[Our tale takes place in Victorian 19th century Britain]
Lucinda was completely exhausted. Most women of 25 would be vibrant and bubbling with energy. Currently her spirits felt completely deflated. As the winter months loomed, they brought back painful memories of how her wonderful, beloved husband Jim had been cruelly snatched away from her at such a young age in a sudden mining accident. The whole of the underground structure had collapsed. 29 innocent lives had been lost that day, including Lucinda’s soul. Part of her died that day. Jim was the love of her life, they brought out the best in each other and were soul mates. Lucinda and her small son Thomas had been left to fend for themselves, living off the small package of money they had been given as compensation, but what was that compared to a life? Thomas reminded her of Jim every day, they had the same smile and similar mannerisms. In Thomas a part of Jim lived on.
A bitter chill filled the darkening air as the Winter frost drew in sneakily. Thomas perched on his bed, drawing images with his fingers upon the thin sheet of ice which had formed across the window pane. Lucinda sat by the fire a million miles away, lost in thought. She warmed her numbed fingers, holding her hands a short distance away from the glowing embers, in attempt to restore them to working condition. She wished to complete her piece of small tapestry. There was little avail, so Lucinda gave in and wandered over to the window and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“What are you drawing darling?”
The warmth of Thomas’s fingers had melted the ice, causing the thawed water to trickle down the pane like falling tears.
“Us” was his short answer.
Lucinda could determine 3 people, drawn in a usual child-like fashion. They had stick-like arms and a round circle for hands with 5 stick fingers spurting off each one. To the left was a taller stick man. A lump rose to Lucinda’s throat.
“Is that Daddy?” she whispered fighting back the tears, willing herself not to cry.
“Yes! How did you know?” Thomas sounded delighted and continued in a very small, saddened voice“I wish he was still here. I wonder what he’s doing now in heaven?”
Lucinda could barely speak, her eyes filled to the brim with tears, the emptiness inside her ached more than ever. She composed herself as quickly as she could. ‘I must be strong’ she thought. She hesitated for a few more moments.
“Well, I imagine that he’s with Grandma and Granddad and he’s made lots of new friends”
She tried to stop the tears but it was impossible, they flowed down her pale cheeks stinging slightly as they fell. Thomas clambered onto her knee and buried his face in Lucinda’s neck. She sensed the comfort and security of his small arms around her and held the child closer still.
“You never have to say sorry, we need to remember him. I just miss your Dad so, so much”
“Me too Mum. But don’t worry I’ll look after us”
Lucinda laughed and smiled. Her tiny pint-sized son was a darling with dark brown curls and sweet dimples, just like his Dad.
“I know you will Tommy. Your Dad would be so proud of us!” She swiftly changed the subject to enlighten the saddened mood. “Now how’s about I make us some cocoa?”
Thomas nodded enthusiastically.The kettle hung above the heat of the black range. The fire still glowed, heating the small house. She fetched 2 mugs and took a cloth to grasp the burning hot handle. She carefully handed Thomas his mug.
“Just be careful, it’s hot”
Thomas blew on his drink ,so the bubbles ran to the outer edge of the mug like frog spawn and formed a semi-circle. They drank their cocoa and soon settled back to sleep.
The next day was Sunday which meant one thing; church. Lucinda disliked it, people loved to gossip. She hated anyone knowing her private business, certainly people that she didn’t feel obliged to trust. They awoke at 7.30am, ate their fairly simple breakfast of porridge as money was scarce and dressed in their Sunday best. It was a short amble to the tiny village church which was well attended. Many of the other goers hadn’t approved of Jim because he didn’t attend. It wasn’t that he wasn’t a christian, he had a heart of gold and went out of his way to help anyone. He used to say that he felt closer to god when working in the great outdoors than he did cooped up in the dreary service every Sunday morning. For that reason he didn’t attend. Luckily, he had been Christened as a child which had allowed him to have a Christian service and burial. Lucinda shuddered at the thought of what they would have done if that hadn’t been the case.
In a way she felt partly lucky that his body had actually been found, as some of the victims had never been discovered, their bodies engulfed and lost forever in the dark mine. She was also relieved that she had agreed to see his body. Lucinda had imagined it to be in a far worse state than the reality. Indeed there were cuts and bruises, but he wasn’t in any way disfigured.
They had buried his ashes beneath the largest oak tree in the surrounding forest It was their favourite place, they had spent many a Sunday afternoon in the past as a family stretched out under it, putting the world to rights. They called themselves ‘The 3 Musketeers’ and were inseparable. Jim’s death had left a dark, empty hole in their once full-filled lives.
Part 2 coming soon……