He hadn’t been here for years. The town had changed a lot since then. It looked smaller somehow. Different shops lined the high street, the ubiqitous chain stores you see in every town replacing the old local shops, and he didn’t recognise anyone as he drove past.
Yet still, in some way this was home. This was where he’d grown up. His old school was down that road there, and as evidence that some things don’t change he’d seen children racing to beat the school bell, sporting the same ugly uniform he’d worn when he was their age.
He parked his car, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It had been a long time, and the town wasn’t the only thing that had changed. He wanted to put his past behind him and move on but he couldn’t, not yet. There was something he had to do first.
He looked at his reflection in the rear view mirror, smoothed his hair down with his hand and adjusted his tie. He felt absurdly nervous as he got out of the car, leaning back in to pick up the bouquet from his passenger seat.
He took a deep breath and walked down the path. He thought of all the things he had to say, all the things he wanted to tell her. How he had turned his life around; how he was helping other people turn their lives around, how he was making a difference. About the awards he’d been given, the hope he had brought to his community. About his wife, and the child he had on the way. About how the only thing he’d wanted these past ten years was to make her proud. Just to hear her say it once.
In the end, he said none of that. He stood at her grave and laid his bouquet in front of her headstone.
“I love you, Mum,” he whispered.
© Kari Fay