The heads of the peony roses drooped and Johan drooped with them. The melody of the song had rattled around in his mind for weeks, but the words to accompany it were absent. His mother tended the roses and shot anxious looks in his direction. She held her secateurs as if they were made of gold.
‘I could make you a ginger tea?’ she ventured, her half-moon spectacles balanced on her nose.
‘It’s all right Mother, I just need some quiet. In fact, that snip-snipping is driving me up the wall.’
‘I need to catch all the dead-heads,’ she said. ‘Look at that, a slug. Goodness, he thinks he’s king of the castle. Off you go, you naughty, snotty thing.’ She flicked the offender away with a frosted-pink fingernail.
Johan hummed and turned his back on his mother. He reclined on a red-striped lounge chair, his ankles crossed. Pots of herbs lined the paved courtyard and two King Charles Spaniels slept near the door, their paws entwined. Johan’s chinos had sharp creases down the front where his mother ironed them. The sun was scorching through the blue polyester. He blew away a fat lock of pale hair from his forehead and played imaginary notes on the arm of the chair. In his other hand he held a pad and pen.
‘Dum-de-dum…Lights of ember, bring me home.’ Words! He grinned. It’s begun, he thought. The rose heads plopped to the ground and he glared.
‘Mother! Can you do something else? I’m having a breakthrough here.’
Her shoulders slumped as she padded past him, lips pursed.
Like leaves in a breeze his ideas were chased away. He cursed his mother under his breath. Some minutes passed before the sliding door opened and the smell of gingerbread drifted out.
She placed a plate of biscuits on his lap and held a deck of tarot cards.
‘I used to write stories once,’ she said. Her eyes glinted as she registered his surprise. ‘On days when the ideas didn’t come, I would pull a card from this deck as a starting point. Here, you try.’ She spread them out in a fan.
Johan rolled his eyes and reached for a card. It was ‘The Star.’ A nude woman staring into a pool of water.
His mother smiled. ‘I’ll leave you to it,’ she said and retreated inside.
Johan tapped his pen on the paper and mumbled. ‘Lights of ember bring me home…Stars that shine my path of stone.’ The chorus of his song. A smile formed on his lips as the words came in a torrent, like a jigsaw puzzle solved in an instant. His hand raced over the page as he jotted them down.
He paused to scoff a biscuit and yelled out, crumbs escaping from the corner of his mouth.
‘Thank you, Mother!’