Winter comes for everybody

She folds up the tissue carefully, and places it with slow deliberate motion into the napkin, folding this over on itself and then putting the whole thing into a shoe box that has been lined rocks covered with cotton wool. When this is done, she looks to her father, and he nods solemnly, before saying a few words of comfort and producing the shoe box lid. He wraps a line of electrical tape along the join of box and lid, and picks it up, crouching down onto one knee before offering it to her. She pauses, and he has to tell her that this is best for Goldie, before she will take it.
He stands, and then puts his arm around her shoulder as they walk out of the house together. They walk across the road, and into the park, the park so close that she considers it her own garden. It is a mix of neatly kept grass and large rhododendron bushes, and she knows all of it very well, having crawled, run or climbed through and over every single inch of it this summer alone. The park is on a hill, with three paths. Once central path goes to a middle, circular monument, a great slab of stone, with many words etched into it. Words she has never read. Just before the slab, the path forks, both paths heading steeply down to a gate, and both bottom gates joined by a gravel strip that scrunches when you walk on it. She likes that one better than the tarmac ones.
Father and daughter walk down through the park familiar to one of them and unknown to the other, to the reservoir at the bottom. There are three bodies of water here, the first two are split by a footbridge, and have wrought iron railings all around them. She doesn’t want Goldie in one of them. All along perfectly straight lined banks are small breaks in the reeds and weeds, patches of concrete. And on most days, men, alone, and grey sit there, hunkered down under large umbrellas, long rods cast into the water, maggots writhing in tubs, sandwiches curling in either sun or drizzle. No. She wants Goldie to go into the third reservoir. Edgeley Pond. So, head bowed, she is steered by her father’s hand on the shoulder as they leave the park by the bottom right exit, and cross another road, onto not really another park, but an open field with a path through it. Here, there are only one or two anglers. No iron railings. The grass goes to the water, and along the water’s edge are dotted the occasional weeping willow. She likes them, they seem to bow respectfully to the water. And that makes this water seem freer than the other two, not bounded and caged, endlessly examined by men in galoshes. Her father picks what seems to be the least muddy section, and stops as the grass slopes down to the water, his hand falling away from her shoulder the only indication he gives to her that this bit, this bit she needs to do on her own.
She walks to the water’s edge, never once taking her eyes off the shoebox. Not until her toes get wet, and she hears a stifled gasp from her father, who now seems to be many miles behind her, does she stop and look around at where she is. She kneels down, ignoring the lapping water that wets her, and sits for a moment, shoebox perched awkwardly on lap, as she cries. She remembers getting Goldie from the fair, Uncle Jack getting three prefect bulls eye’s with the BB gun, getting him in a clear plastic bag, and her mother and father both agreeing that Goldie wouldn’t make it home. She remembers going with her father and Uncle Jack to buy a round, open topped tank, and choosing the multicoloured pebbles for the tank, saying it was like where a rainbow lands. She remembers carefully feeding Goldie, obsessing about not giving him too little or too much, but also just enough, and the day she took him to school and told her class about how she had to change his water, and the difficulty of feeding him. She remembers telling Goldie all about her days, and being careful to include him in her play whenever she could. Her dolls house sitting open and neglected, as another round of tea with giant Rupert and Goldie was had.
And coming home today, all excited to be back at school, and up a year, and finding Goldie on his side, not moving. Then she simply pushes the shoebox away from her. It floats, briefly, as it travels out into the pond, but it sinks as it does so, and as it tips up and disappears with a gentle shloop sound, giving a last burp of air to mark its location, she stops crying, wiping her eyes on the short sleeves of her summer dress. She stands, now cold and wet, and eager to get home. She says nothing at first, silently slipping her hand into her father’s as they walk home. It’s not until they are about the cross the final road, until after they have left the parks and reservoirs behind them, that she speaks. She hasn’t really thought about it until now, and, in all truth, she is forming the thought as she says it out loud. “It’s good, isn’t it, really, that he went now, Dad. I mean, Autumn. The trees are dropping leaves, everything is brown and red, like getting ready for winter. Like Winter is death. It feels alright that he died now.”
Her father pauses and looks at her, and she looks at him, silently finishing off the thought to herself, realising as she looks up to him that her father will die. That she will die. That winter comes for everybody.
He father hugs her, horrified by her sudden maturity. he does the only thing he can think of, and hopes aloud that they can find some cartoons to watch when they get back home.

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