This week’s photograph for our flash fiction segment is provided by my friend and colleague at Stevenson University, Carol Cornwell. She is so talented, as you can see by her image above. She teaches photography at the university, and has taken students abroad to study and work their cameras. I am so happy she was willing to showcase one of her images from her trip to Ireland.
Here is the story I’ve imagined goes with the photo. It’s called “Patrick.”
The gate was rusted. The tall grass blew in the breeze that always seemed to come from the north here. Siobhan had been gone for 13 years, yet standing here, looking around from this vantage point, it felt as if nothing had changed.
And yet, everything had changed.
Two years ago, her father died. Days ago, her mother died.
And this was left to her care. It was her inheritance, her property. It was hers to look after now. Or sell.
She knew that it had been in the will, that the land would someday be hers, and that at some point she’d have to come home and settle it all.
She climbed up on the stone wall and sat, set to observe it, and to breathe in all that was around her. The grey clouds blanketed the sky. She had a cup of coffee in an insulated travel mug keeping her warm along with her long, wool sweater coat. It was cool, but not frigid. And although she was outside, where there were no walls around her, she felt somewhat claustrophobic here, confined, blanketed by memories she wished a magic wand could help disappear. Siobhan allowed herself to think of Patrick for a brief moment. She pictured him running through the fields without his shoes, his silly laughter echoing through the hillside, as he’d kick the football and try to get her to play.
“Kick it back to me, silly,” he would say.
“I don’t want to play football,” she said. “I just want to sit in the sun.”
“Too much of a lady for it?” he’d tease. And he’d kiss her on the forehead.
Sitting here now, she wished she had played.
He was dead 13 years this past summer.
She was working on forgiving him for leaving her…for being foolish…for trying to swim when the sea was too treacherous, and for drowning—three weeks before a wedding, and no body ever found. Vanished. The boat he had taken out washed ashore, and days later, there was a mock burial with real tears.
The sound of the ocean was something that could haunt her. She hated it, content to live in the United States in the middle of America, far, far away from any ocean, sea, or lake. The land was comfort to her. But she’d bruised her mother and father by leaving, and she had to live with the fact that she’d hurt them. Now there was no one to hear an apology.
Her life was not here now. It was away from here, and Daniel had kindly offered to come back for her mother’s funeral. He had never been to Ireland. He was a good man, seven years her junior, and she had grown to love him. And he adored her. They were planning to marry in six months.
She wondered if Patrick would have liked him.
He came out of the house wearing his Nike jacket, and sat beside her with his own cup of coffee.
“It’s a beautiful piece of land here, Siobhan,” Daniel said. “We can keep it if you’d like. Your mother would have liked that.”
“Yes,” Siobhan said, as she leaned into Daniel and rested her head on his shoulder. “Yes. She would have liked that.”