Four-red–roses - with love.
I knew her well. A willowy Asian girl with wind-swept dark locks, wearing a simple black dress, black shoes - and wrap-around sunglasses covering her eyes.
A cloud obscured the sun and cast a grey shadow across the stone flagon where she knelt. I heard the low throaty rattle of a raven nearby, and an answering call from its mate, but the girl seemed oblivious to their interruptions.
It went quiet - apart from a whisper of wind that teased at a loose strand of her hair. She clasped her hands together and I saw her lips move while gentle teardrops coursed down her cheeks.
I looked away, not wishing to intrude upon her private moments, but when I looked up again, she had vanished. I frowned, put down my spade and made my way across the cracked pavestones to the newly inscribed headstone. I brushed a grimy hand across my forehead and squinted at the epitaph - again.
My precious daughter aged 1 year 5 months
She brought joy and happiness
Two days later she was back, wearing a bright summer dress and sandals, holding a white rose to her uncovered face. The red roses were scattered and the white rose claimed pride of place in the vase.
She smiled at me as I approached.
‘Where you go, mister?’ Her voice had a flute-like quality that insinuated my senses.
I pointed to my shed at the back of the graveyard. ‘I work here,’ I said, playing her game.
She tried to clasp my hand in hers, but her eyes were cold and dark, like a raven.
‘I go with you - now.’
I felt a chill run down my spine.
I stepped back and pointed at the grave. ‘Annie,’ I said, although it was more of a rebuttal.
She glared; shrugged as if Annie was history.
‘Bastard baby from a bastard father - your brother’s dead, Michael, I have fresh start.’
A clap of thunder heralded gusts of cold air that swirled around, trying to tear me apart. She pulled me to her, fingers tempting my flesh. Her voice was a low rasp.
‘I want you ... want your baby...’