She heard the noise around her. It seemed to have always been like this as long as she could remember. Today was possibly the worse as the sounds felt like they had morphed into a personalised attack on her brain as she searched for a fragment of peace and stillness. A new string of thoughts appeared out of a wormhole somewhere in her left arm. It had been happening for … a period that had no start or end, so she could not put a structure or name to it. The first thought she recognised was persistent: this is madness. The others shape-shifting thoughts followed in rapid succession without leaving her breathing space. All these people. They were everywhere. No room that she wandered into was every empty of the mysterious blurred faces.What were they doing in their house? Who let them in? Where were her children? Where was her husband?
The lack of immediate answers to these questions created a deep fear that something inside of her was not working correctly and that there was going to be a messy explosion of all of her organs any minute. Her instinct was to grab hold of anything solid nearby – like the oak bed that dominated the middle of the room – but instead she sat perfectly still facing a mirror as her sister adjusted the large-brimmed hat that was crookedly perched on her head. Looking at what should have been her own reflection Patricia struggled to identify herself in the ashen image she saw. She could not even remember getting dressed that morning. Remembering anything was hard. Forgetting was easier. As she sat there like a tailor’s dummy she instinctively knew there was a day – that she could just about remember the edges of – when they were a whole family. Somewhere in that day lay the foundations of the foggy tunnel she was currently lost in.
She started to focus on the pinhead of its origins that she could still make out, and when it began to become clear in her mind she blinked rapidly and then stubbornly refused to allow the memory to be reborn. ‘If I don’t know it, then it can’t be true,’ she tried to persuade herself as she automatically raised her hand and wiped the tears from the corner of her eyes. ‘It’s not real. That’s right. It’s not real. Everything is normal.’ The fresh tears created dark rivulets of mascara down her sunken face ruining the make-up recently applied there by her sister.
Too tired to summon the effort to keep wiping her face she dropped her head to one side and closed her eyes. She hoped the dream world that she was in would disappear when she woke up. This endeavour to realign the planets needed a determined effort that created deep furrows in her forehead as she concentrated, and for a splinter of a moment she was where everything was boringly ordinary. As she settled comfortably into her memory the atmosphere she yearned for was broken on the turn of the isolated second she had just captured by a cold hand reaching into her calm seclusion and touching her gently, but firmly, on her left shoulder.
This had been recurring for an unending number of days – every time she grasped hold of a shattered memory someone would touch her, and break her dream spell so delicate threads of smoke from before now were blown into extinction. Whenever she opened her eyes she saw a multitude of faces, both strangely familiar and strangely strange, staring at her. They all told the same story: it was real. She tried to reject the truth in the downcast faces of all her watchers, but they would not stop shouting the dense permanence of her new reality. Patricia’s mind recoiled against her body and she shuddered.
Tiredly she opened her eyes again. She accidentally caught the sympathetic gaze of an unknown woman who stood by her bedroom door and spontaneously the tears fell again, but this time they felt unusually heavy – more like blood than water – as they continued dripping down her face and fell weightily into her lap.
‘It’s time,’ a floating voice said as it broke through into her maze of thoughts. It sounded like her sister Sandra had sounded when they were children. But she could not be sure of whose voice it was today. With assistance she stood and walked through the throngs of bodies lining her walls looking like strange black fruit. Time was still misbehaving when she finally reached downstairs and was led to the front door; after the comforting dimness of their bedroom the harsh brightness of the sky outside temporarily blinded her. Momentary panic set in followed by a wish that she would never see anything again. As her sight adjusted to the light she saw repeated long rows of blurred black and white images before her. She let herself be directed towards the centre of them. Her children trailed behind her. They were like a line of ants following spilt sugar. Every action was automatic.
As she stepped into the car her will finally collapsed.
In her last resolution she resolved never to resolve again. From that first moment in the glaring sunlight the day went according to somebody’s well prepared plan and she played her enforced part in it: the chess board Queen.
Patricia’s mind remained elsewhere.
The people started to arrive at the church early. The official start time was 2:00 p.m., but the deacons had opened the main doors from noon when there were half a dozen people already waiting outside the building. They had come early to ensure a good seat where they could hear and see every movement of the proceedings – they also wanted to be seen.
Brother and Sister Mackenzie were among the first people there, they were official funeral-goers. Their church attendance for weddings, christenings and especially funerals, had become a habit like depositing time in a high interest savings account from which they expected to make a withdrawal of respect in their too near future. They knew Tony from the day he was born, he called them Aunty and Uncle when he learnt how to speak. Tony’s parents, their friends and countrymen, said they fit together like a pot and its lid.
