Thursday, 28 February 2013

For You: Part Two

I realise that I am gripping on to the buggy with all my might. Actually I think that it is the only thing keeping me up. I would sit down but Heather has her things spread all over the sofa. Foolishly Greg and I only ever got round to buying just the one sofa and I think I put the foot stall in to the bedroom. I am in such a state that rather than process what she has just told me I am actually wondering if I should go and buy a chair or something. Seriously I feel like a bomb just went off in the room. I can feel Heathers eyes on me, but I am not able to meet her gaze. She wants an answer, or at least a response and I cannot provide either one. I am mute. I can barely think or even breathe for goodness sake! How do you vocalise these feelings? How do you put into words the fact that you do not want to go to your own husband’s memorial service? A service that no one even told you about, that you played absolutely no part in planning and that you found out about through a friend on the very morning that it was due to happen! This is all swirling around in my head and my brain feels a little bit like the bubble bath earlier, it is getting thrown around by the force and has turned in to froth. My heart is pounding and I feel sick. I thought that nothing could feel worse than Greg dying, but this does. This actually feels far worse than anything I could ever have imagined.
Heather has already taken me by the arm and basically sat me down before I even realise it. Over and over she soothingly asks me if I am ok but I have no response. I feel ill, faint. I realise that the tears are back, they are streaming down my face. “Who planned it?” I ask hoarsely as I continue to weep, “Who planned this service and didn’t even tell me?” I don’t know the right or wrong of it but planning his memorial service without even telling me feels like an act of hate. I cannot believe that this is even happening; I cannot believe that this is allowed either legally or morally.
Heather fills me in on all of the details. Apparently there was a notice on Greg’s sister’s Facebook Page. Heather called her to find out what was going on and apparently was pretty angry that they had planned it without telling me. Grace defended her Mother, who had actually planned it saying that they were unable to contact me. I seethe to Heather that the family are lying; I haven’t moved and the landline number is the same so they just didn’t try. In the instant that I say those words my decision is made and I am determined not to go, I cannot face them right now. I would explode. Without me even vocalising these feelings Heather turns those thoughts around, she insists that I have to go to the service and make sure that they all know that they cannot just dismiss me this way. I can see that Heather is really angry about the whole thing which does make me feel at least less crazy if not actually any better. Apparently my parents have even gone to collect my Brother and his wife; they are all determined that no one forgets that Greg was a part of our family too and that we loved him as well.
I love what Heather and Mum are doing for me, but I haven’t the energy to fight or even defend myself today. I felt weak and feeble as it was but this is all too much for me right now. I have always loved Greg’s family dearly, and I thought that they all cared for me too. We were all very close for a very long time and Greg and I saw every member of each family all of the time. Weekends used to be chaos with travelling around visiting various relatives, or holding large family gatherings in our tiny flat and now they care so little that they would do this to me? Why didn’t they invite me to be part of the day? I would have loved to. Guilt creeps in when I realise that I should have thought of it myself. Maybe they were angry that I didn’t or maybe they really do just blame me for the accident. No matter how many times they said they didn’t I have never believed them, how can I face them if they hate me and think I killed Greg? I realise that I am crying again, I hate this. I hate feeling so weak, I hate what my life has turned into and I feel like I am suffocating under the weight of my own misery. This pain is never going to go; it is never going to get better. I cannot handle this emptiness any more. I think I might be hyperventilating!
“Stop this Alex!” Heather’s command takes me by surprise and I literally jump with fright. She is shaking her head and arms around wildly. Even in my state I can see how comical she looks but more so I notice that she is no longer holding Josh. I look back at the buggy and he is tucked safely inside fast asleep. I wish for a tiny second that we could trade. “We haven’t got time for this” she continues impatiently quashing my protest before it has even had the chance to leave my lips “your parents are on their way and we need to get going. You have to go and get dressed right now” Heather has grabbed my arm and is marching me towards my bedroom and in the face of this new commanding, forceful woman that I almost don’t recognise the words escape me and I am feebly led in to my room, stuffed in to a black trouser suit that is now way too large for my new tiny frame and forced to apply makeup. I hate looking at my sallow face in the mirror. Normally it is something which I avoid as far as possible. I only obey Heather because I don’t have the energy to face the argument I would have to have with her if I refused. I feel completely stupid, like a child being forced to go to church against its will. Well, let’s face it that is exactly what is happening to me. Heather catches my smile in the mirror; “That’s a sight for sore eyes honey. What gives?” she asks kindly while smiling broadly at me.
I manage another genuine smile as I explain, “I was just feeling like a kid being dragged off to church by their Mother” we laugh together for the first time in exactly a year. “I’m going to have to keep an eye out for poor Josh” I scoff, “it would seem that you are quite a force to be reckoned with when you get going!” Still in the reflection of the mirror I notice her smile falter for just a second, for once I notice something other than my own pain. “I hope so” she whispers as her soft brown eyes well up with tears, “I hope that I am going to be a good Mother”. She looks directly in to the reflection of my eyes and I see that she has so much sorrow in her face, “it’s scary being all alone with a baby” she confides to me. In this moment I realise that I haven’t been there for Heather at all really. Sure I’ve seen her a few times but she was comforting me, I haven’t offered her anything. Nothing! I have been so selfish and self absorbed and yet here she is, still here for me, still on my side. I really don’t deserve this wonderful loyal friend, realising that is a very humbling feeling. I turn to her and hug her tightly and tell her that as far as I can see she is a fantastic Mum already and that I am very proud of her and the way that she has coped with these changes to her life. It feels good to be able to say those things to her. We hug and weep together until the doorbell rings forcing us to part.
