A Story by Peter Rogerson

A simple tale of a mourner who always kept his distance...


The Reverend Joshua Clarke stood weakly by the yawning hole the gravediggers had created, and stared into its empty depths.

He’d loved Amy Winthorpe with a deep and abiding love and now that the time had come to bid her spirit adieu as it made its way to the afterlife and hopefully into the arms of his god, he wished he’d told her. But he hadn’t. She’d never known.

He recalled vividly the very first time he’d noticed her. Amy Winthorpe was being married to a hunk of a man who must have been something like a rugby player and his first thought was that the two were incompatible. They must be. Th groom stood there in a suit that was clearly stretched over too many muscles whilst she was radiant in a flowing white gown. He’d never seen so beautiful a bride and as he merely glanced her way, he dared do no more than glance because if he stared he knew he’d fall for her, and that was never the right thing for a vicar conducting a marriage service to do if he was in charge of the proceedings. But even that glance was enough to guarantee a firm impression of her in his mind, one that would last and last and last.

It had been her mouth. The tiny half smile even though getting married is no funny matter and should be treated with the greatest seriousness, but she found a moment to smile. Then her hair. It was long and not tied up in a fashionable knot but flowing freeiy past her shoulders, teased by the breeze that blew in through the open doors of the ancient church. It had been a hot day and the doors were open to relieve some of the oppression created by the weather, and yet somehow there had been a breeze.

But that was all years ago. He’d been a young clergyman back then and easily excited by a pretty face or long hair. It was when he’d seen her dressed in more casual clothes for her honeymoon and sitting next to a man he looked on as being no more than a hulk that the Reverend Joshua Clark caught sight of her legs. He’d always had a thing about female legs. There was a sort of perfection about them, especially if they were to be viewed along with the short frock that hid almost nothing and suggested even more. As he stood there staring into the abyss of a freshly dug grave he remembered how felt as she’d flashed those legs at him. Accidentally maybe, but he’d rather thought not! The wedding ceremony was barely a year in the past when he found himself conducting a christening.

She’d had twins, two little girls, and when she arrived with them in a pram made for two, still young and perfect in every possible way, with the same teasing mouth and the same luxurious hair, and he thanked his Lord she was wearing a similarly short dress, one that barely hid any of the same glorious legs, he found himself having to hide his face because he was quite certain it would give away his wholly lascivious thoughts.

The man with her was a different hunk, or if he was the same man he’d shed an awful lot of flesh in a year. Then she’d spoken using the perfect voice he remembered from the wedding, “Josh can’t make it because he’s with the army overseas, so this is his brother, Jerry,” she said with her lips going through a well-remembered tiny smile routine.

He’d shaken hands with the brother-in-law and noted the lack of substance to the other’s hand, the way he rather thought it was flaccid and lacked anything like character. He rather remembered that the hunk she had married, and he’d hardly taken any notice of him at all, was firm and, dared he think it, manly.

The service over, the perfect legs clad in an impossibly perfect frock having pushed the twin pram away from the church and towards the housing estate where he knew she lived, he had taken himself into the vicarage and taken a bath. He didn’t normally bathe in the day time, but this time he felt soiled by the thoughts that had paraded themselves through his mind and felt the need to cleanse himself of them.

As he stood there by the freshly dug grave he almost relived that bath and repeated in a whisper the substance of the prayers that had accompanied it. For he had prayed for forgiveness because he felt soiled by the contents of his own mind whenever he saw Amy Winthorpe.

He remembered his thoughts back then, how they could only be described as dirty or filthy and he was ashamed of them. He was a celibate man of the Lord and that was what he considered the pure perfection of the way he was. And now, here he was gazing into freshly dug hole and if you thought about it, and he did, his thoughts were far from what he had been taught was pure.

Because he remembered the time on the bus.

He might have bought a car, but hadn’t. His parish was tightly knit and he rarely had to venture more than a mile from his church and the centre of his universe. So he used public transport, and one treasured moment was the time Amy Winthorpe had caught the same bus. She wasn’t a Winthorpe by then, of course, she must have used her husband’s surname but along with everything that wasn’t directly concerned with the woman herself he had forgotten it. Smith, maybe? He shook his head. Not that, nor Jones or Swift nor Barker… yes that was it, it had to be, she was Amy Barker.

