Leaves, leaves, and more leaves—the fall chore overwhelmed Kelsie each year, ever since she’d lost Tanner. It wasn’t the yardwork that ate at her, but more the season, the slide from a glorious summer into an end-of-growing-things autumn, followed closely by the chill of winter, when everything was either dead or in a deep sleep. That inevitability reminded her she’d been powerless to stop Tanner’s death—once the cancer was diagnosed, he’d had exactly three months left, those three months falling during a turbulent autumn.

Her friends worried for her. “Five years out, you should be bouncing back,” they said. “He would want you to live your life, not stay buried in grief.”

But they didn’t know—hadn’t known—her brother. After their father, and then their mother had died, Tanner had been her lifeline. For that bittersweet decade after their deaths, he had served as her confidant when her personal relationships soured. He’d always, always led her toward the positive, even after he got sick.

“You’re a tough woman,” he’d said when she expressed doubt that she could carry on without him. “You’ll survive. That’s what we do. All of this loss makes you strong.”

But she knew different. Loss left holes. Large ones that couldn’t be filled, no matter how many days, weeks, or years passed. Couldn’t be filled, no matter how many dead leaves you stuffed into them.

And so Kelsie raked. The piles grew, and she allowed the ache in her arms and shoulders and back to counter the pain in her soul. Her thoughts butted up against the endless question: Why had she been spared? Tanner should have lived, not her; even after all this time, she was still not up to the task of facing her life alone.

When the sun sank below the trees, she put up the rake and went indoors for a hot mug of hard cider and a hearth fire. She dozed in her chair, hearing over the crackle of the flames the wind gusting. I should have moved the leaf piles into the woods. Now they’ll be scattered.

The following morning, Kelsie pulled on her jeans, boots, and sweater to tackle another round of yard work. Glancing out the bedroom window, she stepped closer to the glass, to better see.

The wind—or something—had indeed moved the leaves, but instead of scattering them, they were arranged on the grass in a pattern, one that spelled a name: hers.

“Tanner,” she whispered, feeling suddenly lighter. The darkness within her retreated with the day’s full sunlight. “Thank you.”

Books with more of Dianna’s stories

Author Bio
Author Bio
Born and raised in the Midwest, Dianna has also lived in three other quadrants of the U.S. She writes short stories and poetry, and is working on a full-length novel about a young woman in search of her long-lost brother.
  • Dianna Sinovic, Featured Author

    Dianna writes short stories and poetry, and is working on a full-length novel about a young woman in search of her long-lost brother.

  • Answer Me This

    The deck beckons you to turn over a card. The cryptic symbols on the backs intrigue you, but you aren’t sure you want to wade into the tarot just yet.

  • A Winter’s Tale

    One memory from this time of year that’s still as crisp in detail as the night it happened was when I was eleven. That was more than thirty years ago, a time before cell phones or Taylor Swift. A time when I hadn’t yet left the magic of childhood.

  • Detachment

    Leaves, leaves, and more leaves—the fall chore overwhelmed Kelsie each year, ever since she’d lost Tanner.

  • Turning Point

    The pumpkin foretold the event—the dare, the maze, the fire, all of it. If only Gregg had known to heed the warning of that orange jack-o’-lantern on the porch: The flickering slits for eyes, the leering mouth with mold grown over the gourd’s carved incisors. He’d laughed when he spotted it. So Julian.

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Born and raised in the Midwest, Dianna has also lived in three other quadrants of the U.S. She writes short stories and poetry, and is working on a full-length novel about a young woman in search of her long-lost brother.
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