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by Andy Lavender

“You ought to take an umbrella. Heavy showers forecast,” said Melissa.

“Thanks,” I replied. The weather was the strand which stopped us breaking after Jon went.

“Make sure you take a scarf. Wind is bitter out.” These conversations were safe. They had no past, no future. Just a now. They were easier for both of us. I picked up my red scarf and slid the folding black umbrella in my pocket. I needed new brogues. I’d worn my old pair every day for years, but they were letting in water and had to be replaced.

“Bye, love,” I shouted.

“Be careful. It might thunder.”

It was dry, but dark clouds were all around. I walked past the basketball courts Jon spent all his spare time on and skirted around the Pasta & Pizza bar we’d go to each year for his birthday. At the bottom of the High Street was our next door neighbour’s florist shop. Josie waved, I waved back. I’d bought flowers from her for the memorial. Most people round here had, except Melissa. She didn’t want flowers, soft toys or football shirts on the grave. When I erected our son’s headstone, she screamed at me for hours. She said adornments were for when you had a body, when you had a place of connection. But an empty grave is just soil. Bereft of life. Bereft of him.

The plane had disappeared north of the Solomon Islands. One second it was flying, the next there was no trace. No debris. No black box. Nothing. They looked for six months before calling the search off. Melissa blamed me for encouraging him to explore the world before university.

The shoes were her idea. On the anniversary she put a pair of his Converse trainers on the lawn with the toes facing the kitchen window. Like he was standing there, Melissa said. Jon loved Converse trainers. The left one disappeared after two days. Melissa cried like she’d lost him all over again. We found it a week later in the Weeping Willow tree. She banged stakes through the heels after that.

I grieved at the graveside. Melissa on the lawn. She added another pair on the second anniversary. We’d learned not to talk about things and communicate only through the weather. Last year’s fourth anniversary was marked with his final pair.

“Hi, I’m home,” I said as I opened the front door.

“Did you get wet? We’ve had tremendous downpours.”

“Not too bad.” I ran my hand through my sodden hair and wiped the drips from my cheeks.

“You bought yourself two pairs?” said Melissa pointing to the damp paper bags at my feet.

“These are for you.” I pulled out a black box with Converse in brown lettering down the side. Melissa burst into tears.

“We’ll put them out tomorrow.”

Andy Lavender is from Plymouth, UK. He has an MA in creative writing from Plymouth University. His poems and stories have appeared on, or in, Visual Verse, Paragraph Planet, Plymouth Herald newspaper, and the 2014 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology Eating My Words. He tweets as @andylvndr.