“Right!” Heather is back in full general mode again, “you do something with your hair and I will sort Josh and the buggy out” she is already opening the door as she is speaking and I hear her greet my Father warmly. He helps her down the stairs with the buggy and just for a second a tiny little stab of jealousy stings me. I just cannot help myself. I wish that my Dad had been able to do that for me. I shake this thought and quickly drag my hair up in to a ponytail. I still look a state, no amount of make-up can hide the fact that I hardly eat, sleep or smile. I take a deep breath, pull my wedding band out of the drawer of my dressing table, slide it on to my finger and kiss it for ‘good luck’ before turning and walking out of the flat to my Dad’s shiny silver estate car. I won’t lie, my heart is pounding and my legs feel as though they have been forged out of concrete, but I force myself forward.
I notice my brother’s bright red Alfa Romeo behind our Father’s car, I cannot see my Brother and his wife behind the tinted windows but I wave vaguely in their direction as I get into the back of Dad’s car. Heather is already seated and Josh is strapped in to the middle in a car seat that seems to have been part of his pram. I comment on how quickly they all got sorted and see Heather smile proudly, I wonder if anyone really boosts her ego these days. I also note the concern in my parents’ voices as they greet me and I try to sound bright as I return their ‘hellos’. I know that it is fake and stupid but that is all I have to offer for their kindness and concern. No one speaks much on the way to St. Luke’s and I am grateful to be able to stare unseeing out of the window and tune out. I don’t want to think about where we are going and what we are doing, honestly I just want this day to be over. I want every day to be over. I cannot wait for my crappy life to be done and finished, I know that I cannot actually ever tell anyone that and distress them, but I cannot help but feel that way. I cannot help but to hope that this will be finished soon.
We arrive at the church and straight away I notice the huge volume of cars parked in the small car park. There are also a large number of people greeting each other on the pretty grounds. This service is going to be very well attended so I haven’t been left out of a simple, small family affair, not that it would have made it any better anyway given that I am his wife. My blood is boiling as I see two of Greg’s cousin’s greeting an old work colleague of his. How dare they invite all of these people and not me! Heather has leant over and once again is gripping my arm. It is plainly obvious that everyone knows what is going through my mind right now. The atmosphere in the car suggests that everyone is as shocked as me, so perhaps they are actually thinking the same things. I can imagine that they are all holding their tempers and breath alongside me. I don’t know if in her mind Heather is trying to comfort or restrain me; I am close to exploding so it could go either way. I do not look to her though; my eyes look directly into my Father’s eyes via the rear view mirror, his longish Greg hair is brushed away from his brilliant blue eyes so I look in to them undisturbed for a change. He is sitting right in front of me but has adjusted his mirror so that he can look right at me, once he is sure that he has my full attention he simply states “Be dignified Alex. Today is not the day for anger, today is a day to honour Greg’s memory”. His finger wags as he tells me to ‘get out there and make Greg proud’. I know that Dad is right but it doesn’t stop me from seething.
We tumble out of the car. Mum hugs me as Dad gets busy helping Heather with the baby. My Brother Dennis and his Wife Millie have joined us now. Mille is a very shy person and looks even more intimidated than normal today. She is dressed in a simple black dress and looks like she might run at any moment. She is completely unable to handle me and my obvious grief, although she tries to be very kind about it. My big, rufty-tufty, Rugby playing Brother on the other hand has no such worries. He practically drags me out of my Mother’s arms and pulls me closely towards him. “Fuck ‘em sis!” he declares wrapping his large, strong arms around me. I half laugh and half sob as I return his hug, I haven’t seen Den for a while and I realise that actually I have missed him so much. I am very aware that we have attracted a small audience but I am unsure if they want to greet me or are shocked that I have arrived uninvited so don’t acknowledge anyone. Despite my huge discomfort at feeling so completely ‘wrong footed’ at my own Husband’s memorial, I simply wait for my little family group to get sorted and with one hand in my Mother’s cool grasp and one hand in my Bother’s strong grip make my way toward the church. I wish that I could feel confident in my right to be here, but actually I keep waiting for someone to approach and demand I leave! I cannot help but wonder anew what I have done to deserve such poor treatment. There is no time for me to dwell on it though, right in front of the entrance to the Church I can see Greg’s Mother (Amai, as I have always called her as she was my Mother for a time), his Father (Baba, as he was to me) and Greg’s Sister Grace seem to ‘flank’ the Vicar and are all meeting and greeting everyone as they arrive. Amai’s short, tubby frame somehow looks frail to me whereas normally she had always seemed so robust. She is wearing a traditional Zimbabwean dress that would be beautiful if it were not for the evil colour, I always used to love the fact that Greg’s family wore colour to ‘celebrate a life’ when someone died rather than wear black to mourn a death, but now I am not sure that I like it much after all. I cannot imagine a time when I will ever be able to tolerate the colour purple. I struggle to even look at Baba, who also looks like a child that has been forced in to his Navy suit that is far too large for him. He seems to have literally shrunk over the last year. Baba looks so much like Greg it pains me to even look at him. In his face, in his eyes and in his bitter sweet smile all I can see is the future that I cannot have with my husband. I will never see Greg at this age. I will never see his greying hair; I will never see his face peppered with lines. Greg and I will never grow old together. Again the feeling of injustice rises within me. I have been robbed of my future and now it seems that Greg’s family are robbing me of the only thing that I do have left; my grief. I swallow down the urge to scream at them and demand to know what the fuck they are playing at, and my Brother and Mum tighten their grips on my hands simultaneously. Clearly they don’t trust me not to do something stupid, but I do nothing. I hold on tightly to my Father’s words. The best way I can get through this awful ordeal I decide is to try to believe that Greg really is ‘here’ in some way, because if he is able to watch us then ultimately I really do want to make him proud. My love for my husband overrides every other feeling and I really want to try to hold on to that as much as I can.
