Sweet William’s Breath – by Sylvia Anne Telfer (Senior)
It was June in Scotland, the month with longest days and more sunshine for flowers and folk. She stood with her seven-year-old, William, and smelled the sweetness of honeysuckle, freesia and waxflowers. Many of June’s flowers were here in her garden, balm to the hurt of her husband’s desertion.
William was engrossed in blowing bubbles. They watched them move amongst the flowers. Some popped instantly, others seemed to have rudders and navigated through to emerge on the other side and vanish into sky.
William smiled as two bubbles merged. They watched the merged bubble float, and for just a second, it quivered as if dancing before vanishing.
‘Us, mummy. Did you see us dance?’ William said.
‘Yes, us. Forever together,’ she said.
‘Not forever, mummy. Didn’t you see? We’ve gone.’
‘Not really, William. Love never dies.’
‘Remember me dancing at Uncle Jim’s wedding when I was four?’
For a while, they stayed in the garden, looking at this flower and that flower, at lengthening shadows like dark December men on a summer carpet. She told William all the flowers’ names, and he repeated them, savoring each name and blowing bubbles over them like a christening.
‘Queen Anne’s Lace, Canterbury Bells, Delphinium,’ she said as she pointed in turn to the flowers.
They came to the far end of the garden. Some bubbles seemed to be following them.
‘This is Sweet William and this next one is Anemone. Anemone is also called windflower.’
‘William blowing bubbles is them merging.’
‘Yes,’ she said.
It was now colder. She shivered and they went into the house.
December was bitter. She stood in the garden. William was gone, taken by Duchenne muscular dystrophy. When he was four, she remembered William had seemed wobbly when dancing at her brother’s wedding. Later, on getting out the car, he had fallen.
‘Bad luck the disease progressed so swiftly,’ her brother had said at William’s funeral.
But she felt a film of soapy water cocoon her. William’s breath had been amongst these hibernating flowers. His sweet breath was still amongst the flowers, on her.