by Maggie Scout

How beautifully leaves grow old.  How full of light and color are their last days.  ~John Burroughs

The softness of newly fallen red and gold and brown leaves, slippery under wellington boots that playfully rustled and kicked and swept on the way to school.   The feel of a new navy blue trenchcoat still to be softened and moulded, a buckle fastened tightly, the scratchy borrowed scarf and the hood tied under her chin to protect against the cold wind and rain, chapping at her face.  A brown leather satchel on her shoulders bobbing up and down and gloves dangling but still attached.  Her hand holding on tightly to the young man at her side.

I’m going to be late and I’ll get into trouble!

You’ll be fine.  I’ll explain.

It would be a typical exchange.  One who worried and one who tried not to.  Nothing would change as they grew older.

An unexpected memory from a long time ago interrupted Kate’s thoughts; a special day and the only time she could ever remember her big brother taking her to school.  She knew then he’d always be there for her and he was, for as long as he could be.

Since she was little, autumn had been Kate’s favourite time of the year.  There was no other season that reminded her of her mum so vividly than autumn with its vibrant colours.  Beautiful autumn, the transition from summer to winter, transforming the grey concrete roads and pavements into a carpet of blended colour, simply irresistible.  How her mum had watched everyday as the leaves fell, knowing that winter was on its way, and that this autumn would be her last.

Kate had never known her brother’s favourite season.  But she was certain if he’d had one, it would surely have been summer.  She couldn’t help but smile at the thought and knew, instinctively, that he’d agree.

She was doing lots of remembering lately and gave herself a talking to.  This self-indulgence had to stop!  Perhaps it was the celebration of her beautiful niece’s birthday or the shiny happy face of her great-nephew Noah or the fact that their lives had been turned upside down ten years ago or was it the earlier conversation she’d had with her best and oldest friend in the world that was the trigger.

Hidden emotions of a last autumn.

Unusually Kate had given herself permission to be alone today and now understood what it was about solitude that the woman in the corner seemed to like so much; quietness and a time to think and look around you. She observed the comings and goings, overheard snippets of conversations but always seemed to miss the punchline just before the laughter erupted.  She witnessed seriousness and hope etched in the faces of those around her and she realised, again, that everyone has a story to tell.

A boy in red and white with blond hair caught her eye in the distance, further down the beach.  He was flying a kite.  Her heart lifted and kicked.  But Noah and Auntie Jan weren’t alone.  The wind was too strong for them to control the kite and she watched curiously as the stranger stepped in to help.  Running and laughing together; chasing.

Well, that’s tonight’s conversation taken care of.

Her brother popped into her head again.  Mischief maker.  She smiled.