By Kelly-Mae Matt
‘She’s lying next to the grave again, Rick,’
I think I felt my sigh before I heard it. What is this, the thirteenth time this week? There are only so many hours in a workday, and this is getting ridiculous. Well, no point going through these papers, now.
‘Door’s open, Grief,’ I’m tired, I can hear it in my voice, but Grief doesn’t care; they are used to tired people, anyway. It’s happiness they can’t understand.
I see the tendrils that curl and lick from beneath the door before I hear that tell-tale opening creeeeeak. The dead weight hits me until I fall back in my chair, and I meet Grief’s gaze as they calmly shut the door.
‘She’s been there for over an hour,’ they whisper, a faceless shadow inked in murky purple as tendrils of a never-ending cloak curl and lick at the carpet. Across from me, they take a seat on the sofa, its faceless form pointed in my direction. Absently, I feel my hands shuffle some stray bits of paper on my desk.
‘It’s the only time she gives you a break, Grief,’ I say, watching as the cloak ripples like a flame. ‘Besides, she seems to be processing it well today; your colouring looks much better,’ I add, and it’s true; a few days ago, Grief was a sickly grey blue and could barely fit in the room. They seeped and oozed through the door and into the hallway until everything was cold and grey, but that’s how Grief copes. Some days Grief can’t help but swallow everything whole, but today is already much better, because there’s still some space left on the sofa.
‘I know,’ Grief sinks back into the sofa, curling into themselves. ‘It’s just, she needs me,’
‘She will always need you, Grief. Some days more than others,’
It’s always been hard for Grief to let go of the person they cling to. That’s not a bad thing, but it all depends on how Grief feels that day. Sometimes they like to snarl and snag until everyone leaves their human alone, or they wrap themselves around people to suffocate them in a blanket of anger and sadness and loss. Rarely, they are quiet.
Today is a quiet day.
‘She says it’s time to move on, but she’s not ready,’ Grief pauses, and what should be their head falls into a void that should be a chest. ‘I’m not ready,’ they whisper. I nod. I’m no Grief, but I understand as much as I can; the human they have latched on to is slowly letting go and moving on.
‘You know she’ll let you back in. No one truly lets go, Grief, you know this more than anyone,’ I reply, but Grief’s gone quiet, as still as they can be with their rippling cloak of shadow. If I have learned anything since dealing with Grief, it’s that it is always hard to process when someone is ready to move forward with their life again. In Grief’s mind, it is akin to turning your back on them.
The thing about Grief, at least this one, is that its time beside you is different for each person it approaches. Some keep Grief behind them, while others hide behind it. In this case, Grief walks alongside their human so that they can cling to each other. Through all the tears, the anger and hurt, at least they're together, and Grief found comfort in that.
I don’t understand it completely, but I can see why Grief wants to cling to this woman more than the others; she has accepted them, and Grief is rarely accepted.
‘It’s been two years, Grief,’ I whisper, and Grief shrinks a little more into themselves. There’s extra space on the sofa, now. ‘She’ll look for you again, you know that,’
‘What if she never finds me?’ Grief shrinks a little more.
‘No one ever stops grieving, Grief. You just walk a little taller every day,’ I tell them, and the murky purple shadow slowly brightens to a light shade of violet. ‘She couldn’t make this kind of decision with you,’
Grief is quiet. Too quiet. Their cloak curls and writhes, simmering against the sofa as it barely touches the carpet now. They shudder with a sigh after a moment, and Grief’s voice cracks.
‘It’s the last time she’ll lay there, Rick,’ Grief whispers, but I can’t even nod. I can’t even hear my own breath. ‘She’s made her peace with it. She said so herself,’ Grief lets out an unfamiliar sound, and I feel myself moving from my chair until I am across the room.
I don’t say anything as Grief cries, but there isn’t long left, anyway, because as I sit beside and hold on to Grief, I watch as they shrink and wane, until they become nothing more than a tiny ball of grief.
‘You’ll always be needed, Grief,’ I pick up the marble dashed with pink from the place Grief sat, pressing it tight against my palm, ‘You just made it a little easier for her to live,’ I whisper.
About the Author
Pen collector by day and writer by night, Kelly-Mae Matt hails from the land of teapots and crumpets, and is a Master's student of Creative Writing and Publishing at Lincoln University. With a keen interest in fairy tales and folklore, Kelly-Mae hopes to create worlds and spin stories so that others may enjoy them one day. Her first short story, 'Awakening' was included in Issue 4 of the Fiery Scribe Review.