Catherine brushed off the rain from the arm of her black trenchcoat, shiny beads of wet on the satiny fabric. It was just a reflexive gesture; more rain was still coming, drizzling down from the stone-gray sky, the coat would just get wet again. She heard a high-pitched shriek, the familiar sound of her toddler daughter happily exclaiming in some kind of discovery. Catherine looked up towards the sound; Martha was squatting, chubby hands on her chubby knees, in rapturous delight having spotted a squirrel eating something with his teeny busy paws. Children were so of the moment, she thought, imagining the focus, how Martha must be looking at the squirrel, taking it its every last little detail and movement, new to her eyes, delicious and rich. Martha’s hair, bright blond and already to her shoulders, was damp with the rain, her pink boots muddy, her dress half hiked up in the back, stuck to her pink matching raincoat. Catherine decided to move a little closer as she saw Martha extend a hand out towards the squirrel, and walked somewhat unsteadily towards the child through the wet grass, black pumps sinking down a bit, slipping slightly on the leaves starting to blanket the ground.

The squirrel finally decided enough was enough and spiraled his way up the huge maple tree there beside them,chattering angrily. Martha laughed and raised her hands, pounded them on the tree trunk, yelling upwards, “Bah-ee! Bah-ee! Go!” Catherine smiled to herself; Martha thought the squirrel was a bunny. As the animal went higher into the tree, Martha lost sight and interest, and bolted away again, her tiny legs propelling her towards the next item of interest. Catherine did not worry too much; there didn’t seem to be much danger for Martha to get into, and the area was fenced with tall black wrought iron. She could keep an eye on her, let her run, burn off some energy, Catherine reasoned, as she wiped off a small patch of water from a wooden bench, and sat, crossing her legs. She noticed as the bottom of her dress peeked out from her trenchcoat that she had spilled some coffee on it, and frowned. Martha squawked in the distance, copying a bird, kept running.

Catherine let her eyes wander, taking in the pretty expanse of neat green lawn, the old trees that were quietly letting their vibrant red and yellow and rust colored leaves twirl to the ground, one by one. The rain had made everything look moist and shiny; the flatness of the steady gray light made the colors pop out. Pretty as a picture, she thought, as the wind picked up a bit, sending the leaves already in the air on a more tangential journey to the ground, an unexpected zig zag. Her eyes searched out Martha in the distance, the pink and blonde of her, who must’ve noticed the beauty of the leaves as well, and was now gathering them, dropping some as she scooped up others, over and over. Catherine stared at her awhile, until it became unbearable to keep looking, and glanced away again, up and towards the clouds that were shifting and moving in the sky. She startled at the feel of a hand on her shoulder.

“Cathy, it’s getting cold. It’s time to go.” It was her father, in his dark blue suit, the same one he had worn when Michael had finally finished his master’s, and then taken them all to Maggiano’s to celebrate. She looked up at his face, looking down at her. He is an old man now, she thought, and I am sorry he had to see this. She looked into his eyes, and wished she could take away his pain for her, the deep aching helpless sadness. He rubbed her shoulder, and said, “I’ll go get Martha.” He walked towards the child, and Catherine heard him exclaim, “Martha! Come see Papa! Let’s go take a ride in the big car! Let’s go, honey!” Martha loved him so much, Catherine thought, as she watched the toddler run towards him with a big smile, and he took her tiny hand, and walked towards the bench. As they drew near, Catherine rose, turned and bent slightly towards her child, and managed a small smile to her. Martha’s eyes twinkled as she smiled back at her mother. Catherine extended her hand, and clasped her daughter’s other hand, and the three walked slowly back to the entrance, paced by the small steps of the youngest.

As they passed by the gravesite, Martha broke free and bent to pick up a brilliant red leaf, perfectly formed. They watched as the child took it, and placed it on top of a wreath of yellow roses already there.

“Here, Dah-ee. Fo’ you.”

Catherine and her father stood, frozen, afraid to look at each other. The little girl patted the leaf, and ran forward, full-speed, toward the waiting limousine and the driver, waiting outside with a large black umbrella for them. They stood there for a few seconds, until her father took Catherine’s hand, squeezed it hard, leaving the moment. Martha would not remember it, or anything at all of Michael, but they would remember for her.