“Velume,” murmured Andre. “How can I live without you?” Even from the shadows where he lurked at the back of the room, Velume’s face glowed with an unworldly beauty. Lying in the coffin, her expression was sublime, as if she had learned a great truth by dying.
Figures dressed in black entered, stayed for a time, then left, their eyes piercing the dimness where Andre stood. Velume’s husband, that dog, slid to the floor near the coffin, melting into a pool of tears. Hands lifted him, carrying him past Andre toward the door.
“Why are you here?” asked a voice, its bearer disappearing before Andre could answer. He was there because he heard her laugh in the rustle of the leaves. He was there because his heart paused each time she looked at him. He was there because he couldn’t be anywhere else.
He remembered waiting beside the giant shrub in front of Velume’s house, longing for a glimpse of her. She’d finally appeared. She’d gasped when he’d joined her. As they’d walked, Velume kept looking back. “I love you,” he’d said. She’d looked at him fearfully before turning abruptly into the street. Tires had squealed. Her body had made a dull thud as it collided with red metal.
Soon, she would be in the earth, separated from him once again, in a place where he couldn’t see her, couldn’t talk with her, and couldn’t tell her how sorry he was that he had caused her to step in front of that car.
As the last mourner left, Andre moved to the coffin. He pulled scissors from his pocket and clipped an inch of her hair.
Even Velume’s hands, folded neatly on her chest, were white like marble, perfect in death. Andre reached into his pocket for another tool and clipped again. He adjusted the lace of Velume’s sleeve. As he quickly walked through the doorway and into the street, he caressed the skin of Velume’s finger that would be with him forever; forever together.
A retired engineer, Ursula Wong writes about strong women. Her award-winning debut novel, Purple Trees, and her second novel, Amber Wolf, portray strong women struggling against impossible odds to claim a better life.
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