When his mother had finally died some years later, choking on some incurable disease that washed the colour from her cheeks and left just a thin line of blue around her lips, it was Marietta who had kissed her goodbye. George kept his distance, sitting on a plastic chair perplexed by the sanitised aroma of the hospital as Marietta leant so very gently over the spent body. Her fingers resting lightly on the white linen, she pressed her lips against his mother’s ghastly cheek and left them there suspended for what seemed like an eternity before pulling back and brushing the pink blush of her own cheek with an outstretched finger.
George watched it all in silence, imagining that his wife was sucking the last remnants of his mother’s essence and imagining too, with absolute certainty, that Marietta’s eyes had changed colour to become a flawless reflection of the woman who had just died. In that moment he had not felt the relief of being an orphan, but the intense burden of knowledge that there was no possible hope of respite.