The coat mocks him. Long after he has finally washed the sheets, after he has straightened each empty room and forever wiped away the sight and scent and sense of that other presence, the coat still mocks him. His eyes cannot avoid glancing to where it hangs by the door, a lurking shadow on the corner of his vision, but neither can he bear to touch that familiar black cloth in order to fold it away in the back of the closet. There would be nothing beneath his hand; no delicate wrist to caress, no shoulder to rest his head upon, no waist to wrap his arms around. He would touch only cold, dead fabric awaiting a wearer who shall never return. Yet each time he catches sight of the coat the questions come unbidden: What if a trace of musk still lingers in those fibers? What if a single fine white hair lays trapped beneath the collar? The possibilities almost draw him a step closer, desperate as he is for just one familiar remnant, a last token, a final… But no. Not now. Someday he will take the coat down, perhaps even hold it close one more time, yet until that moment it remains a black blot on the edge of his awareness, a stark reminder of the permanence of loss.


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