Joe Mackenzie was a ripe septuagenarian and still walked without a stick. He was the quieter one of the pair. His wife, of 51 years, mostly known as ‘Miss Ivy’ used her walking stick to enhance her self-appointed status as a wise and righteous older woman. Her supporting rod was a carved ebony structure that she had purchased on a special trip to the Holy Land in her younger, more sprightly years. She had bought it before she physically needed to use it, but as she always said ‘yu hab fi mek sure dat tum-morrow nuh ketch yu a nap, fi wen ‘im sneak up, ‘im will mek yu drop, sudden suh!’ Miss Ivy had been the most vocal since they met when she was 19, Joe knew he was lucky that she chose him and happily accepted that they grew into themselves and their increasingly lined faces at the same time they grew their own children.
In the church the moments between noon and 1 p.m. passed like time had been anaesthetised. So between naps Miss Ivy looked around the sanctuary, taking in the detail of things she liked and other things that she was not too keen on. She saw many familiar faces, but even more faces that were strange to her entered the church. Some were obviously from out of town. When there were about a hundred people present, the noise level started to rise where before it had been a reverently quiet whisper that crept around the beautifully arranged flowers. Now they were all laughing and calling to each other across the church.
‘Yu still ‘ere? Mi ‘ear seh yu dead lang time!’
‘No sah! Mi ‘till ah batta batta galang.’
The joking banter was as scripted as the behaviour of the older men who always found a corner, outside of whichever church they were at, to assemble on and reminisce about the old days while they awaited the arrival of the family. The grey haired, felt-hatted men dressed lavishly. Their jackets were unfashionably long, their starched shirts were pure cotton and whiter than imaginable by any detergent advertiser. Their trousers were always coal black with creases sharper than a chef’s paring knife. They dressed as smartly as they always had in their youth even though they were now living at the turn of the century; they were ready for their own time to come.
The younger men – of all ages from forties down to the teenagers – were in their own natty uniforms, the style of their trousers was the main dividing line as it reflected what was vogue at their own masculine peak. However, there was no uniformity to be found in the attire of the women mourners who wore a variety of dresses, skirts, blouses, and trousers topped off with a matching hat if they were over fifty. Before the day was over half of the assembled women would weep as if it was their own spouse being buried, the other half would behave like robots to make sure everything was organised and all the food was cooked and served to the crowds of people at the wake in the evening.
By 1:30 p.m. the church was full with friends, relatives and work colleagues. Some people had travelled for days from the other side of the world after hearing about the sudden accidental departure, and they sat pristine in their grief as they waited for the ceremony of thanks for Tony’s life to begin. There was no long illness, or time to acclimatise to this passing. Tony’s death was an unwelcome surprise – especially to him as he looked in his rear-view mirror and saw the lorry approaching him at the roundabout at an unexpected speed.
Anyone who arrived less than half an hour before the allocated start time was deemed a late-comer. The they entered the church they started to look hopefully at seats sandwiched between people in the middle of rows. As they edged optimistically towards the seat they were invariably told that the seat was taken and that the owner had gone for a quick toilet break before the family arrived with the coffin. Some late arrivals, although disappointed that they would have to stand for the length of the service in the heat of the crowded church, nevertheless found themselves a space to lean on against the cold brick walls. Others, aware of their predicament, but prepared to take a risk, went to the front three rows of clearly marked reserved seats and guaranteed themselves the wrath of every other mourner for the entire day. They chose to be selectively deaf to the murmurs of, ‘Dem too bad-mind’ and ‘Dem kyan read?’
A short while after 2:25 p.m. a sudden hush came over the church as the young, old-looking Patricia entered followed by her small children. The silence moved across the heads of the seated congregation and settled in the darkened vestry portal and then, as the wife, now a widow, was led to her seat in the front row, a low murmuring spread through the congregation as they commented to each other on how ‘she look draw’ and ‘wat a burden fi bear at such a tender age.’ Tony’s parents – sat numbly in the front pew of the church – carried their own version of grief: the type used only by people who had to bury their children.
As Patricia took her seat the women in the congregation, simultaneously, as if their movements were directed by an invisible conductor, reached into their bags or pockets for stored handkerchiefs, which – depending on their age – were either well pressed cotton squares or small packets of tissues. They all came prepared for either their tears or someone else’s.
