Samantha looked down at the grave and shivered.
It was late November and a biting north wind was cutting across
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
The frozen soil hit the coffin with a rattle, and
as Matthew stood up he felt for the reassurance of Samantha's
hand. She took it softly, squeezing his palm gently in hers.
They exchanged a warm smile as Matthew's three brothers took it
in turns to sprinkle a handful of chalky earth into the
All the world seemed to be preparing for sleep. The leaves on the beech hedge had already turned brown and the grass was coated with a layer of frost. Far away, across the valley, defoliated trees were silhouetted like skeletons on the horizon. Even the noise of traffic sweeping up from the town was little more than a serene, sympathetic hum.
As the mourners walked slowly back towards the
corteige Samantha pulled her coat tighter across her chest,
looking forward to the warmth of the limousine and the journey
When they were alone in the back of the car
Matthew whispered gently in her ear.
"For coming. For being here with me when I needed
"I'll always be here for you," Samantha smiled,
"you should know that by now."
They were driven at a suitably relaxed speed back
to the house. Inside Matthew and his brothers had laid out a
small buffet, and the mourners were soon standing around in
groups reverently eating sandwiches and speaking in hushed
"She brought us up well," Matthew mused to Liam,
his youngest brother.
"Yeah Matt, I know. I know we didn't always get
on but she was a good mum. I can't complain. She was hard but
fair, I think that's the expression?"
"She taught us right from wrong. And she always
had so much energy, right until the last. She wasn't afraid of
"True," Liam admitted, "although I'm not sure it
did her much good in the long run."
"She kept this place spotless, even though she was
in her eighties."
"Sure did. Not a spot of dust anywhere. I don't
know how she did it at her age, all that cleaning and
"She was keeping it clean for dad."
"Well," Liam said, turning away, "I guess they're together again now."