Rod McGregor was cold to his core as he hurried towards Shallowfield, it was three days before Christmas and 24 hours earlier he had been in Brisbane, which had been his home for the previous 24 years, where he worked as a conservationist for the Enoggera Forest Reserves, and it was his first time back in Downshire since he emigrated, and he never expected to see it again, in fact he had promised that he would never return.
But it was the person to whom he had made that promise, Anna Abbiss, who had summoned him back, so he couldn’t refuse.
Anna was the love of his life, and the only woman he had ever truly loved, and he loved her still, and she had loved him in equal measure, the only problem was that she was married, to his brother.
A two year affair between them resulted in her falling pregnant, Rod was sure that he was the father because Bob had mumps when he was in his teens and what Rod knew, and his brother didn’t was that such an affliction at that time at the age he was almost without exception resulted in rendering the recipient sterile.
However Bob was in blissful ignorance and because of his obvious delight at his impending fatherhood, Rod and Anna decided they should draw their affair to a close, but because they had tried previously and failed she said the only way was for him to leave, and he agreed, so he emigrated to Queensland.
Obviously because they were his family he couldn’t sever all contact but he maintained the distance although there had been close calls over the years when Bob would invite his brother to stay or would himself plan a trip to Australia, something always came up, something fabricated, to prevent it.
As he drove across the Vale he listened to the Radio and the weather forecast predicted a White Christmas and the artic winds were already blowing and had brought little flurries of hailstones and sleet throughout the day, but the slushy particles dissolved as they hit the ground.
However as he got closer to the Dancingdean Forest wet sleet turned to powdery snow, and the snowflakes floated and swirled through the air and formed a soft white carpet over the silent countryside and dusted the trees and turned the landscape into a magical wonderland.
He pulled up outside the Larkspur Hospice and took a few deep breaths before he got out of the car to steel himself for what was ahead.
He walked inside and the first person he saw was his brother Bob, who beamed a radiant smile at him as they approached each other and then they hugged
“Thanks for coming bro”
He stood by the door and looked into the room, and there she was, a pale imitation of what she had been, and beside her bed was a younger woman, clearly her daughter, their daughter, and she was the spitting image of Anna.
When she saw him she got up and walked towards him with tears in her eyes, because although they had never met she recognised him and exclaimed
“Sweet Amy” he retorted
Because he was unable to cut the family ties he had managed to conduct relationships with his brother and his niece via email and maintained one with Anna vicariously.
What they hadn’t told him in their chatty email exchanges, at Anna’s request, was that Anna was battling breast cancer, but as each successive treatments failed and hope was finally replaced by palliative care, she had to see him one last time before she died.
“How is she doing?” he asked
“It won’t be long now” Amy said and the tears welled up and she broke down, in her father’s arms.
“Go and sit with her” Bob suggested “The morphine has her but talk to her”
He sat beside her bed and held her hand and said
“I love you my Anna”
He felt her hand move in his and then her eyes slowly opened and a glimmer of recognition spread across her face and she licked her lips and retorted
“Hello my only love”
They held each other’s gaze for what seemed an eternity, but in reality it was only seconds before she closed her eyes and she was gone back beneath the morphine veil.