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One Rain Soaked Day


Michelle Martin

The air is cold and crisp and haunts the city streets, from the vast grey mass above us all, rain pours mercilessly down. Tourists huddle together in shop doorways or under umbrellas, I hear them all curse your name in every language known. They stare at me as I walk, a single white rose twirling in my fingers. I allow the rain to soak my skin and hair, causing my clothes to stick to me. This is my city. The strangers who come in flocks curse the weather, always. Even when the sun shines during summer they complain it is too hot. I curse them all in my head, always in my head.

Today is your day. Pouring rain shall not destroy it. I stop and look up into the falling rain. I see the smog blackened cathedral. You are there. I walk up the steps, my breath clouding in the cold in front of me. Raising a hand, I push open the heavy door, I enter and allow it to close. People stare at me. At the girl who is soaked to the skin, dripping all over the cold floor. I ignore them. I look around. The cathedral's beauty is hidden. Behind scaffolding and white tarpaulin. I can hear the workmen preparing it for her three hundredth anniversary. Anniversary. The word echoes through my mind. It is yours today.

My footsteps sound hollow on the black and white stone floor as I walk. Leaving a trail of water behind me. Any other day and I would be asked to leave. But they see the rose. They understand. They know. The tourists do not, and stare, curious. I walk silently, down through the rows of chairs. In the corner of my eye, I see the monuments in the wings. I know yours is hidden. But I do not care. I do not come to see that. I am stopped when I reach the velvet rope. The man shakes his head. Closed. I raise my hand and he sees the rose. A nod. The rope pulled back.

With shaky breath and nervous steps, I walk forth. I look up and see the dome above me. The whispering gallery. Directly beneath the dome's centre stands a wreath. The familiar flag of red, white and blue. England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Island. Good old Union Jack. He is wrapped around it. A naval cap, HMS Victory, is balanced on top. I stop. My gaze drifts to the stone epitaph in the floor. A simple rectangle of granite. A familiar name etched across it. You. Flowers lie around it's edge. People remembered. I was not alone. Dropping to my knees, not standing on your tomb. I place my single white rose. I trace your name with ice cold fingers. My hero.

Standing, I look down to where you lie. In a coffin made from the wood of a French man-of-war. A sign of what you achieved. Our eternal debt to you. I can feel the eyes of all on me. Piercing my back. I stare at your tomb. Anniversary. That word is back. Today is yours. You gave us your life one hundred and ninety seven years ago today. We owe you everything. You died to save us. To save me. To save my people. Hero. Is a word synonymous with your name. Hero. A nation's hero. England's darling son. Our hero, we love you. I love you. I walk away. Leaving you, my hero, until next year.

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