Splash! Water erupts from the puddle, spraying fat droplets out into the air to mingle with the falling rain. She tries not to giggle as one goes into her gumboot, trickling down her ankle and into her already wet socks.
She looks up, and without meaning to she has already fallen behind. He is already at the corner, turning past the sandstone wall without her. Without looking back to make sure she is still there. She grips her umbrella tighter and hurries after Him.
At first, when she reaches the corner, she’s too afraid to go after Him. She peeks around the corner, her rainbow umbrella tipping back to let rain cascade onto her head. She jumps, and then shivers, quickly righting the umbrella again.
Her hair is wet now, and it sticks to her face in clumps of dark blonde. Mummy always says her hair is like His, but when she peers around the corner at him, she doesn’t think this is right. Her hair is long and light, even wet in the rain. But His is dark, and short, and … and not like hers.
She watches him as He kneels. He hasn’t got an umbrella and His black jacket – the important kind He wears when He comes to pick her up from Mummy’s after work – is already very wet.
She steps out from the corner, off the pavement and onto the grass. She’s careful not to step on any of the little bronze squares, remembering the time that He yelled at her when she trod on one by accident. Carefully, she makes her way over to where He sits on His knees.
There’s a great big, grey stone in front of Him. The same one He always comes to. It’s wet, but that just makes the surface shinny. Mummy says that’s because it’s made of something called marble.
The rain makes rivers along the stone, and she watches for a moment, mesmerised by the way the rivers wind their way down into the letters.
He is touching the letters. Digging His fingers into them, so that it looks like it hurts. She looks down at her own hands. She cut her finger earlier. She had cried, even though it didn’t hurt too much.
When He came to see what was wrong, He didn’t have any bandaids. He had to go looking for them. The only ones He found were the dinosaur ones, in an old first aid kit in the back of His car. They were old, but she had liked them until she saw the way He looked down at them.
She wondered if He would need them again, for himself. Except she thought that this was one of those hurts that Mummy says you can’t see, so instead she steps up closer to Him. Closer than she’s ever stepped up to Him by herself before, and holds the umbrella over his head.
When He looks up she’s afraid of His eyes. She’s afraid He will look at her like He looked at those dinosaur bandaids. His eyes drop, shifting to the flashing light blinking out into the dark day.
She knows what it says, because she’s read it so many times that day. Happy 4th Birthday. She wants to smile at him, proud that she’s four, but she can’t. Because he’s already looking back at the stone.
She looks too and tries to see the words there. She knows the numbers. Remembers them from last time. 13-7-2008 – 13-7-2010. She remembers the numbers, because they are almost like her birthday. She shifts, gumboots digging into the soft, muddy ground, and gasps a little, remembering that she has to be careful not to hurt this ground. Because this ground is special to Him.
She looks at the dates again. At the thirteen and the seven. The numbers she shares with this stone that occupies so much of His time.
Again, she looks at the letters. She is learning to read, and like last time, she almost confuses the name with her own. But it doesn’t say her name.
13-7-2008 – 13-7-2010
Loving son, taken too soon.
Aiden. She mouths the word and reaches up to touch the necklace Mummy got her for her birthday. Addison. Addison and Aiden. Aiden and Addison. She looks at Him, still kneeling, still clutching at the letters, and she is afraid again.
She steps away from him, forgetting her mission to help His hurt by keeping away the rain.
She wants to cry. She hates the stupid stone. She hates that He always brings her to it, and yells at her for stepping in the wrong spots.
He looks up then, and it’s there in his eyes. The look. The look she hates, and she turns and runs back across the grass. She doesn’t watch where she’s going, instead she just runs.
She knows it’s wrong. Knows that He is hurt and she should be a good girl like Mummy says, but she can’t stay there. Can’t be near that stone anymore. He should have been hers. He should have been hers to go the park with, and to get ice-cream and to do all the other fun stuff that Mummy always promises He’ll do with her but they never do. To take to school on parents day, but He can’t because He’s working but really He doesn’t want to see her because she looks like him. The other him. And she knows that the other him, the one He says she looks like, is part of the stone. Part of the reasons He isn’t hers. Because their dates are the same and because she looks like she should be someone else.
Addison Winter crouches by the corner of a sandstone wall, rainbow umbrella discarded in the rain beside her. She sits, a soaked jumble of jumper and dress and blonde curls, and cries into her hands. The little birthday pin continues to flash it’s happy message into the dark grey world. Inside the cemetery gates, her father kneels before a marble headstone, staring after her, knowing he should give chase, to make sure she was okay, but unable to find the strength to get to his feet.