Audrey left Sybil asleep in the chair and went quietly into the back garden, bathed in October sunlight. She had known for nearly two years that her mother was passing into the desolate winter of dementia.
First, she had forgotten little things; names and places; she had lost track of the day of the week.
Next, it had been, “What’s that on my ham?”
“It’s mustard, Mum.”
“I don’t like mustard.”
“Mum, you’ve had mustard on your ham for ever. You love it!”
Sybil had given her such a look.
“I don’t like it.” And she had scraped it off, until there was no trace of it on the ham.
Today was the first time that Sybil hadn’t recognized her. She hadn’t been distressed, just puzzled. “Who are you, dear? I don’t know you, do I?”
Holding back tears had been hard. Now that her mum was safely asleep, Audrey let them spill down her cheeks. She sat herself on the wall of the fishpond and gazed at the four koi and the single goldfish.
The koi, red, black, white, metallic gold, slipped through the water, their paths traced by slow ripples that rolled across the pond, making a panelled lattice of silver through which the fish slid, now visible, now hidden by light and movement. A vine’s reflection, leaves hard-edged against the black and silver water, seemed more solid than the plant itself as it strove sunwards from the same root in the bank. The moment of reality shimmered. Red, black, white, metallic gold, appeared – and vanished.
Audrey devoured the image, fattening her spirit with its beauty as an animal gorges before winter to survive the cold and hunger.
There was a wail from the house. “Audrey. Audrey?”
She sighed, gently, and went indoors.

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