Hello Reverend,” she said with that smile. It was years since he had first seen it, her twins were almost certainly at school now, but it was just the same. It teased him by its very existence.

Hello Mrs Barker,” he said.

Not Barker any more,” she said, “I’ve reverted to my maiden name and am a Winthorpe again! Josh died, you know, overseas doing what he had been led to believe was his duty, though I can’t see anything dutiful about going to a country where you’re not wanted and getting killed for doing it!”

I see your point,” he said suavely, hoping his very calmness would hide the undoubtedly obvious excitement that had flushed his face.

She was single!

So you’re a lonely widow?” he had asked, and standing by the open grave he could willingly prayed for it to swallow him up when he recalled the crassness of his words.

She had smiled at him. “Not always that lonely,” she had murmured with that teasing smile.

Those were the words that had done it, sent his mind into a turmoil and made him grab hold of one of her hands in order to squeeze it gently.

Her flesh was exactly as he had imagined it would be! Soft, yet firm, and she squeezed his fingers in reply.

I do hope things go well for you,” he had said, hoping the words didn’t betray the surging passion in his heart.

Oh, they will, I’ll make sure of that,” she had replied, broadening that smile until he saw most of her teeth. Her absolutely perfect teeth

Then she had climbed off the bus and walked towards s shop.

But as he stood there with the grave yawning in front of him he shook his head, thankful that there was nobody anywhere near to see him.

And he shook his head because he knew that shop and what it sold. It described itself as an adult shop and some of the clothing in its window was disgraceful. Or disgusting, and he was only too grateful that he had little in the way of idea what some of the items were for.

He shook his head again.

Amy Winthorpe, beautiful as ever, with hair as glorious as any head of hair had ever been, was dead. He had only seen her once after that bus ride, though he had wanted to, boy, had he wanted to! He’d even wandered to where he knew she lived to find the house empty and a FOR SALE sign gathering dust in its garden. Then he’d heard she was dead. There had been pages about it in the local press, how she had been stalked by a pervert who had fantasies about her, and how she had rejected him because there was very little about him that she could take to.

And how he’d decided no-one else could have her.

That could have been me, he whispered, because I could have stalked the wonderful beautiful woman! But I didn’t…

The procession from the church where the curate had conducted the funeral service was unbelievably long, winding along paths between sections of the graves until they arrived to where the Reverend Joshua Clarke stood, tears already streaming down his face.

In sobbing silence the pall-bearers lowered the coffin into the yawning chasm where The Reverend still stood watching and thinking and even remembering. Then one after the other his legs slowly buckled and he let them.

Amy was in the Earth and a whisper at the back of a mind that was barely working told him that so was he.

There had been one more time when he had seen her before the end, this end, came.

And that had been another funeral, the very last one that he had conducted himself. One of the twins she had given birth to had fallen prey to Covid at the age of seventy one, and Amy had been there, in a wheelchair, to bid her farewell, and Amy was by then ninety three, and she still had that magical smile and her glorious hair, though white now, still hung over her shoulders like if had always done.

And with that shadowy memory playing itself out in his mind he fell forwards as his feeble legs yielded to the inevitable and he fell, slowly at first, then faster, into the open grave, and crashed into the simple coffin where Amy was waiting for him.

If he had thought anything at all it would have been at last.

© Peter Rogerson, 24.03.23

© 2023 Peter Rogerson

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It was a surreal experience, living such a long life, watching someone so intimately and desiring them yet never letting on. He was a true lover, who in a way was united with the love of his life. Perseverance pays.

Your storytelling is awesome and I can't wait to return for more..

Posted 2 Months Ago

Peter Rogerson

2 Months Ago

Thank you for your thoughts. I do enjoy exploring those experiences that make us who we are.

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1 Review
Added on March 24, 2023
Last Updated on March 24, 2023
Tags: marriage, birth, twins, death


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 79 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..