When I heard the war was over I barely dared to breathe in case I missed hearing you come home. I heard your whistle in the evensong of birds, your key turning in the crackle of the fire.
Each morning I walked through the fields to the shore, certain that I’d meet you coming back. I believed in you even when the other wives said prayers for their husbands and began to move on.
That summer the crows came, a cackling army scattering blue black feathers across the paths. At night their cracked talons grasped the gutters as they watched the darkness creep across fields heavy with
Then, one by one, the men came home. Bags clinking with foreign treasures, faces dark with memories and grime. They sat in clusters, cackling and preening over their escapades until the sun went down and the beer turned them mean. Then they sat brooding silently or lashed out with sharp tongues.
Months passed. You didn’t come and I lost the harvest. Every night I sat and looked out over the shorn fields until my eyes made you up from tree branches and shadows. I lit candles in every window so you could find your way home in the dark.
They said I was lucky, the bewildered wives who hid their new bruises beneath their dresses. They spoke of broken men weeping like children, of gentle husbands who had grown a taste for holding them down on the
bed. At first I hated them, their soft, trembling, treacherous mouths, their ungrateful tears, their bodies touched by someone else’s hands.
But it’s been almost a year now and I’m starting to be afraid. The crows gather on the roof and beat against the windows when I light the candles for you. The men fall silent as I walk down to the shore, their gleaming eyes tracing the outline of my body under my robe.
Wherever you are, I need you to come home.