The organist started playing a sombre tune and an air of uncertainty and gloom pervaded the brightly decorated interior, and like a visiting spectre it lightly touched every person within hearing distance. While from outside the church the voice of the young pastor was heard speaking clearly as he read from the Bible. Douglas Reid was preceding the coffin into the church. His face was sombre and he looked older than his young 35 years as the responsibility of officiating over the funeral of his friend Anthony Barrett weighed heavily on his shoulders. The pall bearers were also struggling with a weight: the coffin itself. It was the heaviest, widest, and most expensive coffin to have entered that church in the last decade. Tony’s family only wanted to give the best display for his sudden farewell. So they had selected the immense black and silver American-styled casket that had ornate silver decorations evenly placed along the length of each side through which long ebony carrying poles were situated.
The six pallbearers, Tony’s family and closest friends, listened to the instructions of John Stephens, the funeral director, as they lowered the huge coffin from their shoulders in order to get it through the church door. They tried not to show that they were struggling with the task, but their fearful gasps and whispered comments to each other were audible above the low hum of chatter from the congregation that watched with curious anticipation. They wore immaculately sharp dark suits, highly polished shoes, and dark sunglasses which they wore throughout the service while they sat with heads mostly bowed, and they resembled the brothers of the Nation of Islam but without the bow ties.
The older men who followed the procession – some of whom had left their corner outside of the church – bowed their heads and held their hats in front of their chests like a guard of honour. The younger men chose to silently decorate the church foyer as they stood in their designer suits contemplating the weight of death. It seemed that everybody, including the smallest of children, who were already getting warm and restless in the overcrowded church, were aware of the awkward specialness of this occasion. They frequently looked upwards to their parents’ altered faces with questions that were met with a gentle pat on the back or a momentary rocking that signified that silence and quietness was necessary.
As the coffin was eventually laid on the trestles at the front of the church, the early-arrivers like Joe and Ivy Mackenzie could see the visible shaking of Patricia’s body – this is why they had strategically chosen their seats: to later discuss every detail of the service at the wake with those who did not have a good view or were only following the service via the PA system, it made them central to life for a short while.
Patricia, like the other people in the packed church, felt the presence and oppression of death after the coffin was raised on stilts in front of them. Pastor Douglas Reid, a family friend since he had graduated from Bible College, stood before the pulpit and closed his eyes while holding his left hand aloft.
‘Brethren,’ he started. En masse the gathered people shifted their focus from each other and looked towards him, all the while fanning themselves to disperse the heat. Their actions resembled the uniformed behaviour of meerkats on the lookout. ‘We are gathered here today together, united in grief …’
Yet only Patricia and Tony’s parents Renée and Benjamin felt entirely stripped naked by their grief. Patricia experienced the sensation of being exposed and vulnerable enough to break at even the slightest touch. The intense rawness of death’s reality hit her as she knew she would never physically be this close to Tony again for the rest of her life. Together they had had so many plans for the future. Now she was alone. Their joint designs, drawn together in private intimacy and hope, now seemed liked deflated balloons being blown into country hedgerows. Anger at Tony’s absence frightened her, then she felt hatred for those men who were still there – for their wives and children. ‘It’s not fair!’ She wailed silently to herself as she judged them and then discarded her handkerchief and left her tears to flow unstopped. The heat and humidity of the church did not affect the coldness in her bones. It was the same type of cold that came in bursts and had buffeted her from the moment that she had heard of his death, since then she had remained in a state of shock – suspended between belief and disbelief.
The church service itself was rousing. Pastor Reid spoke with the passion of familiarity and love about life and death. The songs were sung with extra gusto, and the prayers were greeted with loud ‘Ah-mens’. But, it was the eulogy that brought firstly silence, then more profuse tears from men and women alike, and then a low, almost constant murmuring of agreement at all that was said. Patricia stood, or rather leaned heavily against the pulpit. She was supported by her sister as she tried to speak about Tony. Her repeated attempts did not succeed. She broke down into a fresh burst of tears. Patricia had never been keen on public speaking but tradition had dictated that she set aside her grief and face the sea of eyes staring at her to talk about the only person she wanted to talk to. Sandra spoke in her place.
Patricia was helped back to her seat as family and friends lined up to share a memory about Tony. Comforting arms surrounded her as she sat in a daze listening to all the words, such beautiful past tense words that held no hope of a future for her and Tony. She tried not to think too hard about the content and the meaning of those letters that were being strung together. They only meant one thing to her. He was dead. She had lost the lid to her pot.
