One Word, Her Name – Short Fiction by Jennifer Mills Kerr

She wrote him letters. About the time he read Neruda’s poetry to her when she was ill, the time he ran outside in the rain to fetch the chapstick from her car, the time he brought her daisies after driving to three florists in his search, only to discover they grew wild behind an abandoned farmhouse two miles from their home. She trusted their past. The memories in her letters steadied him, and with her words, his life felt more vibrant.

For a year, he returned her letters with postcards, writing nothing except his next address. He moved often, life snaking through back-country roads, as elliptical as her handwriting. Her words would find him wherever he went.

A letter had arrived that October morning. His home was a cabin, tucked into a hillside with views of morning mists and stars. He read the letter several times. Now, leaning back in an armchair, he held it against the rise and fall of his chest.

I visited Alison’s grave today.

Their daughter was buried in a cemetery of towering oaks. Three years old. Leukemia. For two years, his wife had refused to speak her name or visit her grave; she hadn’t said much at all, even on the day he packed up his car and left, unable to bear her silence any longer.

Remember how she loved daffodils?

Yes, he remembered. They matched the color of her hair.

I miss her. I miss you.

His wife’s letter beneath his palm, he envisioned the daffodils placed upon his daughter’s grave.  Alison. As the sun sank from view, he whispered his daughter’s name–Alison, Alison–hearing his wife’s voice inside his own. One word, her name, had called him home.

Jennifer Mills Kerr

Jennifer Mills Kerr's short fiction, memoir, and poetry have been published in The Dickens Literary Review, Flashquake, and First Leaves Journal, among others. An East Coast native, she is a lover of mild winters, anything Jane Austen, and the raucous coastline of Northern California. You can read more of her creative work at www.JenniferMillsKerr.us.

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