The Second Wife's Inheritance
Margot Comstock

Sleeping by his wife on Halloween, in the house in Offley Park her great great grandmother had inherited 232 years before, a man dreamed of a giant tree. It's trunk told of a thousand autumns, yet its shadows weren’t frightening, its size comforting.

In his dream he saw a woman, lithe and lovely in early blush of midlife, run through the twilight fog to embrace the tree. The tree seemed to soften, fit ting itself to her, bowing its branches as if protecting her.

So they stood, as they might have stood a hundred times, and the dark foggy Halloween night seemed filled with warmth and joy.

Suddenly great clouds gathered, lightning streaked, thunder crashed. As suddenly, the woman's face filled with an eternity of sadness and she melted away. The great tree shook and bent to one side and the other in the wind.

The dreaming man watched it groan and felt its pain. In the moment of his dream, seeing the woman, he had known love.

He awoke to a terrible crack of thunder and ran to the window. Outside a giant ash tree stood where no tree had stood for more than two hundred years. It thrashed and crashed and then fell upon the house, into the bedroom. As if to go halvers with fate, it missed the astonished man and crashed into the bed.

As he raced for help, he thought he heard a woman's laugh, light and joyous, full of love and relief at last.

First published: November 2002