The coffin was a long thin jewlery box made of Alder Buckthorn. The sheen currently red and going to black. Keasley carved it that morning with gloved arthritic hands as pixie children cried. It was lovely, with it's bed of soft green leaves plucked from the many trees surrounding the wall of the garden. But not nearly as lovely as the woman who lay in it. Matalina was an angel in life. Fierce, protective, beautiful and loving... death couldn't seem to strip her of any of it.
She'd made it through the winter though her health had been iffy. She hadn't had the strength to chase after the children as she normally did. Jenks had taken on the role with only a few bumps and Ivy and I had helped as best we could. When spring started peeking through the clouds and she'd not gone into hybernation we sighed in relief only to have our hopes smashed with the new thaw. She'd caught fever over the last cold night one week ago. She stayed awake for three days talking to her husband and wispering things none of us could hear. She fell asleep on the fourth day and Jenks took her into the garden where their stump sat and hadn't come back out until this morning. Jenks song, broken and stilted with sobs, wound through the house we knew she was gone.
Jenks lay the last of the golden petals over her and stepped back before turning to look as Ceri and I. His small angular face was pale and streaked with tears. He stepped into the hand I offered and kept his back to the small coffin as Ceri put the lid over it. I wasn't sure what we were going to do next. Jenks had said they didn't usually bury their dead this way. In fact, I got the impression they didn't bury them at all. But Matalina had wanted this done for all of us. She'd wanted to be buried in the garden that was hers. No just by strength of arms but also legally on paper. We were building a pixie graveyard in the garden. Ivy had already looked into a coverstone for the small patch of dirt. One where names could be added to honor those buried there. It was a very human thing to do and surprized me that pixies would considered it. But then we didn't treat them like insects but as friends. I guess no one likes to be forgotten.
"Would you like to help, Jenks?" Ceri whispered as she lifted the little box.
Jenks looked back at the small hole in the ground and shook his head as he turned away. "No." The low whine of his wings stilled as I looked to see them shifting from shades of blue to black and back again. "I'm going to check on Jih and the kids." He lifted in a flurry of dragonfly wings and set off for the house.
"Do you think he'll be alright?" I asked as I watched Ceri moved the dirt over the tiny box and press it firmly to the ground.
"Death is simply a way of life. He's seen it before and will most likely see it again in his lifetime. He's embracing a new tradition that bridges a gap between his pixie family and the one he shares with you. He's not sure where he will go from here and he's frightened and angry. Give him time to adjust. In time he'll understand."
The last of the dirt was patted into place and I lifted the small stone that would mark the grave until Ivy's cover came. Ceri placed it at the head of the grave and I stared at her as she stood and clasped her hands together.
"Understand what? There's nothing to understand. First his son runs off with a thief I introduced him to and now his wife dies when their youngest is just turning three. You're right. He's angry and hurting and you can't adjust to it or understand it. You just have to live with it or get over it."
She gave me a long look then smiled sadly as she handed me a small sheath of paper. "Or run from it."
I watched her back as she retreated to the corner gate then opened the paper and read the contents. It didn't take me long to see what she meant. "Oh, Jenks." With a sigh I wiped the tears from my eyes and stood, brushing the dirt from my knees. I needed to talk to Ivy. I really wasn't sure how we were going to handle this one. Because I wasn't at all sure, no matter what the reason, I could say no to Jenks request.