The sky tasted of snow, cool and bitter. The small stream was frozen over. A few leaves had stuck to the surface, crumpled and helpless.
Edie’s breath was mist. If she turned her head as she walked the white breath trailed like ribbon.
The clouds glowered, brows meeting in the middle. Stars weakly pushed their way to the front, watery pale.
It was hard to believe that this time last year she and Matthew had been planning the big Christmas dinner to end all Christmas dinners. Thirty five people to a traditional Christmas feast. The ovens would be running all day.
Edie and her sisters cooked for weeks. Her grandmother prised herself away from the drambuie for long enough to make her famous christmas pudding. Her mother, who had recently embraced veganism with the fervour people usually reserve for born again Christianity, agreed to stir a few sauces – the healthier ones.
On Christmas Eve night Matthew told her he was leaving. Just like that. They still had all the tables to set, make the floral displays and the egg nog and hang up the Christmas lights. They still had thirty five people coming for a meal at 1PM, but he had a suitcase by the door.
Edie was shocked. She thought he was joking. Theirs wasn’t a great passion but it was easy, dependable. Safe.
I wanted more, Matthew said. So I went out and found it.
Edie couldn’t even fathom what he had found when he went out. She assumed it was a woman with great breasts. Or big lips like Angelina Jolie. Matthew had remarked upon Angelina’s lips once. It was the only time he had ever expressed a favourable opinion about another woman’s appearance. The remark had stayed with Edie for weeks afterwards. She spent hours puckering in front of the mirror, wondering if there were exercises she could do to get lips like Angelina’s.
Aren’t you going to say anything? Matthew cried. Aren’t you even going to shout at me?
There was suddenly so much to say that Edie was lost for words. The pain was pressing on her throat. Matthew picked up the suitcase and inexplicably turned out the hallway light. As he closed the door behind him Edie stood in the dark. She heard his feet crunch in the snow, walking away from her.
She heard the wind passing under the eaves and the tops of the windows shaking slightly. A draught eased under the door, defiant, pushy.
She heard the little girl next door playing her violin. Hark The Herald Angels Sing, careful and plodding. Edie relished every note, praying when one note ended that another would follow, so she wouldn’t have to hear the silence and her breathing, metallic and swift in the darkened hallway.
Her sisters took over the preparation of the dinner. Just as well because Edie was in bed unable to move. She felt like someone had glued her to the sheets in the middle of the night. She hadn’t slept at all. It had been weird keeping her eyes open all night, staring straight up at the ceiling. Edie wasn’t sure she still had the ability to blink she had done so much staring.
She couldn’t believe Matthew was gone. A year later. She had never seen the new woman, but Edie had convinced herself over the course of the year that she must have lips like Angelina Jolie. Those lips were a prerequisite.
Edie’s lips were dry from the cold. She was going to a concert and she would walk in with pale grey, dry lips.
The little girl next door was playing at the concert. In a year she had become really good on the violin. Most days she came and sat in Edie’s kitchen and played anything Edie asked. She could play by ear. Tonight she was playing the Sussex Carol, one of Edie’s favourites.
Snow fell from trees as Edie walked. A delicious sound like ice cream sliding into a glass bowl. The streetlights bounced on the linen white streets, the beams scattering like pins.
The wind caught her breath, swirled it into the beginnings of letters. Edie picked up a stick, tried to write HAPPY CHRISTMAS in the cold, night air but found herself writing Matthew’s name in the sky. M-A-T- she couldn’t remember if it was one ‘T’ or two. Married to a man for ten years and she couldn’t remember how many ‘T’s were in his name.
She tried again, to write his name in the sky, but a chill had crept in and the wind blew the letters away. They vanished like desperate days. All that remained was the night, clear and vast, framed by snow.
Edie walked on. She could hear the orchestra tuning up.
*Inspired by the Carry On Tuesday prompt - 'I wrote your name in the sky but the wind blew it away' from the poem Your Name by Jessica Blade.