“Laura?” I called out, half in hope, half in terror, peering into the deep shadows just beyond the garden. Nothing. Trembling a little, I turned back to the task at hand, cutting three perfect camellia blooms for the table. Amalie was coming to tea. A branch snapped, just at the edge of the darkness. “Laura?” I cursed myself for a fool and headed back to the house.
I put the kettle on, lost in the memory of another year, another bowl of camellias, another teatime. “Lovely!” Laura had exclaimed, leaning forward for a closer look, her soft pink dress matching the blooms. The kettle started whistling, but I was mesmerized by the beauty of the scene. My dearest wife, the flowers, the gathering dusk outside in the garden. Amalie came in, laughing. “Dad! Mom! The kettle!” Amalie took down three cups and saucers; Laura set out the milk pitcher and sugar bowl. “Oh dear! We’re out of sugar. I’ll just pop out and get some.” She put on a crimson sweater and headed out toward the neighborhood store just around the corner. She paused in the doorway for a second, impossibly beautiful and almost translucent in the rays of the setting sun. She blew me a kiss. That was the last time I ever saw her.
I’ve gone over and over that scene in my mind. Laura was happy. I could swear to it. Not depressed, not confused, not restless. Those fool detectives, with their ridiculous theories, should all be fired.
“Dad! The kettle!” Amalie shook me out of my reverie. “Sorry, I was just remembering …” She matter-of-factly took down two cups and saucers, avoiding my eyes. I pulled out the milk pitcher and sugar bowl, filled to the brim. As we were sipping tea and eating sandwiches, I glanced out the window. There was a flash of pink in the shadows, a blur of crimson. “Laura,” I whispered. Amalie looked at me with pity, but then followed my line of sight and gasped, her eyes widening. “Mom?” She called out, half in hope, half in terror.