Absence

photo courtesy TheShakes72
photo courtesy TheShakes72

 

Leo’s boots parted the damp leaves that cloaked the forest floor, the heady aroma of rain and decay filling his senses. A crow, ink feathers flexing, looked down from a branch, its beak opening and closing in tranquility. Leo was tempted to launch a stick at the bird that surveyed his progress with malevolent beady eyes.

The ground slowly ascended under his feet, trees fading away with each upward step till Leo found himself stood in the clearing. He ran his fingers over the rain-beaded surfaces of the statues. She had fashioned them, vague memories stirred of being with her in the workshop, sunlight on her face as she tousled his hair. Under his touch bronze gave way to wood, wood to steel, steel to bluish-green stone, wonderful beings that he had always wanted to believe had just grown out of the ground.

A hand grasped Leo’s shoulder, his father smelling of cigarettes and deodorant, face crimson with the effort of keeping up. Leo watched his father mutter something into the silence, gesturing across the horizon to birds cutting across the sky. His hair, once a fiery red had cooled into a winter that reached down towards a yellowing collar. Leo watched him write something on the pad that eternally hung around his neck on a fine chain.

“ALRIGHT?”

Leo nodded, giving him a thumbs up. His father seemed satisfied, kneeling down, clearing dead leaves from a small bronze seedpod. Leo didn’t need to stay to know that when satisfied his father would leave a single red rose at the statue’s base, as he did each year.

Leo headed the other way towards his favourite whose plaque declared it The Lion’s Roar, his father had told him it was an odd name for an ammonite. Yet he was never present on those days when Leo would sit beside her on the beach, listening to the sea roaring within shells, the sweet scent of salt in her hair, her laughter chasing away the gulls.

A time before his world fell silent.

Leo slipped his head inside the ammonite, holding his breath, focusing everything on the darkness that engulfed him.

Hoping that today the waves would return.

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