When she died he paid for a bench on the main drag, in her memory. Nobody sat on the bench. And when, within days, a thatched roof appeared on his cottage, nobody dignified his difference by passing comment. I alone welcomed it as a spark of magic in a grey world roofed with slate. I believed the cottage wasn't thatched at all, but that he'd trained his beloved hedgehogs to climb onto the roof each dawn and sleep there.
I forgot this, until in my teens my father died. At night I'd walk out to the hill beyond the houses. I'd look at the village and the one thatched roof, and grieve. Eventually, one night, I was ready. I walked into the village, past dead eyed houses, and under the streetlights I sat on the bench.