The War had been over for, what, fifteen years? Sixteen? Ronald did not come home, you know. But life must be endured, so I shouldered my grief and carried it well. If my parents taught me nothing, it was to be as brave in the face of adversity as a lady could be.
But life without Ronald seemed… no, was bereft of meaning. Still, I never sought out a second husband. We had no children, of course. I suppose I found the emptiness satisfying, almost comfortable.
The flower stand is only a short walk, and I made it part of my daily regimen — every day, after lunch, I would don my coat and hat and purchase a small bouquet for the dining table for that evening. It was never a very large expense, but I found the simple act of transaction a steady reminder that life must be renewed on a daily basis.
The gentleman who owned the flower stand had been a veteran of the War: I believe attached to one of the units that served in France. He had been decorated for valour and wore his medal, once brilliant brass but now heavily coated with a patina of age, with enormous pride. His greatcoat was in constant need of mending, yet he never allowed a soul to undertake what would have been a simple gesture of kindness. He was a proud man, and I found his daily company reassuring. We never exchanged names, of course, merely simply pleasantries, brief words about the weather and our respective health.
Last Thursday, or thereabouts, he apparently took his service revolver and shot himself. I say “apparently”, as I do not know the details for certain: it was only after the passage of a few days that I was informed. I had assumed he had gone on holiday.
I haven’t bought flowers since. Yes, there are other vendors, of course, but somehow it feels… disrespectful. For the moment, the crystal vase sits empty. It’s only proper, I think.
I was thinking about this man whose name I never knew as I walked home last night. I was perhaps a block or two from home when I encountered a young woman, apparently in the direst of straights. Her face and hands were filthy; her clothes little more than rags. Impetuously, I stopped, took off my walking shoes, and gave them to her, then continued home in my stockings.
Ronald, had he seen me do this, would have severely reprimanded me for such foolishness, of course. And perhaps he would have been right to do so.
But then again, perhaps not.