Stepping across the dew-covered grass, no sign of life from the cottage, Rachel carried the gardening tools towards the borders she had planned to turn over that week. On previous visits, tinkling tunes had flowed out through the ever open stable-door as Bill gave children their lessons, bored parents waiting in cars on the drive, not enough time to drive home and back.
The breeze she had felt at home, only four miles away, had dropped and the air hung still amongst the tree branches, which reached towards the ground and split into ever smaller twigs like fingers with many knuckles pointing out away from the property. She let her tools fall in a clattering jumble on the grass. No birds sang and in fact no birds were visible she noticed, there was usually an abundance of songbirds here as Bill kept his feeders full for them.
The back door was closed but Rachel knocked to announce her arrival. No-one came to answer. She peered in through the window, and her heart lurched. The kitchen furniture all draped in sheets, no vase of freshly cut flowers on the table. Bill always placed flowers on the table as his weekly memory gift to Rose. Rachel had thought it sweet he still did this as Rose had been dead three years.
She moved around the exterior to what she knew to be the music room. Again, she lent in close and as her eyes became accustomed to the darkness within she felt a sharp pain at her ankle. Snatching her face away from the shock of the empty room through the glass, she saw brambles encasing her legs and pulled her feet out carefully. Her boot had a red smear and on closer inspection a robin lay motionless in the undergrowth, a trickle of blood escaping silently from its beak.
‘Oh God, that’s horrible’ Rachel muttered to herself and hastily reversed onto the grass. What the hell was happening here? Where was the piano?And where was Bill?
Rachel stooped to collect her tools and their long handles now lay parallel where she was sure she had let them drop. She grabbed them and made her way back towards the car before something to the right caught her eye.
Bill’s bench with Rose’s name etched on the back was no longer under the vines. Instead was a sight that took her breath away…