Amai freezes when she sees me, and then her whole face crumbles. Emotionally and almost physically I am thrown as she launches herself at me and lovingly grasps me to her while crying out in what I can only describe as agony, my Mum and Dennis have no choice but to release me and move aside as Amai grabs hold of me. “Oh child” she wails over and over again; “oh my child I thought that we had lost you!” she cries “oh my dear child!” These words are all that it takes to break me. The force of the tears I cry make my whole body shudder, you would think that I have cried myself dry over this last year but no, torrents of tears flood down my face and I almost scream with the agony of the release. I cannot speak or articulate anything. Baba and Grace rush over and join the huddle and together we cry and cry. Through her tears Grace whispers in to my ear that they did send a card asking me to join them in planning the day, she promises me that they would never leave me out. I know that she is telling the truth. You see once Greg died I was inundated with cards of ‘sympathy’ but I haven’t to this day opened a single card. I hate the thought and cannot understand how anyone could find this a comfort. There was no time line either; cards have been trickling through my door all year. I was so afraid of opening one that anything that looks like a card I just shove in a shoe box beside the door I. I didn’t even open any Birthday cards. So beyond doubt I know that this is the truth and I feel sick with guilt and sorrow that I even thought that of them. They must have thought that I really didn’t care. That is devastating to me. I turn to Grace and hug her tightly. I still cannot speak so don’t get to apologise but I will. I will put things right. The Vicar tells us that it is time to go inside, so my parents, Greg’s parents, our siblings, Heather and the baby all enter the church together as a family for the first time since Greg’s funeral. As we walk towards the Alter the sound of ‘Songbird’ fills the church. The moment I hear it my heart swells with memories of our love.
The service is simply beautiful. Greg’s Uncle, his old manager and his sister Grace give lovely heartfelt speeches. The music that plays softly throughout the service are exactly the songs that I would have chosen myself. I think that they represented him perfectly. The programme is decorated with lovely pictures of Greg, I cannot help but stare at them throughout the service, I keep wishing that we could go back and relive the days on which they were taken as stupid as that sounds. Tactfully no one else appears in the photos and that is definitely best. I know that if Greg could see the service he would be very impressed indeed.
Although I have found the service slightly comforting I cannot help but feel drained and distressed after it has ended. The whole day has just proven too much for me. I do try to politely thank some people for attending and generally try to be hospitable but I’m relieved when people finally leave. Once again Amai holds me as she asks me to join the family back at the house. I hug her tightly smelling her familiar perfume as I do so. I almost want to ‘drink her in’ as I am so unsure what the future hold for us. “I’m so sorry Amai” I whisper hoarsely “I can’t do any more today”. Her eyes meet mine and aside from the sorrow I do see that she understands. Any doubts that she may have had over me once Greg died and I ‘went off the rails’ have vanished. I know that she can plainly see how things are now. “Alexandra, please child, don’t distance yourself from us any more” she pleads, “we love you so much”. The rest of what she wants to say is lost because we are both crying again. My Mum comes and comforts us and it brings me a sense of peace to see her and Amai united once again.
Once everyone has said their ‘goodbyes’ I walk back to where my Dad has parked. Dennis is walking beside me silently. Even his presence is a comfort. I turn to look at him walking in the sunshine and notice that he is looking tired and drawn himself. “Are you OK Den?” I ask concerned.
“Sure” he shrugs smiling, “I’m OK Ali, just worried about you”. We stop walking and face each other, “it’s been hard Sis” he confesses sadly, “seeing you like this” He shrugs his shoulders. There is no need to finish what he is saying and we both know it. “I’m so sorry” I start to speak but he takes my hand and shakes his head. “Don’t say it” he insists, “Don’t you apologise for anything. But little sis, please, please if you can’t cope with this, get help. Do something” he stops walking and turns to face me again. I cannot meet his eyes and stare at the pocket of his blue shirt instead, “Don’t suffer any more” he begs. I have never seen my brother cry but today the tears in his eyes are unhidden. It doesn’t feel good to me to know that I have put my family through this pain. I haven’t intended any of this. To be truthful I hadn’t given any thought to anyone, to anyone’s pain. I have been too locked in to my own grief. That isn’t my usual character, before the accident Greg used to comment that I never put myself first. How things change I muse sadly. We walk the rest of the distance back to the car in silence. I don’t feel able to make promises, but clearly I know I have a lot of thinking to do.
The first thing I notice when we approach the cars is that Millie has taken Josh and is holding him blissfully. She is telling Heather how amazing he is and what a good boy he is for sleeping right the way through the service. I have never seen Millie so animated before. It makes me wonder when she will have a little announcement of her own to make. I hope soon. Our family could use an injection of joy and even though I will be sad that it isn’t me, I will be able to put that aside and be so happy for them. They will make fantastic parents. It is plainly obvious that everyone is feeling slightly awkward; no one is quite sure what to say or do right now, so I take the lead, something that I haven’t done for a while. “Shall we find a nice place for a meal or something?” Heather and my Mother look at each other in bewilderment and it is my Dad who asks if I am feeling ‘up to it’. I cannot lie but I stress “It’s Heather’s Birthday, and I think that we should mark the occasion” I feel a little shy as I add that I would also like to buy everyone dinner to say thanks, and sorry. Dad hugs me and enthusiastically agrees with my plan. I am so shattered, but I take a deep breath, kiss my wedding band for strength and get into the car. Finally I feel able thank these divine people who love me so very much.

