I never expected her to go first. With Dad so frail I had prepared myself for that phone call to snap me awake in the dead of night. In watching over him I missed how her sparrow heart couldn’t cope, failing suddenly and throwing me, her daughter and only child, into an emergency stop.
It fell to me to clear Mum’s things from the house they shared for almost fifty years. When I reached the attic I discovered a dress hanging on her dressmaker’s dummy, made from long white feathers, woven through with gossamer silver thread.
Dad cried when I told him of the dress. “I stole her wings,” he said, gazing out across the hospice gardens towards the lake. “Kept them locked away, so she had to stay with me.”
His words tumbled and jumbled together making little sense. The dress had been fully on display, not hidden away. She had left it for me to find. The dress was one part of my inheritance.
“I think Mum stayed because she loved you,” I said and squeezed his hand.
Beneath my coat I felt the soft plumage of the dress fusing to my skin. My bones hollowed, growing lighter and yet still strong enough to lift and carry me. Out on the lake I saw the swans, waiting to take flight.