The last day of the year; not even the whole day, just a few of the last twelve hours. It is, after all, the season for doing jigsaws.


The frost is still on the ground as we walk through the woods to the river, our breath coming in cold puffs, steaming out in front of us. The grass crunches white, the trees stark black against an empty sky. The river itself swirls, opaque and grey. I swap my father’s last affair for your father’s boat with the Jack Russell standing erect on the front, like a little barking figurehead.


We climb the slope and step out across the fields. Sheep, their wool black and white, but flashed with blue where they have been served by the rams. Your Christmas visit to your uncle’s for my husband’s pheasant shooting. And on we walk, to the semi-frozen duck pond, where the birds struggle and slide across the ice. Skating memories exchanged; yours on rollers and mine on blades; breakneck speed for chains of giggling girls, arms linked, criss-crossing the ice in time to the music.


The shapes are filling the background to the puzzle. Less of the dining room table is showing through.


We move to the pub. A glowing Christmas tree, deep red sofas, the rich brown of your sweatshirt. And now we scrabble through our histories, searching out all the important pieces; school, college, jobs, careers – the solid facts slotted rapidly into place, one after the other. When we have finished, there are still gaps, but not so many now and the basic picture is taking shape pretty well. We are happy, laughing, your blue eyes dancing as the year draws towards a close.


But there is still one corner of your jigsaw missing. I am puzzled; corners are important, they hold the whole frame together, after all. And somehow, I know the right question to ask. Your face changes; I hold you as you sob, and then you pick up the piece from the dark corner of your mind and put it down on the table. Our hands touch as we manoeuvre it into place. The comfortable image I had been piecing together shatters and reforms; a jagged black hole that you are spinning into even as I watch.


I grasp your hand tightly. One final piece and I am made to understand.

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