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Sunday, 10 February 2013

For You: Part One

Part One:

The music pulses through the warm packed room in time with the flashing lights. I wave to my friend Heather as she catches my eye and happily gives me the ‘thumbs up’, it is her house party. She is celebrating her 24th Birthday. Clearly she is having a great time, her pale face is flushed with colour, her dark brown hair is shining and she is wrapped around a tall, dark handsome stranger. His hands seem to be all over her and her sexy skin tight silver dress has risen up so much that you can almost see her bottom. She doesn't seem to mind though as she holds him even tighter as they grind along to the music. He kisses her neck passionately and she shivers with delight. She seems a far cry from the panicking, stressed out woman of earlier. Heather had been going mental because so many guests had seen fit to bring friends along with no warning, she was worried that she would run out of everything too early but apparently things now seemed to have worked out very well for her, especially as the extra guests had also been smart enough to buy some extra booze along with them. I have also had several not bad looking guys approach me since I had arrived but had politely declined their offers of a drink/dance. I am a married woman and believe me I had been very glad when I was able to leave the dating scene behind.

I had been very pleased to catch up with a few friends and acquaintances that I hadn't seen for a while although they have drifted off now leaving me alone for the last ten minutes or so. Still I am also quite happy to do a little people watching and am glad to note that everyone seems to be having fun. Although I am glad that I came to the party because it has been a good evening I am starting to feel ready to leave. I sip at my wine and stifle a yawn. It has been a very long day and I find myself wishing that I was snuggled up in my nice cosy bed.

Without any warning the song stops halfway through and changes to my favourite song; Songbird. Most people are too drunk or having too much fun to notice the sudden change to the much slower song, but I do. I look over to Darren who is guest DJ for the night and my heart skips a beat. There he is, the man I have been waiting for all night. Stood grinning in my direction, right in front of Darren is Greg, my beautiful husband. He has come straight from work but still looks amazing in his simple purple shirt and black trousers. His short dark hair frames his handsome face making me want to kiss his full soft lips. I return his grin instantly and happily exclaim "you made it!" He strides purposefully across the room towards me and even after 7 years together my stomach lurches with lust, just as it did the very first night that we met at a bar in Camden. "I slipped away early" he whispers in my ear before kissing me, even though he couldn’t have possibly have heard what I had said over the noise in the room.

He kisses me firmly before suddenly sweeping me into his arms. We dance to the rest of ‘Songbird’, the song that we had our first dance to at our wedding. I feel blissfully happy in his warm strong arms; I just love him so much that every moment we are together still feels perfect. We finish the dance and then I ask Greg if he would like a drink."I just want to take you home" he tells me with a twinkle in his eye "you look so damn hot tonight. I love you in that dress" he indicates my simple but very flattering little black number. I have added a pair of neon purple heels to jazz it up and know that I must look good given the attention I had received before Greg arrived. "Well" I whisper in to my husband’s ear "I look even better still in what I have on under the dress"

"Which is?" he plays along while seductively running his hand up and down my side.
"Take me home and find out" I suggest playfully and Greg grabs my hand and together we practically run out of the house in to the warm August night laughing like children. We don’t even waste time say any ‘goodbyes’. "Can we hail a cab round here Alex?" Greg asks breathlessly as he searches the street for any that might happen to be passing, which is not very likely in this area sadly.

