her, though little good it does me.

In the kitchen the fridge is empty; as it often is now. I feel its accusatory glare on my back, following my movement to the stove where, with deft hands, I make milkless tea. 'Remember to rinse out the cup.' Some mornings, more than others, I long for earlier years. I wake with the images of them and try as I might I can’t shake the feeling; the yearning for colour. I stroll through these pictures like an old photo album; thumbed at the corners; a snapshot routine: Edie in her Sunday dress; the smile in her eyes, the tiny baby girl with the blushing cheeks, the fireside family Christmas. And after this the picture blurs.

Once, when Anna was four, I swallowed a marble. She’d hidden it in a mug so as not to lose it and, not seeing it, I’d poured out my tea and swallowed it whole. In the emergency room I felt like a curious toddler, chastised for not being more careful, helpless in my own dreaded shortcomings. Edie held my hand and told me not to worry. I did anyway.

By the time Anna was seven she was little more than a muddled merging of yellows and pinks and by nine she was darkness entirely; a spectral voice moving through the house with awkward elbows and knees. A trail of strawberry scented chaos. 'A father doesn’t need to see his daughter to know she is beautiful.' But I wanted the choice.

Slowly the world would fade and the guiding hand turned to dust, and these happy snapshots, in sight, were all that stayed. My burbling baby girl; my wife with the timeless smile.

It is in the mornings that I think of Edie; easing me into the day like a ray of light. I think of the first night we met; a dancehall and a beautiful girl in a red dress who accepted my request to dance. She called me baby blue, your eyes are delightful, she said. Troublesome is what they are, I corrected; absorbing the wideness of her smile with relish. Already I wanted to remember her face; to take it all in and store it for later when the colours would start to fade and the edges to blur. And this is how I see her still.

Comments · 2

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  • Sian Altman said...

    Untold Tales Entry

    • Posted 7 years ago
  • Audrey Semprun said...

    wow with a little w - not to speak too loudly to the hush I am left with

    • Posted 7 years ago