Breathe – Nick Harper
Tom sat on the park bench on the hill overlooking the lake. He knew exactly where he was, yet somehow he felt lost. Bereft. He watched the clouds drift across the late afternoon sky. The sun, starting to begin it’s final dip below the horizon, gave the clouds a golden hue that an artist would be proud of. People passed him by, ignorant of Tom as he sat there with the little plastic bag on the bench next to him.
It was only three hours since he’d left the hospital with the bag containing his mum’s belongings. He was in a total daze, and his autopilot had guided him to this spot. This spot where he’d spent so many hours and days with his mum – talking, laughing, arguing, and forgiving – throughout his life from when he was a small boy right up until the day she told him she was ill. His mobile phone buzzed in his pocket, no doubt it was his girlfriend, Clare, wanting to make sure he was okay – his last communication had been a simple text typed through teary eyes in the hospital car park to say his mum had died. He reached into his pocket and saw his hunch was correct. He answered and let Clare know he was alright and would be home soon. He wasn’t quite ready for a lengthy conversation just yet. He returned the phone to his pocket and sighed deeply, looking out into the distance.
He had no idea what to do. His mum had always been there for him through good times and bad. She’d comforted him every time he got his heart broken by women, and given him the thumbs up every time he brought the next girlfriend home to meet her. She’d been at every exhibition opening night, watching her son proudly showing his art, beaming with pride from the sidelines where she preferred to be. Blushing every time Tom thanked her in his speeches. In the absence of his dad, she had been two parents rolled into one – with the patience of a saint through his awkward teens. He remembered the bollocking she gave him when he came home with a tattoo on his chest, and the times she’d waited up for him on his drunken nights out with his mates. Never angry at his level of inebriation, just glad to have her son back safely.
But all that was gone now. All he was left with was the memories. A gentle breeze rustled the bag. Tom instinctively moved his hand to hold the bag, for fear that the wind might snatch away his mum’s belongings, and with them the last memories of her, even though he had a whole flat full of her things to sort through. He sat there and just for a moment, thought he could hear his mother calling his name. He blinked away what he assumed were tears, but it was raining. He stood up and walked home.