When the last prayer had been offered the pastor asked those who wanted to, to file past the open casket to say a final good-bye. The funeral director had propped the split lid of the casket open and Tony was there, in front of her, with his head unmoving and cushioned by the finest silk embroidery in the interior of the Royal Casket: her King.
The increasing heat of the church after the extended service aligned with the short tempers of the impatient people who started pushing and raising their voices to get in line to view the casket. ‘Brethren,’ Elder Bennett spoke gently into the PA system, ‘please remember Tony’s family is still here in the sanctuary. Please wait patiently to pay your last respects.’ Five minutes later the lead Elder returned to the microphone, ‘The funeral director has informed me that we will have to close the casket now as time is getting on. However, those of you who have not said a personal ‘goodbye’ here in the church may do so at the cemetery.’ Despite his words nobody left the long line of viewers, so he continued hopefully, ‘Thank you for your co-operation in this matter. If you could now make your way to the car park and prepare to attend the burial, the deacons situated on the doors will give you full directions. Thank you.’
It was after 4:30 p.m. before the main congregation started to leave the church. Most people wanted to catch up with friends they had not seen for months or years and in doing so they blocked the doors and exits as they greeted each other with a hug, a laugh or a friendly pinch or slap on the back.
As the people spilled into the street outside the church they surrounded the two black horses with long feathered plumes that were standing in front of the highly polished wooden and etched glass hearse; the horses were waiting patiently for their load. The hearse driver, in his sombre black hat and tails, stood next to the blinkered but increasingly restless horse nearest the kerb and tried to calm it down as the volume of the people finally released from the belly of the church increased. Both of the horses started to move around nervously in the car-lined street as old friends and relatives called out to each other across the crowds. Death connected them all, and there were no awkward silences that habitually arise when new strangers meet.
‘Ah yu dat?!’
‘Bwoy, ah lang time mi nuh see yu!’
‘Mek wi nock sum domino later, yu hear?’
‘Is Aunty here?’
‘How you doing, Smithy?’
‘Come here let me squeeze you …’
‘You look well!’
‘I’ve missed you.’
‘That’s never Junior, is it? He’s so big!’
‘I’ve been away for far too long.’
‘We must keep in touch more.’
‘Poor Patricia … and the children.’
‘It’s just so sad.’
‘Save me a place at the graveside.’
‘Mi soon come.’
‘Hey, Sully. You have room in your car me can kotch?’
‘Have you got a drink? I’m parched. Not water, the hard stuff.’
‘Come, come with me. I need to talk to you.’
‘How are you? I’ve missed you.’
‘I really can’t deal with this today …’
‘Do you have directions to the burying ground?’
‘Follow me, man. Follow me. That’s my whip there. Me and the boys’re gonna chip soon.’
‘D’yu have a light?’
‘That stuff will kill you … sorry. Bad timing. You know what I mean.’
‘Have you spoken to her yet?’
‘Gurrrrrl! You look fierce!’
‘I try. Even on days like this.’
‘You’re rocking black. Is that insensitive?’
‘Carol, I’ve run out of tissues. Is that shop still around the corner?’
‘Pat looks so mashed!’
‘Wait for me. I’ll be back in a minute. I’ve got to catch John before he disappears again.’
Just outside the church building was the starting block where old rifts were healed, but new ones had already replaced them by the end of the evening. Later in the hall where the wake was held, unwise love affairs were started in desperation to avoid the seeping grief. Although everyone tried to ignore it, the emotional balance of all of them was in turmoil for the whole day.
The children who had been allowed to attend the funeral, not Tony and Patricia’s children – they had no choice – the other children who were released to run free for a few minutes gravitated towards the large horses that stood out to them as an unusual sight for the grey urban street. The happiness of the children had not been stunted by either age or a sense of occasion. They wanted to touch and ride the horses. The hearse driver gently dissuaded them.
‘They’re working right now. Sorry. They’re not horses for riding, just for pulling the … carriage.’
‘Can I touch him?’
‘Can I feed him?’
‘He’s not hungry. He had his meal this morning. Thank you though. That’s a kind thought.’
John Stephens eventually had to ask the people to keep back from the horses when the coffin was exiting the church. For a moment they appeared to listen politely and then, turning their attention back to their previous focus point, they did whatever they wanted to. This was the way they always behaved at any funeral – for them it was a time to learn new facts about the deceased and a time to be self-centred because they were still alive in the midst of death.
