Soft autumn nights were the cruelest of all, and their whispering breath stung after all the years.
Mary hugged herself tight and swayed to a silent melody as she watched the moon spread its glow across the paddock behind the abandoned barn.
It was the same barn Dan built with his own hands that first year of their marriage, before Penny was born. As summer turned to fall and the harvest moon shone like a dream on their future, he’d led her by the hand into that pasture night after night, and they waltzed to his gentle humming.
How she wished they had held on just a little longer, squeezed each other just a little stronger! But how could she have known he’d be gone before the first snow?
“Come on, Mommy!” Penny raced past Mary from the dark recesses of the house and rumbled across the crunchy grass toward the barn. A white sheet billowed from her hands, flapping in the little girl’s breeze.
By the time Mary caught up, Penny had spread out the sheet in the paddock and was hopping around in the middle of it. Her moonlit shadow skittered across the white cloth.
“Am I doing this right, Mommy?” she asked.
“Um … I’m not sure, Penny. I’ve never seen anything like it … what are you trying to do, honey?”
“The dance, Mommy!”
“Yes. You know, the one you and Daddy used to do out here.”
Mary’s stomach churned — Penny had never even seen Dan. “Penny, how do you …”
“Daddy told me about it, Mommy.” Penny took a couple more clumsy hops and then slid into a graceful rhythm.
On the sheet, a man’s shadow merged with Penny’s as father and daughter waltzed in the sweet autumn air.