It was near midday when I at last woke and stumbled from my room hoping for something to eat. Along with my wits the restful sleep seemed to have also brought back my appetite. I went into the garden, munching on a simple cheese sandwich. While mother was inside the house, father was nowhere to be seen and I took the chance to go to the place I thought of as the teddy’s grave site.
The sun burned on my arms and face as the smells of the garden overwhelmed my senses. But today, other scents hung in the air as well. The air itself seemed to have a metallic taste. When I came to the grave site and saw the plants growing over the spot I realised what the different smells were that I couldn’t place. Five plants grew upon the grave as if they had been there far longer than only a few hours. I bent down and brushed my fingertips over the flowers and leaves. Angelica, betony, dill, mugwort, and rue. Everyone knew that they were used to keep evil at bay. My heart hammered in my ears. Where did these plants come from? Mother loved betony flowers, but they were only allowed in the gardens of those rich enough to afford the seeds themselves.
“Betony!” I heard the voice behind me and swung around. I had not heard my mother coming up behind me. Mother looked ready to scold me, but could not take her eyes off of the purple flowers.
I reached out and picked one for her. As the stem broke and the scent filled my senses, I suddenly remembered seeing a black cloud on the plain just before the plane crashed.
A woman from town, leaning over the low fence, shook me from my memory.
“You are not allowed betony in your garden,” she said, glaring first at the plants and then at the flower I held in my hand. “It is bad enough we had to give up out meadowsweet again. And for what? A forgotten grave?”
Mother grabbed a clump of dirt and threw it at her. The muddy clump crumbled against her shoulder, leaving a brown mark on the pattern of red flowers.
The woman moved on then without looking back, muttering to herself.
I don’t know why I spoke when I saw the tears in mother’s eyes.
“I saw father bury the teddy bear. I saw him burn it and the strange lines in the acrid smoke.” I pointed down at the overgrown patch of dirt. “Why? And why hide it from me?”
Mother reached for my hand as she sat back on the ground next to the stuffed toy’s grave and pulled me down beside her. She wiped at her eyes with the hem of her apron before clutching my hands in both of her own. She stared into my eyes, new tears forming, as she said: “It was never your bear, it was your brother’s.”