Scotland, 1723 – When Alistair died, the memories of her first husband’s death came back to haunt Gail. They crept into her dreams in the nights before and after Alistair’s funeral, rendering her sleepless.
One night, she couldn’t handle it any longer. She lit a candle and opened the chest at the foot of the bed she now slept in alone.
Where is it? She thought as she rummaged through the keepsakes she’d brought to this home just a few short years ago. Finally, she found it, and unwittingly let out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. She withdrew the miniature from its place and pressed her lips together.
She reached out with a shaky hand and touched the image. Her daughters were so little. So innocent and carefree. Matilda, at four years of age in the miniature, stood with a bright smile. Something that, Gail had noticed but never pointed out, became rare after her father’s death, and any smile she had now was hollow.
Gail sat in a chair, holding Felicity, who had been nearly two years of age when the miniature was made. Unlike her sister, her smiles continued to be genuine, and she raced through life with a bounce in her step.
Just like her father.
Gail’s mouth curled upwards in a soft smile as she turned her gaze to him. Edward had been a wonderful father, doting on his girls every chance he got. Even when he was busy, he always found time to pause whatever he was doing in order to see something they’d found or to comfort them when they were upset.
He had been a loving husband as well; and a charming one at that. He’d bring her flowers he found on his customary early morning walks, ask for a dance in the middle of a rainy afternoon, read aloud with her by the warmth of a fire in the winter evenings. . .
Then that summer had come.
They’d been on a picnic, in the field behind their home, just the four of them. The girls had brought their kite, and it caught in a tree. Edward, being the father he was, climbed right up into that tree to retrieve it.
Only, he never had the chance to touch it.
Gail had known something was off about him since breakfast, and when he paused inches away from the kite, a sinking feeling-one that made one feel as though they’d swallowed a rock-grew in her stomach up to her chest.
When he fell, she’d been the first to react. As she ran to her husband’s unmoving form, she told Matilda to fetch one of the servants to run for the doctor, and Felicity to stay where she was.
She learned to wear black that summer.
A familiar sting grew in her blue eyes, blurring the miniature, and she squeezed them shut in a futile attempt to stop the tears. One was stubborn and escaped, sliding down her cheek and onto the frame she held with such a tight grip, her knuckles were white.
Her shoulders shook, but no sound escaped her mouth. She didn’t want to wake the entire household with her grief.
©H.S. Kylian 2018 // All images ©Hannah Killian 2013-2018
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