It took over an hour stalking a Wimbledon churchyard for Jack to find the grave, and even then only by chance. Just a simple granite square, flat in the grass, near leafy shade and rustic seating. It was a pretty spot. He knelt down, and placed the bouquet.
Two names. R and T. She had been twenty-nine, he only a few weeks past his first birthday. They’d advised him not to view the corpses, but Jack had insisted, and the sight returned every time he closed his eyes. Their bodies were so badly burnt they fused into one. In futile protection against the inferno she’d wrapped herself around her son in the bathtub. He’d melted into the belly of his mother, returning to the womb.
Her family blamed Jack for the fire. He had chosen not to move when they could, just because it was a garden flat, and was theirs. In retribution he was barred from the funeral, and it had been ten years before the location of their resting place was revealed to him.
Ten long years of hollow wandering, of living without love, zest or care, true life at arm’s length, countless hours sodden in remembrance, or shambling hungover, half a man. Now, bald, greying, dessicated, here he was.
Jack thought of her throaty, joyful laugh, her energetic spirit, her ability to make the best of all they caught, and realised not just what he’d lost, but what he’d wasted since. Slowly, finally, he picked himself up.