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Short story by Zala Jambrovic Hatic

I sit down beside her and lean back against the cool stone. It’s a beautiful day, not a cloud in sight, and the sun’s rays provide me with enough warmth that I’m wearing only a deep-blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up to my elbows even though it’s only March. 

For a few moments, I let myself enjoy the view. I’ve always liked coming here, to the top of the hill just outside the city. If you faced the right way, the buildings, the roads and everything else lay behind you and all you could see were the green fields that gradually changed into woods out of which grew the mountains, climbing up into the sky with their white peaks. It was an absolutely spectacular sight. 

I lean forward and grab the picnic basket. “I brought wine, as always. It’s your favourite, too, and it was bloody difficult to find.” Pulling out the bottle, I set it on the soft grass beside me, leaning it against my leg to keep it upright. “Then we have roast beef sandwiches, homemade breadsticks and hummus, scones, jam, butter and cream, a blueberry pie and strawberries. I thought about getting some grapes as well, but figured we had more than enough food as is.” 

It takes me a moment to reach the plates at the bottom of the basket. Setting them out on the ground next to us, I take out the wine glasses as well and pour the wine. I made sure everything would be perfect. This is a special occasion, after all, and the last thing I want is for her to be disappointed. 

Taking one of the sandwiches, I carefully unwrap it and put it on my plate. “I used your special recipe,” I tell her, smiling. “You were quite right, the pickle makes all the difference in the world.” 

I dig in, leaning back as the view claims my attention once more. As I gaze into the distance, I feel like there’s an invisible line separating me from the mountains and their beauty. We used to go there all the time, but it seems worlds away now. Memories come flooding back and I can see us making our way up the steep trail, laughing at what was probably one of my very bad jokes. I was never any good at them and yet she always laughed. I feel a smile appear on my face as my memory conjures up the sweet music of her laughter, and I can see her face as clearly as if she was standing in front of me, her eyes gleaming with joy and happiness. 

“Oh, Evelyn.” Her name slips from my lips with such ease one would think they were made just to pronounce it. 

The memories disappear and my smile fades. The tombstones around us swallow up her laughter and silence claims my world again. All I’m left with is the view, as beautiful as ever, but so unattainable it might as well be a painting on the wall.

Originally published in Issue XVII in May 2018.