It took nearly half an hour before the family wreaths were being replaced on top of the coffin in the hearse, the funeral director was looking nervously at his watch ever conscious that the booked time at the graveyard was rapidly passing. Years of practice had taught John Stephens that these Caribbean funerals had a regular habit of running over the allotted time as the grieving practices of the small island people seemed to differ from the short sharp service of some of the older indigenous British Isles folk. As he assessed the size of the crowd he thought ahead to the graveyard and envisaged that the hundreds of people in attendance at this funeral was going to be an absolute nightmare to control, but he said nothing and retained his mask of calm serenity that he had donned along with his black coat that morning.
Once the hearse was closed, without overt unseemly behaviour, John Stephens moved silently and unobtrusively through the crowd to Patricia Barrett’s side, he gently touched her elbow as he leaned slightly towards her and, in a well exercised manner and low tones, he informed her that the lead family car was ready for her and the immediate family to follow the hearse the few miles through the city. She looked dazed as she tried to focus on his face and words, but nevertheless she nodded and one of her guardians, who had overheard the information, steered her toward the opened car door. Once seated in the car Patricia saw only blurred human shapes as her eyes were focused on the middle distance of her life, yet she held her children to her with an uncomfortable tightness.
It still took another fifteen minutes of persuasion before the three family cars were fully occupied as people were busy sharing words of condolence with whoever they could. As the convoy of cars moved smoothly along the road Patricia thought of how Tony would have enjoyed the ride in the limousine: a heavy tear fell from her eye as she thought of the reality of the situation.
The Barrett mourners arrived at the cemetery at the same time as a later funeral party did. There was the expected confusion over the parking and, in their desperation to get to the graveside before the coffin was lowered, the Barrett family mourners left their cars on verges and along the side of the cemetery entry road; they stopped wherever they could find a space big enough to get even a wheel or a wing of their car into.
At the cemetery the colour purple was dotted, in a speckled-hen fashion, among the black and white landscape of the hundreds of mourners: some old traditionalists had chosen to grieve in the style of ancient kings and were bedecked from head to foot by matching shades of plum that bobbed and dived in the monochrome horizon. They headed towards the middle of the graveyard where a newly dug hole had appeared that morning. It looked like the ground had been sick and ejected its contents around the fresh gap in the earth.
A few of the older people slowly made their own zigzag path towards Tony’s plot instead of following the straight narrow concrete lanes; they passed and sometimes paused at the graves of other friends and family members who had their final resting place in what many of them still saw as a hostile land. Flowers were straightened and handfuls of over-running grass were removed and discarded from the personal monuments to the dead.
Patricia was lead to the head of Tony’s grave. Her sister, Sandra, who had not left her side for the past three days, was supporting her with her arm around her waist. Today she cried with her sister. Before the church service she had silently mourned with Patricia since the news came through. In the weeks since the news was delivered Sandra had only cried privately before she slept, because her love for Tony was more than that of a brother-in-law. She wished he had chosen her instead of her sister, she had tried – even after the wedding – to make him change his mind. Sandra was driven by the lifelong malice she held for her younger sister Patricia. However, today even though her sorrow was gorge deep she could only show the flattened sanitised version of her grief in public.
As the crowds get deeper around Patricia and her close family at the graveside the air becomes more solemn as it fills with people’s own personal sadness at their failed plans and frustrated dreams that they carry on their shoulders to every funeral. The fear-lined laughter fades away as the mourners forsake their attempts at hiding their own fragile mortality.
Joe and Ivy Mackenzie and others, who had arrived in England in the first half of the century with the intention of staying for a maximum of five years, were now there for their friends who were burying their only son, Tony. None of them had intended to stay in England long enough to have children, and especially not long enough to bury anyone. Yet they had all found themselves trapped by the poverty of their situation in Britain and handcuffed to the promise to those they had left in their Caribbean home who were relying on them. As the years went by their growing children put down roots that made them think seriously about moving back to the place they still romantically thought of as home after over 40 years apart. Now they were burying a man child who should have outlived them, but had died without even visiting their wrinkled memory of home.
The crowd took the song sheets handed to them and a momentary air of intense tiredness fell on every soul as the coffin juddered when it was lowered into the gaping hole. Eerily, to chase their individual terrors away, two stout motherly figures at different ends of the open grave, started singing the same hymn:
‘When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be . . .’
