It’s a few weeks before he can bring himself to visit her again, after the funeral. He has to bring Harry with him, too, because — as ridiculous, irrational,
as it is — he didn’t think he could face her alone. Gem would laugh if she knew, and rightly. Isn’t it pathetic, not to be able to stare down a slab of rock on his own? She’s
Still, he feels her eyes on him as he clears away the small pile of withering flowers from her funeral, appraising him, aching with loudly felt disappointment as he returns to Harry’s side. (All three of them knowing she’ll never have this many flowers again, that her grave will be as cold and empty as her life was, and none of them willing to admit it) He clears the feeling with a shake of his head and lays down fresh flowers, a muted gladiolus wreath propped up against her tombstone. Leans his shoulder discreetly against Harry’s, because his mother wouldn’t approve of their friendship but he can’t be here alone, and falls still.
Harry breaks the silence.
“She would be proud of you,” he says, hopeful and unsure. Ed scoffs. “She would be! Anyone would!”
Ed feels, suddenly, that he’d rather be anywhere else in the world. No, that’s not right. He’d rather be home, with Harry who’s always had absolute faith in him and Gemma who needs him. He backs away from her, and ignores her last scraping disappointments.
He stares down her grave, and it stares right back. It’s been too long , it says. What could possibly have kept you ?
He clears away his long-dead wreath (of course nobody else has thought of her since) and thinks, work (he’s been so busy) and Gemma (she wouldn’t survive on her own). He thinks he’s making excuses. It’s Harry, a little bit — she wouldn’t approve, her body rolls in her grave under his feet even as he thinks Harry’s name — but mostly he can’t stand to be here, everything she didn’t want him to be, handsome and successful and gay . Always after her approval, hating every last moment. The shadow of her Ed falls over him, and he almost turns to leave. Christ, he’s running from a dead woman. Running from a slab of stone.
Instead, he lays a small bouquet of hydrangeas at the foot of the grave and says, “we’re engaged. Harry and I.” Feels a little ridiculous, talking to a grave, imagines Harry spending hours happily chatting to the air. But he’s alone. At least nobody else is here to see him. “We’re going to be happy .”
The wind digs hooks into his skin as he backs away, anchors to the ground and pleads with him not to go, to stay, to change. He ignores it, unlocks his phone, and calls Harry as he leaves.
He doesn’t return.