It Should Have Been a Perfect Day
by Cath Barton
We were lucky with the weather; it had been dry for weeks and there was warmth in the air from morn till night. Her mother had made us a feast. Spread her best tablecloths on the grass – nothing too good for a wedding, she’d said when we protested – and laid it all out. Sylvie had clapped her hands as if she were five years old again and I’d picked her up and whirled her round. There were sunbeams in her hair that day, dancing fairies, and I was puffed with pride that she was my girl.
‘Now and always,’ I said, over and over that day.
We’d picked flowers from the garden. The brightest colours for the brightest of days. We’d taken anything and everything we could find in the kitchen to use as vases – mugs and jam jars as well as the Kilner jars that had held the preserved apricots and peaches her mother had made into tarts.
‘Bottled sunshine,’ she’d said.
We smiled. It felt to us that day as if the sun would shine for ever. The sky was cloudless. Until. There’s always an until. I knew that, even then.
It was early evening. The feast had been eaten, leftover cream poured into saucers for the cats and pie crusts thrown to the chickens. Her mother had gathered up the tablecloths, laughed about the wine stains, said everything comes out in the wash. Some of our friends had plucked flowers from the jars and made them into garlands. They put them around our necks, mine and Sylvie’s. The colours shone in the dimming light. A fiddler had appeared. Others were due. There was to be dancing. Her mother had put candles in the emptied jars, hung them in the low branches of the apple trees. And then we hear the cry.
I remember, mostly, the running and the shouting and then his mother, holding him, her world destroyed. He was a young boy. Maybe three years old. Younger than the son Sylvie and I have now. The boy we hold to us, in fearful love. Until we have to let him go. As we know we will have to do.
Cath Barton lives in Wales. She has two novellas published, The Plankton Collector (2018) from New Welsh Review and In the Sweep of the Bay (2020) from Louise Walters Books.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'Red Flower, Yellow Flower'