Isobel Terry

A storm child

It happened only once. Bristol. It is the month of September, the twelfth day. The maternity hospital at the top of Black Boy hill. A lightning strike, her signal to descend. A storm child born into a rumble of thunder. One sharp crack announces her arrival. She, youngest of three girls, comes with speed her mother barely in the delivery room, her soft head drops into my hands. My name is Carmen. Her mother invites me a month later to drink tea in her drawing room in Clifton, the other side of town. The new born sleeps in my arms. When she wakes she has a wide smile and sparkly eyes. Four decades, four years and four months later l ife changed in an instant. Just after midnight, a chill. A blue tremor of air. Then complete infinite darkness.

Cumulonimbus clouds gather

There came a day that caught the summer. In Yorkshire on the sixteenth of August. Sisters clear a garden that is not theirs. Secateurs, a rake and trowel. The escallonia is everywhere, an invader of space. ‘ I like giving the weaker plants the space to grow’ the middle one says to the eldest as she snips with speed throwing its spiky branches over the fence. A pink hydrangea comes into view gasping for light. The eldest clears a patch of earth with the trowel while the other makes hay. The smell of vanilla. On the buddleias’ last cones of cream a tortishell butterfly rests in sunlight. The two sister lie on theirs backs on the earth,warmed, ripened and dependable. A dug bed awaits tulip bulbs for spring. A flutter of wings vanishing over the fence.

A taste of lightning

In a pocket of my pink rucksack I have a photo of you, my baby sister. It nestles in an envelope of shiny lilac paper. It was tradition the seventh birthday outing when we went to London alone with Mummy. In Trafalgar Square you squat on the stone square with seeds in your hands wearing a tweed coat with velvet collar and double breasted buttons. A bob cut with a fringe. Pigeons flutter around you. They peck on the flesh of your palms. The pillars of the National Gallery are your back drop. You smile as she casts her eyes down catching you in her box camera. Kisses land on your face. Still to be with you. I stroke your little cheek with my fifty year old thumb.

A muttering of thunder

I saw her from the ward door she looked bloodless, blank and exhausted, her face strained with lines. She recognized me instantly raised her head and mustered a weak smile ‘ Ahh sorry you had to miss seeing Bren.Thanks for coming ‘. I sit by her hospital bed and take hold of her hand rubbing the top of her thumb lightly with mine. I sense she cannot feel it. The motion gives me a purpose and consoles me. A slither of reassurance holding us back from the magnitude of death. A faint smell of petrol in her hair. ‘ I don’t want you to die’ I say softly.’ Oh so you want me to suffer then’ she quickly replies, a sharp blade through the space between us into my heart. I cannot speak. My thumb continues its motion, to stroke hers. Her skin next mine for the last time. I leave and walk out into December sunshine.

None sees God and lives

I am a corpse. It worked this time. I lie in the mortuary covered in a green cloth. I know you will come.The phonecall you received the night before.The motorway south from Leeds is lined with small rainbows. I am certain you will notice me. On the way you tell Louise of the tragic news.’ Beyond words ‘ you text her. You are not the first to enter to identify me, you come in after my husband. I sense you through my eyes that cannot now see. Vision is the first to go.The policemen Mark who found me sits quietly behind, I am in his gentle custody. You place your right hand over the place of my heart and the left on the crown of my head. It is wide open,it closes with your touch.You kiss my forehead. I am frozen. A chill lingers on your lips. A sparkle drops from my right eye still slightly open. A diamond for you. I am after all light, a window through which we can touch.

The last instant of things as they were.


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