Friday, February 4, 2011

FICTION: Grief by Rob Donovan

Melinda was taken from me one month ago. We had been married three months, three wonderful months -- no time at all. Barely enough time to get over the euphoria of the wedding. We still hadn’t even got around to writing all of the thank-you cards. It was one of those things that seemed to be hanging over our heads. One of those “must do” jobs that you seem to find a way of putting off.

I recall her laughing as we open us a present we did not want. A chopping board of all things! Why would we want that as a wedding gift? She throws her head back as she laughs, before adding the gift to the list of people we needed to thank. Her skin is a delicious shade of olive. The tan a result of the hours she spent basking in the sun on our honeymoon. In the three months since, our tans had only just started to fade.
            After a month of going through the motions, organising the funeral and finding a thousand different ways to distract myself, today I am finally alone. The phone hasn’t rung, no one has called to see how I am doing.  I have been left entirely to my own devices. It is the day that I have been longing for ever since I learned of Melinda’s death. And yet it is also the day I have been dreading.
           Around lunchtime I went for a walk. Not your general aimless wander around the streets, remembering the brilliant sunshine and trying to remind myself there is still beauty in this world. No, I left the house with a purpose. I knew exactly where I was going and what I was about to do. It took me a little under 20 minutes to walk there. I had dared to walk there a couple of times since her death. On those occasions I found myself outside his house in the middle of the night, concealing myself behind a tree and just staring into the dark windows. I wondered what he was doing inside, whether he was not sleeping either. I pictured him tossing and turning in his restless sleep, kicking out at the bed covers, before waking up with a start from the latest nightmare.
               When he opened the door he seemed surprised to see me. Shock and a hint annoyance crossed his face before he plastered the fake smile on his face. He asked me in, made me a cup of tea. There were a few awkward minutes where he attempted to make polite conversation but my answers were mostly one word, agreeing to how nice the weather was or listening as he told me of his plans for a conservatory. In the end he gave up on the small talk to both our relief.

I could sense the unease he felt. He sipped at his tea a little too often without actually drinking it. He glanced over the cup at me, looking through those greasy black curls of hair. I hated those curls.
            After a while, he could not hold his silence any longer.
           “I’m so sorry,” he said as if that could make any difference. In all fairness, he could say little else. “I’ve driven that road so many times, I keep thinking if only-”
           “Don’t.” I said cutting him off. I watched as he placed the cup deliberately back down on the dining room table. We slipped into an uneasy silence once more. He offered me another cup of tea, even some biscuits. I declined.  Searching for something to do, he gulped the rest of his drink, then excused himself to make another.
           “Sit.” I said.

He slowly edged back into his chair, like you would do when you turned up late at the theatre and had to shuffle past all of the disapproving glares. A few uncomfortable minutes passed, before he sighed and asked why I had come.
           “You know why I’m here,” I said.

The realisation on his face was not satisfying. Now, I think he knew from the minute he opened the door and found me standing there. Why he chose to let me in, was something I would never figure out. Maybe he wanted it all to end as well. He jumped up, sending his chair toppling to the floor and attempted to sprint past me, but I was too quick, too full of rage. I grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back and hurled him against the wall. His head made a hollow thud upon impact. I let him go and he fell onto his back. His eyes had a far away look in them as I stood over him brandishing the knife I had concealed within the back of my jeans.

That was ten minutes ago. My face is wet, sticky from the blood splattered onto it. It runs down my face, a viscous and surprising warm substance. I sit at his dinning room table, barely daring to look at the corpse next to me. Out of the corner of my eye I can see his light grey t-shirt has turned dark in several places. A pool of blood has begun to form beneath his body. I get a bizarre image of Melinda’s crime scene, her body has been removed and only the chalk outline and stained blood remains. I try to picture what that scene will look like here but instead of his outline I see hers. I sip the tea, it is stone cold. But I still drink it.
           Finally it comes. The feelings I have been trying so hard to ignore. It is overwhelming. My eyes don’t just water, they flow as if a tap has been turned on. I make an almost primal noise, howling at the injustice of it all. I pound the table relentlessly, not caring that my hand is red raw. The cup goes sprawling and shatters on the floor. It seems like ages until the anger subsides and then I am left just sitting there.

A knock on the door is closely followed by a concerned neighbour calling through the letterbox. I ignore him. Eventually sirens sound in the distance.

As I said, today I grieve: grieve for my wife, grieve at the injustice of it all and grieve that the act I have just committed will never bring me closure. 

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