Sophie felt too tired to stay in the room. She felt numb and empty so she thought that sleeping would do her good. After all it was three in the morning. She fell on the bed and fell asleep almost immediately at the moment her head hit the pillows.
She didn't wake up until six in the morning when Ewan came to her bed and wanted to cuddle. She took her son in her arms and held him close against her. She needed them to survive to what would be a tough day.
"Mum? Ewan asked after a while, why are you so sad? Ewan with his ability to understand people had seen through her, through the façade she had hoped to hold in front of her boys.
"I will tell you when your brother is awake."
"He is awake. He thought you were still asleep and I didn't so I want to check out for myself."
Sophie nodded. She helped the boys get dressed and washed their faces. She dreaded the moment she would have to tell them their great-grandma had died but she thought it needed to be told as soon as possible. If they went to the kitchen, they would inevitably see Claire in her bed. If they had some food in their stomach, maybe it would be better. She shook her head. No, she would tell them now. No, they needed to eat first. Charlie chose the moment to walk into the room with the look of someone who had not got much sleep. He hugged the boys in the same way Sophie had and kissed his wife tenderly. The boys understood something must have happened and they feared the most. Claire?
"It is grandma, isn't it? Ewan asked.
"Is she dead?" Harry asked in a low tone.
The adults looked at each other and sighed. The twins had as usually understood everything without being told. Charlie bent down so he could be at the same height as the twins.
"Yes. She died tonight. We didn't want to wake you up."
"Can we see her?"
"Don't you want to have some breakfast first?" Sophie inquired.
"No, we would want to see her now." The twins were really determined so the parents decided that they would go together.
The room felt different than it had during the night, thought Sophie. Lorenzo had opened the window so fresh air was coming in but it could not make it better. Claire was still lying there on the bed, inert and totally unaware of the sorrow she had caused by dying. The boys thought she looked asleep, kind of free from everything. They could not really grasp the concept that she would never wake up, never give them chocolate behind their parent's back, never tell them how to draw the flowers from her garden, never do anything with them again. Harry cried silently and hugged his mother's legs. Ewan just looked thoughtful, looking like he tried to resolve a puzzle that was too complicated for him. Charlie and Sophie decided that they would try to eat some breakfast before they would do anything. They had no appetite but they ate anyway, to get the energy to be strong.
The garden had never looked any better this morning. The roses were shining in the light, dancing some mysterious dance in the wind. Red, pink, yellow, blue and many colours were mixed in this garden of Eden. Claire had devoted many hours to this garden, planting and removing bad weeds and watering it every day. It was only logical that it would be her grave. It was decided that no funeral would be made. The only people that would witness the ceremony were the Bartolinis, Charlie, Sophie and the boys. When the breakfast was eaten, the family Wyman went to get dressed properly. There was the feeling among them that this was not real, not happening but a dream they would awake from. Charlie had lost the only relative he cared and loved. Claire had been everything to him. She had lectured him when he had done wrong, had born with his teenage caprices and helped him with advices and support for everything he had wanted to do. Sophie had finally found a mother in Claire, a mother who loved her for what she was and also could help her with Charlie when they had fights. For the twins, their grandma had been their guide, the one giving and allowing them things which was forbidden by the parents. She had taught them how to discover the nature and be amazed at its wonders. There was no doubt that the Wyman family had lost someone very important, which would never come back but always be in their hearts.
The weather was teasing them today. The sun was shining brightly on the garden and no clouds could be seen in the sky. It was a perfect day to be outside and have a picnic on the beach. Claire had known for a while that she was dying so the coffin and the stone were already prepared. Lorenzo had brought the priest here. Lorenzo, Charlie, Lorenzo's son and grandson were burying the coffin the short distance to the garden. Lorenzo and Charlie could not hide their tears when they carried the coffin which contained a loved person. The priest told in Italian how special Claire had been, how such a person will be missed and what sorrow it was to miss her. The insects were buzzing around them and the flowers were dancing in the wind, a fascinating image which captured the boys' attention. They were bored as they could not understand what the priest said but they had understood that Claire was in the coffin and would be buried in the garden. Finally, the priest's speech was over and the coffin was slowly lowered into the hole. Everyone present had picked a flower from the garden and threw them in turn on the coffin. The boys were a little embarrassed because their parents were crying and they were not. It is always weird for a child to see a parent in a weak moment and the twins found it easier to watch the flowers than to see the hole being covered with dirt and that now it would have looked like nothing was there if it wasn't for the stone in front of the flowers that said "Claire Smith Bartolini, 1945-2016, Dear grandma, wife, great-grandma, friend, you will always be loved, whenever you are". Claire had decided everything, of course.
