Saturday 27 June 2015

'From Home' by Cassandra Parkin

When she Instagrams her wedding, the photographs are heart-stopping. On the black lava beach, his hand spans her taut belly-curve rising beneath delicate muslin.

You married a Viking, you lucky girl! Sophie’s spirit, conjured by her words, hovers comfortingly in the warm farmhouse. And Iceland looks amazing. I’m jealous! Sophie has a round face and brown hair, and the bewitching habit of guileless envy. Jane smiles, and adds their honeymoon.

Oh my God, he’s GORGEOUS! And a baby soon too! You’re SO LUCKY!!! Did you photograph an Arctic Fox for me?

Jane bites her lip. She doesn’t like admitting failure.

Never mind. You’ve got forever. I miss you though L

Forever should thrill her, so why does it feel so cold? Perhaps it’s the chill as he comes inside, shaggy beneath his winter beard. Perhaps it’s the way his eyes slide off her, focused on the next task she can’t help him with, because she’s not a farm-worker and nobody needs a photographer and the cornsilk hair he marvelled at has two inches’ growth at the roots and the slender shape he loved is buried beneath the growing mountain of their child. She strokes her belly, thinking, at least -

He takes a rifle from the cabinet.

“I saw fox-prints by the chicken-house.”

On their honeymoon, browsing dreamily for souvenirs, she found a clutch of fox-fur stoles hanging quietly in a shop window. She recalls his blank bewilderment at her distress, and the sensation of falling as they saw themselves reflected in each other’s eyes.

That night she dreams a vixen, trotting through snow. The vixen tears at her belly. When she wakes, the sheets are scarlet.

I’m so sorry, Sophie writes. How can I help? I tried to call, she adds a few weeks later. A few weeks after that, I miss you.

At Midwinter, she finally leaves her den. Her camera thumping against her chest, she turns her horse’s head towards white-gold mountains.

                Lying in snow, Tryggur pawing for grass, she sees it at last; the swift-trotting shape, the sharp little face, the lustrous fur. As she presses the shutter, their eyes meet. Frozen perfection. I can, she thinks, then, I am, I am…

Then the sky darkens and all she can see is shapes the wind makes in the snow. Does Tryggur know the way? Is he lost too? Or is he already home?

                She realises she’s going to live when she sees lights coming towards her. He throws himself out of the truck and pulls her into its bright accusing warmth. His hands clutch so hard it hurts.

                “I photographed a fox,” she says. “For Sophie.”

                “All winter in our bedroom. And now this. I don’t understand.”

                “I know you don’t. You didn’t cry when he died -”

                “Of course I cried. But someone had to keep going.”

                In his gaze she sees frozen grief. He offers her an envelope. The handwriting hurts her heart.

                “You have a letter,” he tells her. “From home.”

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