by Robin K Hickson


The clouds colluded with the sun, hiding her away on my special day. I sat out on the porch as she set, gifting her collaborators red jewels and onyx skirts. I thought that was that, and prepared to go inside to change, when — to top it all — diamonds popped and sparked on the horizon. White and pink explosions of colour, like nightmares I sometimes have.

By the time I was dressed and sitting at the table, allowing Mother to make up my hair, I could no longer hear the ducks out on the pond, only the lonely crescendo of the dogs in their pen.

"He's never going to come if it storms, Mother," I said, set to cry.

"He will. He promised," she stopped brushing and stepped in front of me, "and you’re beautiful."

"Am I? Am I, Mother?"

"Yes, Child. Beautiful, but wilful!“

Mother moved behind me again, pulling my shoulders so my head fell backwards and my hair dropped down over the spine of the chair. She brushed vigorously, almost too hard. She had to pause to tug great handfuls of dead fibre from the bristles.

"Will he still love me if I'm wilful?"

"You're old enough to know better now, Child."

A sudden flash of lightning lit the redwood over the pond. It reminded me that it was dark, and he always came with the darkness.

"He could be here soon, Mother. We must hurry!"

"Your hair! We'll have to leave it up."

"And my dress, Mother?"

Looking down, I could see mud stains and dead leaf fragments where I had been dragged.

"I'll shake it out. Take it off, quick now."

I stood, and looped the dress over my head. A ragged hem caught on my hip, then my lower rib.

"Won't he think I'm terribly skinny, Mother?"

"He won't mind that, Child."

She shook it, a few leaves and small stones flying away to add to the gritty feel of the floor. I remember I used to have shoes.

"Where are my shoes, Mother? The ones with the ribbons? Don't you think he would like those? I have very dainty feet."

"Which is exactly why you don't need shoes. There, put it back on."

Perhaps at a distance the dress would look better; but close to, I still saw the green streaks of dried mud.

The dogs howled. Through the windows, I could see the woods light in staccato. Deep concussions rattled the glassless frames. In one corner of the room, the air gyrated, rousing the lightest of yellowing bones.

"It's getting worse Mother. I don't think he's going to come tonight."

She laughed lightly.

Hot light pulsed around the walls. Ground thunder was sprinkled with the crack-crack of snapping wood. I rushed to the window in time to watch the old redwood splinter in two, silhouetted by the sky barrage. From the night came a sound like ghost trains on distant rails.

Beyond the window, the great redwood fell, and the pond erupted. I tasted the water on my teeth, and I saw my evergreen sisters thrown naked onto the bank.

Mother crossed the room, reaching me before the knock on the door.

"But he's already here, Child," her tone was sad. “He was always here for you.”