I don't need to describe the sorrow everyone was going through, you can guess that each of the people present were very sad, Charlie most of all, which was very understandable. After the funeral, they all went inside and ate an early lunch. Lorenzo tried to be cheerful but failed utterly at it. The boys had long tired of sitting still and were running around in the garden, being children that they are. It was a rather peaceful lunch until a car arrived and parked in front of the house. A small man, Sophie thought he looked like a mole, with small glasses and a bald head, was walking toward to them with a portfolio under the arm.
"I am sorry to interrupt but Miss Claire asked me to be here as soon as the funeral was over to discuss her testament. So if you please come with me, I will read it to you."
The party was finished with their lunch so everyone followed curiously the little man inside. Charlie could not keep his amazement at his grandma's ability to plan everything. He wondered what she would give everyone. The little man sat down at a sofa and placed his papers on the table in front of him. Charlie and Sophie as well as Lorenzo sat down in the opposite sofa while the rest stood up behind them. The little man cleared his throat and started reading.
If you hear this, then you have probably buried me in the garden and eaten a nice meal. Please, don't stop yourself from eating just because I am dead! I would feel terrible if you died of hunger because of me! Anyway, I have made everything ready for everyone that I will mention in this will. I have found written words more comfortable than direct speech, somehow, it give me time to express myself in the way I want. Right, Sophie?
Okay, enough small talk, let's dive into it. For my dear husband Lorenzo, I give him my ring he gave me over fifty years ago and I let him keep everything we had shared over the years together. Don't be sad my love. Soon you will die and we will be together, let's hope it is very soon! Dark humour I know but I could not help it. Laugh instead. You have Sophie, Charlie, the boys and your family to help you. Lorenzo started to cry after that sentence.
To my dear Charlie, my darling and my sun, I give you my photo albums, with pictures of you dear parents and you. Look into it with Sophie, share with her your history and laugh about tender memories. You get also a little capital to continue with you pro-bono work with refugees and such. I am so proud of you and the man you have become. Make love to Sophie often, love your boys and I will be content. I love you Charlie. Charlie laughed at his. He took his wife's hand and kissed it tenderly, just to show how much he would keep his promise.
To my darling Sophie, I give you my photo albums, of me and my childhood and tell Charlie about it. I told you everything so share it with you boys and your man, tell them about a girl who made choices and the most important of all, lived a life like she wanted it. I also give you my jewellery since you loved it so much. Sell them or do whatever you like with them, they are yours.
And last but not least, I would give to my little boys, Edwin and Harry, all my savings which are supposed to go to college and everything else that will help in their lives. Take good care of them. Charlie and Sophie gasped because it was a lot money and it would enable the boys to do everything they wanted to achieve. They laughed in happiness.
This is end of my letter. You should know that I am always with you and again, don't be sad. Tell each other the good memories, the nice and sweet ones about me so you could remember this day as a happy one and not a day when you lost me, because I am never lost but always there, in your hearts. Cheesy I know but I never know how to end letters. I love you. Goodbye.
The rest of the Bartolini had gone out, to give the Wyman family a little bit of space and Lorenzo time to be on his own, to be alone with his sorrow. Lorenzo was happy about the years he had spent with Claire. They had enjoyed every minute of it. Lorenzo laughed for himself. He knew that now a life without her was impossible so he wondered how long it would take him before he too would join her in her grave.
Charlie and Sophie stood on the balcony where Charlie had played Romeo. They contemplated the garden, Charlie arms around Sophie's waist. They were silent, the silence was not awkward but quite nice, in fact, none of them wanted to speak. The boys were on their beds, playing Nintendo DS with each other.
"Yes my love, replied Charlie.
"How do you feel?" Sophie was caressing Charlie's hand with her thumb.
"Not the best I must say but I cannot help but feel that this is the end of a chapter and the beginning of another."
Sophie turned around to face Charlie. She looked in her husband's eyes, the man she had been married to all these years and the man she never knew would grow to love.
"It's funny because I feel the same. I am sad of course but it is like Claire want us to see forward, to look forward change."
"We need to see forward my love mostly because of our boys. I was lost when my parents died so I want to be there for Harry and Edwin, to live a full life." Charlie smiled to her but looked in the distance, travelling into the world of nostalgia. Sophie put her hands on his face to make him focus on the moment.
"You are the best father in the world and I could not help but be more in love with you as the years go. Come, let's go inside and cheer up Lorenzo. He needs company today."
"Wait a moment."
Charlie bend down and kissed her with all the passion he felt for her. She kissed him back of course and they stood there awhile, until Edwin looked up and saw them kiss.
"Ugh! Do you see that Harry? Mum and dad are kissing again."
Harry looked up and pretended to throw up to accentuate the disgust about the situation. The parents laughed at this and went inside.
This is end of the story. Charlie and Sophie had gone far from that day Charlie fell from the balcony. They are happily married and are parents to two wonderful boys. Reader, don't be sad about Claire because you knows she is in our mind and will never go away. Don't be sad it is finished either, because this is only the beginning of something else.