When her maman died Marie flew ten hours to the ancient French village where the houses steepled the church, their mansard roofs brown from neglect. The Weeping Willow in front of maman’s weathered hovel did not match Marie’s feelings. It never did.
Inside the furniture had aged into antiques. The handmade chaises with ladder backs and unadorned ticking, French oak dinning table, the vaisellier darker from decades of hearth ash.
The rose print wallpaper had faded to shadow bands, the town print on the mantle now almost sepia, her first crib picture a fading black and white dream.
Maman’s single bed existed pushed into the corner of a windowless chambre, almost a frenzied fever blue room delusion of Van Gogh’s last dying days.
Hanging alone in the closet was maman’s noir widow’s dress, the one Marie imagined maman would be buried in. That was until Claire, the old neighbor next door, gave Marie maman’s ashes in a simple wooden box with a gold filigreed clasp. Pinned to the dress was Maman’s will written in her eloquent hand on unlined French folio.
These cinders, this shuddering land, this dress with all its memories, and grief would be her inheritance.
Marie held the dress to her as she returned to the archway of the still open door. The lace sleeves were shorter than she remembered, but it would fit her very well. Just beyond her, the country road with its oaks grasping for union stubbornly remained a horse trail.