Full Circle

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Our short story of the week is a story about homecoming by Laura Besley.

Laura Besley writes short fiction in the precious moments when her children are asleep. She has lived in Holland, Germany and Hong Kong, but now lives in land-locked central England and misses the sea. She started writing about ten years ago, first travel pieces while she was living abroad, then moving onto fiction. Her flash fiction collection, The Almost Mothers, was published in March 2020 by Dahlia Books.

Full Circle follows a woman returning from her travels for a family funeral.

And then it’s time. The vicar asks Rachael first, because she lives here, I suppose. Or because she’s organised the funeral, or goes to church, or because she looks and acts older even though she’s not. I don’t mind. Not really. She crouches down, like she’s making eye contact with a toddler, picks up a handful of soil and drops it into the gaping hole between us. As she stands, her husband Mark puts his arm around her and squeezes. They stand there together, in solidarity; them against the world. A couple of tears slide down her cheeks and I think: Wow, she even does grief gracefully. Mark hands her a handkerchief and she dabs her cheeks. Who carries a handkerchief in this day and age?

Rachael glares at me and I realise it’s my turn. I bend, pick up and throw, all in one swift movement. When I straighten up, she’s shaking her head. Something else I’ve got wrong. I look up at the clouds, backlit by a struggling spring sun, and blink a few times. I can’t start crying. If I start, I’ll never stop. And unlike Rachael, I’ll look a complete mess.

We all shuffle behind the vicar to the church hall where the wake is being held. Doug and Barbara, who run the local bakery, have done the catering. They’re standing behind a large table at the back of the hall, matching pinnies on, ready to help serve as well. They’re older than Mum and Dad and for a split second I’m angry that they’re still here and my parents are not.

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