The hopeful words had no effect on Patricia who despite loving her children deeply only wanted to be left alone to go to sleep with her husband. She did not want to say a final good-bye. She knew in the cloud of her grief that to admit that this was really the end would be to accept that her future existence would be full of unmanageable and unimaginable sorrow. She felt dehydrated as she continued to cry, but she could not get the words past her parched throat to ask for a drink of water. So Patricia existed in a new suspended state as half an hour of loud and tuneless singing ensued. The self-appointed song leaders had hoarse voices from the shouting-singing that they were leading: they called out the words for those without papers. The response was strong and multi-layered with people around the grave starting each line as if they were part of a Mexican wave. It was jarring.
The official council grave-diggers stood redundantly by as the sunglassed young men shovelled spades full of dirt and clay on top of the box that was finally laid in the ground. Other people threw handfuls of soil into the hole as they contributed to burying their own. Each thud on the black and silver coffin renewed the pain in Patricia’s head. She felt a new layer of grief land inside her heart like she had been hit by a cannonball. A heavy loneliness engulfed her and left her further weakened.
The numerous floral tributes that had arrived in the past days were laid on and immediately around the rough protruding mound. It looked, to Patricia, as if he shouldn’t be in the ground because it wasn’t as flat and even as the other surrounding graves. She continued to watch from behind sheets of her semi-consciousness as the flowers were formed into attractive pyral pyramids. The colours were vibrant. He was dead. He was buried. These final thoughts travelled from her head to her battle-worn heart when she voluntarily and thankfully fainted.
When she awoke in their bedroom some hours later she saw the same looks on the faces peering at her as she had seen for days through her hazy existence. As reassuring voices told her everything was alright she uttered a guttural sound that would have been a sardonic laugh if it had escaped her body. Her aunts, who were now taking their turn to watch her, interpreted the sound as a query and responded that her children were all being looked after downstairs. She stared at them and they continued to nervously talk at her. They told her that everybody at the hall had had plenty to eat and drink and coach loads of people were now travelling back across country to their various destinations.
Patricia turned over on the bed so that she could no longer see them in the corners of her eyes. Suddenly startled by a clear thought she jumped up, and shakily hurried into the adjoining bathroom. Opening the laundry basket she pulled out the bed sheets that were on her bed when she had risen from her sleepless night to the sound of birds singing their usual happy dawn chorus the day Tony had gone.
‘Yes, they still have Tony’s smell on them,’ she thought as she inhaled deeply.
Clutching them to her breasts she stumbled back to the room and lay down heavily on his side of the bed.
‘Please,’ she whispered after a few minutes, ‘please . . . leave me alone now.’
‘But . . . Pat mi dear, yu nuh . . .’
Again she spoke quietly ‘Please . . . just leave me alone for a while.’
Hesitatingly they withdrew one by one, all shaking their heads in disagreement at her request but reluctantly respecting it nonetheless as it was the first time she had spoken for days beyond an empty weak ‘yes’ or ‘no’. As Aunty Sue left the room Patricia spoke again.
‘Aunt, . . . could you send my children to me in about half an hour, please? We need to be together . . . alone.’
The door closed quietly as they tip-toed away. Even though she was now awake and coherent they regarded her as more fragile than ever. An hour later the children edged the bedroom door open and jumped on to the bed in their usual manner, they hugged their mother in the midst of tears and nervous laughter. They were happy to be with her and she was looking a bit more like her old familiar self, but they were also sad because they could see that she was still crying. They quietly held each other trying not to focus on who was not there.
‘I miss Daddy,’ the youngest child eventually said. The others answered with tears. Reassuring squeezes were passed like warm handshakes and the burden of her love for her offspring caused Patricia to sigh deeply as she realised they each had their own needs and sorrows.
In a single minute she had become a lone parent, and her children were fatherless – they were all floundering.
She looked at her children on the marital oak bed with the crumpled sheets entwined around them all and remembered the joy that had created each new person. The uncertainty in their eyes told her that they did not know how to behave in the current circumstances; she felt like them – lost and unsure.
‘Somehow,’ she whispered, not believing herself, ‘somehow, we’ll . . . we’ll make it. I miss Daddy, too.’ She managed a weak unconvincing smile while thinking, ’Oh God! How the hell is this life going to work?’
Later she understood that Tony’s death had caused their rebirth, because they all had to become transformed people with new routines as their past life had gone. Patricia felt she had to at least try to live, even if it was from her precarious unfamiliar position on the knife edge of sanity.
Back at her own home that night, Sandra packed a bag and left. She never had a reason to return.
© Marjorie H Morgan 2017