I was little more than a girl
when I started keeping company with death.
He didn't know me by name;
I was just a worker in his fields,
tending frail, palsied fruits
until the appointed times of each.
I never begrudged him his harvest.
I came to know his ways, though.
I could feel his footsteps along my spine,
catch the faintest drift of cinnamon and decay in the air,
and notice the exact moment when the birds
nesting in the north wing stairwell
hushed their song.
I know that he always takes in threes.
Six days ago, just after my first round,
he came for Mrs. Faulkner.
Hers was a quiet, pretty death.
Four days later, Mr. Layton clung to his final breath so fiercely
that I lost my usual indifference
and left work early to come home.
That's when I saw you with her.
Tell me, do you smell cinnamon?