"Probably not" I concede leading my husband by the hand, "we need to catch a bus. Come this way". Greg groans in frustration as we run up the side street and leave the pretty Victorian houses behind us. We rush straight up to the main road with an unnecessary sense of urgency. Greg has only just come back from a two day sales conference; it was the first time we had spent so long apart. The joy at having him home again made me feel drunker and hornier than any of the alcohol I had consumed at Heather’s party. Apparently it seems that he is feeling exactly the same way. Despite the time it is a lovely warm, bright evening. The sun is just starting to set lending a sense of mystery and drama to the night. The air feels full of promise and it is exciting.

“Crap!” I exclaim as we make it on to the high street, “Our bus is just there at the lights Greg, we won’t make it”. I point in the direction of the bus but I am looking at my husband waiting for his response. In the seconds before he replies frustration floods my body but Greg is not ready to admit defeat, he lunges forward and insists that we can make it before the lights change, we literally run into the road just as the lights change and cars start whizzing past us . Oddly, it just exhilarates us both even more and we both start laughing wildly as we dodge the traffic. Suddenly I realise that I have lost a shoe and quickly stop my husband who is still dragging me ahead and is actually on the pavement now, the bus is now at the stop and despite the long queue it is clear that now thanks to my shoe we will definitely miss it. “Babe look” I nudge Greg, “I lost my shoe it’s half way across the road!” He looks at the shoe and grins at me. “Cinders stop that bus and I’ll get the shoe” he calls.

“We will never make it” I wail in defeat as I try to pull him back to me.

“Sure we will” he insists already letting go of my hand and running back in to the road “just bloody stop that bus!” he yells over his shoulder as he runs. I immediately start running back in the direction of the bus stop. I jump with fright when I hear an almighty thump and the sound of a woman screaming. I freeze for a second and I turn round and see that everything has stopped. Everything is at a standstill. No cars or people are moving and the whole world seems to have fallen silent. A large crowd had gathered around and are staring at something on the floor. I cannot see Greg. I desperately search the crowds for my husband. Where is he?

The sound of screaming fills my ears, my head and my heart. The noise goes on and on and on. It is not until I jump awake in my bed that I realise that it is me who is screaming. I sit up and try to catch my breath, it is still night. I am home; I am in my safe bed, clearly dreaming. Immediately I feel for Greg in the space beside me.

It is empty.

It is cold.

I sob as I remember that Greg is gone, that he is dead.

Today is the first anniversary of the day that my husband was killed. My darling Greg was smashed to pieces by a van because he was trying to get my shoe out of the road. With this thought I collapse back on to my pillow not caring about what the time is but I am still aware that the sunlight is vaguely trying to fill my room, so morning cannot be far away. I roll over and bury my head in to my pillow as I surrender to the sobs which are filling my body and cry and cry and cry some more. I cannot believe that this wretched day has arrived. This year has been the longest and most painful of my whole life, but yet this hideous anniversary has arrived far too fast and I don’t know how I will survive this day. The pain of losing my husband swamps me anew as does the guilt that I carry with the loss. From that day onwards I hate the colour purple. I hate those bloody shoes and most of all I hate myself. I cannot stop the torrent of tears. I cannot stop the grief and the agony of my loss. This whole last year has just left me feeling weak and helpless. I had no idea that emotional pain could be this debilitating and I didn’t have the will to fight it. My grief and the tears that it produces are in danger of suffocating me and I wish they would. There is nothing in the world that I would like to do more than to surrender to my own death. Living is agony without him.

He was dead on arrival to hospital. I remember the Doctor, a kind man with grey hair and soft green eyes coming to tell me that they had lost him. He assured me that they had done their best, tried everything, but that there was nothing that could be done. I was nodding and nodding but not actually understanding what I was hearing. It wasn’t until Greg’s Mother and Father arrived that it sank in. It wasn’t until I had to tell these wonderful, loving people that their son was gone that it registered in my mind. His mother covered her face and screamed to God not to take her son. His father tried to hold her but she was thrashing around frantically. I was frozen. All I could do was stare at them in bewilderment. Greg was dead. It was over. Greg’s life was finished. It just didn’t make any sense to me.

