The shadow sat among the tall grass beside the old Chesham mausoleum. It pattered its fingers against the ground, tapping out a half-remembered rhythm. A blackbird stopped pecking for worms nearby, and shot the shadow a filthy look. It flew away, heading for quiet ground near the pond.
Even the birds leave me alone, thought the shadow. It looked around the cemetery at all the silent graves and stifled a sob. All of the other shadows found new owners. Even its owner's reflection found someone else within months.
A little girl tottered around the corner of the church. She skipped between graves, singing a tuneless song about piglets. The shadow remembered the unbridled joy of skipping. It smiled despite itself.
"Ellie, don't go too far!" called the little girl's mother. She and another woman knelt beside a grave near the chapel.
Ellie stopped so suddenly she swayed in her little pink shoes. She stared at the mausoleum. The shadow started when it realised she wasn’t quite staring at the mausoleum itself. It raised trembling fingers and waved from one side to the other. Ellie's eyes followed the progress of the hand.
"You can see me," said the shadow.
Ellie nodded. The shadow looked beyond the little girl. Her mother and aunt were occupied tidying a grave. One of the new ones, thought the shadow.
"Hello, Mr Shadow."
"Erm, hello." The shadow coughed, its voice creaky from lack of use.
"Whose shadow are you?" asked Ellie. She plunged her fists into the pockets of her red coat.
"That's a funny name."
"It is an old name, my dear girl," said the shadow. It looked at the gravestone one row away from the mausoleum to check the date of death. 1876. It bit its lip - had it really been so many years?
"Have you been sitting here long?" asked Ellie.
"Since Mansell died." The shadow pointed at the gravestone.
"All by yourself?"
"Yes." The shadow looked at the ground. It focussed very hard on a stalk of grass wafting in the afternoon breeze.
"That's sad. Can't you find a new owner?"
"I’m not entirely sure that I would know how." The shadow stared at the grass.
“I used to be scared of my shadow but Daddy says it’s just from of the sun.”
The shadow snorted. Ah, the naiveté of youth! Having said that, Mansell believed something similar, but it didn’t stop the shadow from having a mind of its own.
"Are you scared to leave here?" asked Ellie. She glanced across to her mother.
"Yes. Yes, I rather suppose that I am."
"I keep asking Mummy for a puppy but she won't let me have one."
"Dogs are marvellous creatures. Mansell had three English Setters."
The shadow remembered how the dogs barked and snapped at it when they first arrived. The novelty passed, and soon they ignored the shadow altogether. He passed many an enjoyable hour watching their exploits.
"Could I be your new owner?" asked Ellie.
The shadow looked up to see Ellie standing over it. She reached out a pudgy hand, her fingers brushing the edge of the shadow. It rippled at her touch and she giggled.
"I don't know. I don't think I can have an owner any more. I'm too old."
“Can you be my pet?”
The shadow turned sideways, its head appearing in profile. It wrinkled its nose at the suggestion.
“I am no one’s pet, dear girl. However, I suppose I could be a companion of sorts.”
“Our house is really big, and it’s really old. Mummy gets migraines so she keeps the curtains shut.” Ellie twirled in a circle.
“Very well.” The shadow smiled to think of such darkness.
Ellie reached out and took hold of the edge of the shadow. She folded it edge to edge, folding it over and over until she could fit the black square in her pocket. The little girl skipped away towards her mother.
The shadow slept in the folds of her coat, so eager to leave the cemetery that it didn’t notice that Ellie cast no shadow of her own.