The puzzle piece wears a tiny section of a willow tree; drooping leaves dancing in an invisible wind, trunk absent and probably divided among multiple other insignificant cardboard squares.It could not be whole without all of its pieces, that’s what Grampy used to say: this family is all made up of people and without any one of us the puzzle is all broken up. I guess that’s what we are now. Individual pieces trying to slot into the world independent of our matching people. The ones who make us fit.

Gran wore a saggy black maxi dress and silence to the funeral. She wore a veil too, probably to hide any rebellious tears… or the lack of them. I’m not saying she won’t miss Grampy – she will – but only for the coffee and croissants at breakfast, and the background noise he created in their flat. I stared at my Gran’s straw-like hair throughout the service, but I saw my Grampy’s goofy smile.

I pinched the puzzle piece tightly on that icy cold wooden bench – the type of bench that makes it seem like the church only want  to make you suffer more. The puzzle piece is imprinted on my hand now, its outline indented into my flesh. Flesh and blood. That’s what people say isn’t it? I doubt my flesh and blood Gran will be inviting me to any more Sunday lunches now though so it’s pointless even thinking it.

Nothing to me. Dead to me. Waste of my time. 

It was Grampy, only him, who encouraged me to pursue my dream and teach. I suppose the others couldn’t see the point. And they’re right to some extent, why study your arse off for years when your dad’s a millionaire? I have no excuse except that I wanted to, which of course wasn’t good enough. And then I did the unforgivable. I married the janitor! I mean honestly Penny, the Janitor for heaven’s sake?

So it was a quiet funeral. Grampy’s face smiled up at me from a pixelated image, balanced on his coffin to remind us of our loss. I left immediately afterwards, clutching the puzzle piece. Ignoring my dad making out with his mistress at the back of the church and my mother swooning and batting eyelids at the vicar. It’s like all the puzzle pieces have warped in the heat, bent and shrunken beyond rescue. Beyond any hope of being restored to a complete picture.

I open my hand and examine the piece. I’d cracked it, squeezing it too tightly, and one of the little points crumbled and fell off when I opened my hand. I dropped it into the bin. It wasn’t a section of a larger image: a dancing willow tree; but simply an image of some wilting willow leaves dangling from invisible branches. All alone.


Sorry for my tardiness! I’ve had a crazy weekend.


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