I didn’t even realise that I had fallen back in to a deep but uneasy sleep until I hear the phone ringing, but I just turn over, bury my head under the pillow and ignore it. There is no one in the world who I would wish to speak to today. The caller is persistent and the noise buzzes around me like an angry wasp which I cannot swat. I sigh with relief when my phone finally stops ringing, but it immediately starts back up again. This happens six times and despite the annoyance I continue to ignore it. I feel a pang of guilt at my actions which is just enough to set my tears off again. I don’t want to cause anyone any hurt or worry, but I just don’t feel up to talking to anyone right now. Once my room is silent again, I take the pillow off of my head and wrap my arms around it hugging it tightly. My eyes fix on to the ceiling. I stare at the cool, smooth white surface and sigh as I wonder if heaven is as cool and calm and soft as my room, everything is soft and clean and calm. Greg painted this room; it is all soft pale blues and whites. It is the most tranquil place in the world. Until his death I always felt at peace in this room but now, it just feels cold and lonely. I often wonder where Greg is, what he is doing and what he is seeing. The only thing that I cannot handle is the idea that he is just laying in that cold hard box in the ground. That he feels nothing and sees nothing. That he is just gone, finished, nothing! He just has to exist in some form, he has to be somewhere, connected to me somehow, “please God” I whisper in to the air sobbing, “Please, please let me have him back. Please God” I plead sobbing “give him back to me. I will do more, love him more, be better, be anything and do anything!” I know the hopelessness of my pleas and that fact just makes me cry harder still.

I find it hard to talk to Greg, even when I visit his grave which I do at least once a week. I have actually slept on his grave many times over the last year, just because I was desperate to be near him. That is the closest I can get to being able to hold my husband’s strong warm body these days. I am not sure if I do believe that he is with me still, watching over me and all of the fables that people keep telling me. Still I often find myself wondering if he can see me where he is. Partly I hope so because it would mean that we were still connected in some way, but partly I hope not, there is nothing that I have done since he died that could make him feel any pride. To say that I have ‘lost it’ or ‘gone off of the rails’ is a massive understatement. I know that I have caused both of our families so much hurt and pain. Facts that don’t exactly fill me with pride but I just haven’t been able to handle the pain. I haven’t dealt with the guilt at all. I had tried to stay as blind drunk as I could most days to start with. I started off drinking at home in the evenings, and then at work. I threw myself in to the clubbing scene thinking that I could meet a guy and he would soothe my pain and help me ‘move on and love again’. Of course this caused massive problems. I lost my job, because the few times that I did turn up to work after my very short compassionate leave ended I turned up still blind drunk from the night before. More often than not I was still wearing the same stale and dirty clothes that I had gone out in, once my skirt was actually covered in sperm from some guy I had sex with in the toilet of a club, we had a little issue with the condom and it ended badly for my skirt. Not exactly appropriate office wear! I slept around a lot; I was looking for fun and comfort but only found more self hatred and managed to get quite a reputation in the clubs I went to. I was mugged twice, and cannot even count how many times I woke up in a puddle of my own vomit or some other bodily fluid.

Greg’s parents really tried to maintain a relationship with me but they saw the way I was living in a different way to how it actually was. They thought I was off having a ‘high old time’ at the expense of their son’s death. They are a very strict Christian family and they couldn’t deal with what I was doing. I do understand that they couldn’t handle me at that time and so eventually they just stopped contacting me, and I respected that and stayed away. My own parents were just beside themselves. They saw the pain that I was in and tried to help, they even offered to let me move back home when I lost my job instead of me destroying my savings by trying to pay the mortgage and bills. I wouldn’t hear of it and struggled on. How could I leave the flat? This was the home that Greg and I bought. We also bought everything in the flat. We had made love in every room on every item of furniture. There was no way that I could have left. It was all I had left of him. This place and our memories are everything to me. There is nothing else.

I find myself welling up when I think about the fact that finally I woke up five months ago. The trigger was an awful night when I was raped in the back of what I had thought was a mini cab after a night out at a bar. I was so off my face that I honestly couldn’t even remember what the car or the driver looked like so when Heather dragged me to the police station after I told her what happened three days later I had no information for them. Sadly even though the Police were very nice, I had bathed, thrown away my clothes and basically left them with no evidence whatsoever. The chances of them finding the guy are pretty much non existent never mind actually securing a prosecution and I know that is because I just destroyed all of the evidence in my bid to get rid of that filthy bastard from my body. I wish I could erase what he did as easily from my mind but those images remain despite the fact that I unable to picture his face. The only slightly positive thing that could be said about the horrendous thing that had happened to me is that it seemed to shock me to my senses. I am aware that it could easily have gone the other way and finished me off. The Police did arrange for a Doctor to check me for STI’s and HIV and thankfully I was free of those at least. Even though I did so in the worst way possible it really did wake me up to the mess I was making of my life and force me to stop drowning my sorrows and to start to try to piece my life back together again. I haven’t been able to make great strides but any small steps are something. I have a part time job as an administrator for a law firm now. I am sober. I am alive if not really living. I have tried.

