The crowd watches as she walks forward and unthreads a pale rose. Its thornless stem, shaven into meek concave depressions, fits her fingers. White faces fan her then turn slowly back to the flat green oblongs laid out on the grass, disappearing neatly into the pit.
Now the box is lifted. It is large and long but even though it is full it is not as heavy as it looks. Ten days makes a difference to weight.
Silent men hold its corners lightly. With the green oblongs pulled taut the box is lowered below ground. Sightlines are interrupted and resumed with a sigh.
Soil is offered and thrown down in handfuls. She imagines seeds too far underground, shoots never reaching the light. Years from now worms finding new richness in the earth. She lets the rose drop. Turning away from the men with their eager shovels and empty palms. Waiting.
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“And this is the sign for asleep,” says Alison, closing her index fingers and thumbs together in front of her eyes. “Go to sleep now my darling.”
She smooths out the duvet cover with her hands, uncreasing the printed astronaut suit, flattening the stars in their cotton void, repositioning the blue Earth from sliding off the side of the bed. She kisses Bill’s hair, feeling his fragile skull millimetres away from her lips. “Night night.”
“Night night Mummy,” he says.