Updated: Aug 5, 2022
I tied back my hair and tucked a faded pink wool blanket around your body. I could hear you shift and roll in the boot as I drove to the allotments. I told myself not to worry about bruising your skin or scratching your face. You’d never look the way you used to, anyway.
Nightshift workers and early morning hustlers were commuting and the distant stick and slap of wet tyres on tarmac was the only human noise in the allotments at that hour. The tuis cracked and popped in the flax near our vegetable plot and the last of our bok choi waved sheepishly in an uneven breeze.
I chose the corner where the brassicas were the summer before last. I knelt in the soil and let the damp creep into the knees of my jeans. I pulled on my gardening gloves and pressed them together in my own kind of prayer. Then I started to dig. I sunk my weight into my gum boots onto the spade into the soil. I dug deep. I wanted no one to find you because you are mine and the earth’s and no one else’s.
When the digging was done, the clouds were low and the light was still flat. The allotments were illuminated in muted tones; damp greens and grey browns, it was that season between winter and spring that feels like a breath half-drawn. I was hoping for something more hopeful, more romantic.
You’d laugh if you’d seen me awkwardly reverse our car so that the boot was close to the hole. But there was nothing, nothing from your lips as my fingers twisted around the corners of the blanket and I dragged you from the boot. You tumbled into the hole. It was easier than I thought it would be. The looseness, the quietness of it all. No restrictive wooden boxes or restrictive wooden traditions between us. It was just us and the earth, the way it was meant to be.
I pulled away the blanket and arranged you, foetus position, hair over your shoulder. I covered you in wild flowers; Canadian poppies and daisies and rosemary. Your mouth was open like you were singing softly, again. You looked like Millais’ Ophelia and this made me smile, you had a print by your desk when we lived in Wellington, remember?
I covered you in earth and then placed on top of you the Southern rātā, the young plant we’d bought together but never had a chance to plant together. Not the way we’d planned, anyway.
The rātā is taller now and a riot of red. Your favourite colour. The tuis sing with you from the branches and I imagine the roots reaching down, wrapping around you in eternal embrace. You are mine and the earth’s and no one else’s.
A bit about Bethany Rogers:
I'm a short story writer originally from Newcastle, UK. I now live in Queenstown, New Zealand with a ginormous house rabbit called Oscar Wilde. After completing a BA (with Honours) in English Literature at the University of Newcastle, I travelled the world and eventually settled in New Zealand where I work as a freelance writer, communications specialist and occasional editor. I've been commended by Aesthetica Magazine, shortlisted for the Manchester Fiction Prize and longlisted in the New Zealand Flash Fiction Day competition.
I was thrilled to be selected for the New Zealand Society of Authors mentorship programme for emerging writers in 2021 and have spent the past year fine-tuning my short story collection with professional support from the NZSA.
Follow Bethany's work @bgrogers_books