“I am trying Greg” I whisper softly in to the room “I really want to make you proud”. The silence in the room stings me. I know that it is insane but there was a teeny little part of me that thought that he might appear before me once I finally spoke to him, like as if he was waiting for me to ‘invite him back in’ or something. I thought that I would finally get to hear his voice with its soft Zimbabwean twang one more time. Even though of course it was never going to happen I cannot help but feel a tiny stab of disappointment when nothing at all happens. I sigh again and slowly force myself out of bed.

I pee, wash my hands and stare at my red puffy face in the mirror. I look even more dreadful than I feel I conclude and that is quite a feat. It is so hard to care about how you look when you are so heartbroken. My normally soft brown hair is too long and filled with split ends. I cannot really remember when I last got the frizzy and yet greasy birds nest cut! I am not exactly sure when I even washed it last. My hazel eyes are dull and lifeless and my skin looks sallow. I have lost so much weight and am almost grateful that Greg cannot see the state that I’m in.

Sighing once again I slowly head into my tiny kitchen and put the kettle on. Slowly I make myself a strong cup of coffee and once again try not to notice that my phone is ringing. I take my coffee in to the living room and put the stereo on nice and loudly. It doesn’t drown out the sound of the phone but I do find the soft gentle love songs oddly comforting even at this volume. I sit down on the black leather sofa that Greg and I bought just after we bought the flat. We bought the sofa before we even decorated this room and only he and I know that we had to keep it wrapped for three whole weeks while we painted this room just about every colour you could imagine. We settled on magnolia just simply because it was the only colour that neither of us out and out hated. I sip my coffee and realise that I have been staring unseeingly at the fireplace. On top of it are three photos. The middle one is of Greg and me on our wedding day. We are smiling broadly. We were so very happy thinking that we had our whole lives ahead of us. The photo to the left of it is of both sets of our parents which again had been taken at our wedding. They were so proud. The photo to the right of it is of Heather’s baby; the baby that she conceived on the very night that Greg died. Mr Tall Dark and Handsome aka Marcus gave Heather a night to remember and then disappeared. He doesn’t even know that he left a little gift behind and no one who attended that party seems to know who he is! Even though I do feel sad for Heather that she has been left to raise this baby on her own, I do envy her for having someone to hold, to love and to watch out for. A little part of me hoped that Greg would have left me pregnant, and the devastation I felt when my period finally showed up weeks late was indescribable. I felt as though I had been robbed of our dream to start a family. Everything that we thought we had in front of us was gone, just because of one stupid mad night, just one stupid small mistake. How can everything be destroyed because of just one tiny moment? It just doesn’t seem possible that life could be so cruel.

The phone starts ringing once again and it is hard to resist the urge to rip it out of the wall and throw it in to the bin! Instead I decide to go and have a bath to try and relax. After rising from the sofa, I crank the music up louder still and gulp the last of my coffee down before making my way in to the bathroom once again. I tip the bubble bath in liberally and turn the hot tap on fully and then sit on the edge of the bath and watch the water swirling into the tub. I love how it churns the thick liquid bubble bath around mixing it into those soft luxurious bubbles that I cannot wait to sink in to. I try to hum along to the ballad that is playing on the radio but it cannot stop my mind being swamped with images of Greg and I in this very bath. I can see images of him soaping me and myself cleaning him too, and then memories of him kissing me, touching me and even him making love to me. We had made love in the bath, against the wall, everywhere that we could and in every possible position. There is nothing that I wouldn’t give to have once last chance to hold my husband again, to kiss him, feel and smell him. ‘Just one last time’ I wish silently.

As I lay soaking in the hot soapy water I try really hard to block him from my mind as I try to do every single day, but today Greg will not be ignored. Today his face dances before my eyes, his laughter rattles around my head and his smile stirs yet more of the never ending tears in my eyes. Because I am so lost in my thoughts, and in my memories I almost think I am dreaming when suddenly I hear Eva Cassidy’s ‘Songbird’ start to play on the radio. I can picture myself in Greg’s arms at the party, him kissing me and holding me closely. Isn’t it amazing I muse; the song that most reminds me of my husband starts off with the line: ‘For you; there will be no crying’. I half laugh, and half cry at the irony of this because truly I have never cried more over anyone else in my whole life. I honestly cannot recall having heard this song even once since I lost Greg and the fact that I am now hearing it on such a significant anniversary means so much to me. For the first time since he died I feel that there is hope that he is still here with me in some way, that somehow we are still connected. I know that I haven’t given Greg cause to be proud of me since he died, if in fact he is really able to ‘feel’ anything, but is there actually hope that he could still love me and be with me somehow? “To you, I’d never be cold, coz I feel that when I am with you, it’s alright”; Greg always said that everything in the world would be alright as long as we had each other. The trouble is that now he isn’t here, and now nothing feels like it will ever be alright again. It actually saddens me when the song ends. I feel the urge to get out of the bath and find the CD but I fight it. I know that if I allow myself to wallow too deeply I could well end up getting drunk and humiliating myself again. I need to get through the day with a little dignity. I owe that much to Greg and to both of our families. Sighing for the millionth time I immerse myself under water. The warmth of the water seeps in to my body and loosens the many knots that have formed. An hour later a very clean, hair free, buffed and polished me finally gets out of the bath. I moisturise myself, brush my teeth and climb in to a pair of clean pyjamas. Well, it’s not as if I have plans!

I settle back on the sofa with a second cup of coffee. The love ballads are starting to upset me so I turn the radio off and I am now flicking through the TV channels while managing not to even see what is on. In the end I just stick it on to the news channel and ignore the headlines while I sip my coffee and wonder if my pain is ever going to ease. People keep telling me that time is a great healer but sadly I remain unconvinced. Every day my loss seems to grow and become even more painful. Not even just for the loss of Greg alone, it is even the loss of the possibilities we had that hurt too. Trying hard to block these thoughts out I roll over so that I am facing the back of the sofa, close my eyes and try hard to fall back to sleep. That might be the way to survive this day I have decided.

Just as I am finally starting to doze someone starts to knock purposefully on my front door. Clearly I am not expecting anyone, and definitely don't wish to see anyone so I lay very still and ignore the door. At exactly the same time the hammering starts to get more urgent my phone starts to ring again. I sigh wishing that I could turn the house phone off just like I could with my mobile phone, for that matter I wouldn’t mind switching the front door off I think petulantly as the hammering gets more urgent. I hear my letterbox lift up and Heather starts shouting through it, she sounds frantic and more than a little annoyed.

"Open this door!" She yells crossly, "Alex, I know that you are in there, I can hear the TV" she tuts. "Open up!” Despite the guilt that seeps in to my skin as I think about the fact that she has travelled to my house with her tiny baby, the fact that it is a Saturday morning, and her Birthday makes it a hundred times worse, but I cannot bring myself to move. I lie very still and quietly and hope that she goes away. Heather is much more persistent than I gave her credit for, and starts knocking harder, "your mother and I have been trying to call you all morning" she informs me still through the letter box. Quite comically this sentence corresponds with the phone piping up again. She could not have timed that better if she had tried. "That's her now no doubt" Heather calls to me, “just speak to the poor woman”. When she is greeted by my continued silence Heather tries a different tact, "Alex, we are worried about you" she pleads, "If you don't open up my poor baby has to stay in a stinky nappy!" A year ago she would have said the word shitty, I think to myself and that is all the reaction that plea receives. I do feel bad but I just cannot bring myself to see her and little Joshua today. "I will be forced to call the police in case you have tried something stupid again"! Heather threatens sounding really mad now. Great, they wouldn't suppose that I have just gone out for the day, nope they have to think the worst of me as always. I don’t allow myself to think about the reasons that I have given them to think this way.

My telephone and Heather’s baby start wailing in unison and I am forced to my feet. I know that if I forced her to Heather would definitely call the police, and I don't want a big scene. I am sorely tempted to call them myself and ask them to ignore any such call, but I don't think it would work, and given that she is listening at the letter box Heather would actually hear me make that call. That is too mean and I don't have the heart to hurt her, I feel guilty enough for leaving her and Joshua on the doorstep as it is!

Josh is screaming his head off and the force of his cries hit me as I open the front door. I feel like such a bitch when I see Heather trying desperately to comfort him, with absolutely no success. His tiny face is absolutely purple with a rage far too huge for his tiny body, "he is sitting in a filthy nappy" Heather defends as she hands her baby to me before hauling the huge pram up the stairs that form the entrance to my front door. She leaves the huge thing in the tiny hallway, completely blocking the man upstairs from entering or leaving his flat and marches into the living room, she ignores my ‘I was sleeping’ lie and is already stripping her child, taking the things she needs from the changing bag and calling my mother at the same time. When did she turn in to superwoman? I wonder in awe, she just looks so confident and sure of herself. I cannot help but feel a pang of jealousy as I wonder when I might ever feel this way again. I drag the pram in to my living room and slam the door shut.

“Yes Barbara” Heather is saying to my mother as she removes the stinking nappy from her son and cleans him with wipes, on my sofa with no changing mat down “yes fine” she replies to my Mum eyeing me suspiciously, “no, no, nothing that I can see”. I know blatantly they are discussing if I am hurt, pissed or somehow on self destruct but I am not angry. I am more fascinated at how these two people have become so close all of a sudden. They had never even met until Greg’s funeral, and now they have each other’s numbers and are acting like old friends. Heather’s next sentence alarms me. She re-dresses the now clean bottomed baby, sits down on the sofa and as she stuffs her boob into his mouth she assures my mother that it is ‘no problem’ and ‘she will get her there’. I don’t like the sound of that one bit. I wait for them to finish their conversation, I really don’t know where to look but embarrassingly keep managing to accidently stare at her bare breast, so with a struggle I manage to meet her eye and ask what is going on. “Greg’s family have organised a memorial service at St. Luke’s’ she fixes me with a ‘don’t mess with me look’ and declares “We are all going. You included”.

Oh shit, I had not seen that coming!

To be continued.

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