(Yes, this is a re-post, the original was taken down and expanded for a writing contest which I didn’t win. But I have now adapted it to a play, to be performed at Board Shorts 2019.)
The house felt cold, not just because it was autumn and the sun lost its warmth by three in the afternoon. It was more than that. It was the cold of emptiness, the lack of human spirit. There was no talking or laughing now, no mess, no annoying little habits to silently curse at as he went about his day. Just quiet and stillness and the cold.
The moment the police had come to tell him of Her accident was still as fresh and clear in his mind as if it had just happened. The moment it felt as though the world had somehow shifted slightly. The moment his world crumbled. And he couldn’t understand it. Her driving had always been a source for jokes and teasing. So slow and cautious, he’d called Her a granny at the wheel. Erratic and speeding just didn’t sound like Her at all.
He had packed up Her clothes and personal belongings, but hadn’t had the heart to get rid of them yet. It helped not being able to see them, to not come across little pieces of Her as he went through his daily routines and break down crying – again. It made Her not being there anymore feel more real.
He hadn’t made any changes to the house. People kept telling him he should, make it his own, instead of theirs. But he couldn’t, and anyway, he liked it the way it was. It suited his needs and they had decorated it together. It was as much his choices, his style, as Hers.
Sometimes, in the morning, when he was just waking up, he was sure he could hear Her, sense Her moving around in the kitchen and he’d wait for Her to appear beside the bed with a cup of tea, as was Her way. And then reality would dawn on him. He sometimes wondered if there was another reality, close by, that he could almost reach in those drowsy, waking moments, where it was Her, where Her accident hadn’t happened. He’d even started to discuss alternate reality theories with his colleagues.
At other times he was sure he could still feel Her presence close by. He’d shake his head and remind himself that he didn’t believe in ghosts, but still… And why not? It was no more bizarre than some of the theories their work involved. Thoughts and ideas would come to him in Her voice and he knew it was probably just wishful thinking. His imagination willing Her to still be near, still looking out for him. But what if it wasn’t?
He sat in his study unable to work. He missed Her, missed everything about Her. He hadn’t yet been able to return to the office, not without Her there, but he decided he must work. He must try to occupy his mind. He turned to his desk, looking for his pen. It was nowhere to be found. ‘Blast! Where the bloody hell is it,’ he said under his breath. A breeze shifted a pile of papers even though there was no window, no source for the moving air. There was his pen. That was one of Her talents. Knowing where he had left things. Always there with just what he needed, just when he needed it. He smiled to himself. It couldn’t be, could it?
She’d watched the car slam into the back of the truck. It had all happened so quickly, but now thinking about it again, it all seemed to happen in slow motion. She’d thought of fleeing, of driving away as fast as she could, but then she’d realised there was no need to. There was no one to know she had been following Her, no one to make the connection between them. She’d be just another witness with no idea why the car had been going so fast, so frantically, so erratically.
It was a coincidence, a happy accident (bad choice of words, huh?), that she had been following Her. She had seen Her by chance and was curious as to Her life and what made Her better, what made him want Her. She knew he was the love of a lifetime the first time she had met him and she thought they had been happy. They were happy, until he met Her. Then everything changed, life was shattered. She was shattered.
They’d certainly been an odd couple. He was so different to the men she usually ended up with. He was sweet and gentle and so, so smart that she’d felt smarter just by being with him. And she was so, so beautiful, he was punching well above his weight there, but maybe that’s why it had worked. They had balanced each other out. Beauty and brains. And then he’d said that they needed to talk and she well and truly knew what that meant. He’d said that it was over. That he needed more. How dare he be the one to end it, the one to need more. And for some reason that she still couldn’t fathom, he’d found it with Her. Why did he suddenly want Her, plain, and seemingly ordinary?
Following Her to the hairdressers, she had waited and watched. Then she found she was following Her everywhere, to the supermarket, the shops and the post office. Boring, ordinary tasks, what was so special about Her? At some point she’d been noticed and it occurred to Her that she was following. Then the panic, the speeding and the crash.
She hadn’t intended that, or any harm at all, but she wasn’t sorry either. She could now bump into him somewhere, accidentally (oops, there’s that word again) of course, and she could play the supportive old friend. Perhaps he would see all that he had given up, what he had thrown away for Her, and they would get back together. Maybe now, she could be happy again.
It is always assumed that ghosts haunt houses, places, but they don’t. They attach to people, those who loved them, those they loved. Her attachment was to him and it was Her intention to protect him wherever he went. Now, here she was in Her house, playing the understanding counsellor. Helping him through the hardest time in his life. Surely she hadn’t planned it, an accident that was no accident? She hadn’t coped well with the break up, but surely she wasn’t driven to murder? Still, she couldn’t have him, especially now, when he was so vulnerable, so lonely and grief stricken. Surely he knew he wasn’t alone, that he still had Her. It seemed to Her that he did feel Her presence, notice Her helping him out when possible and it appeared to Her that he needed Her help again now. If she could drive Her to Her death, what would she do to him, especially if she were rejected – again.
It would be Her biggest task yet. It had taken Her ages to master the small things. The breezes, moving little things, suggesting ideas so that he could never quite decide if they had occurred to him naturally or come to him from somewhere else. This would take practice, timing and all of Her tricks. It was up to Her to do something so that she would leave him alone.
He was going through their wedding album, when she had turned up. He made tea while she sat scowling at the open book. The pages were heavy, it took Her such effort to turn them, but it had the desired effect. She screamed.
‘Are you ok?’ he said rushing into the room.
‘The page turned by itself,’ she said shakily, standing staring down at the album on the coffee table.
He laughed. ‘Don’t worry about it. Her presence won’t hurt you.’
‘What are you talking about?’ she said, eyes wide.
‘It’s just Her way, being helpful,’ he said returning to the kitchen for the mugs of tea.
‘You mean it’s Her?’ she said pointing at the album.
‘Well, who else would it be?’ he said smiling down at the photos as he placed the mugs on the table.
‘You’re mad,’ she said sitting down once more. ‘You need me more than I thought. Your grief has driven you mad.’
It was too much for Her, it was time for something drastic. Using all Her might, the mug of hot tea flew off the table and she cried out in pain as the scalding liquid soaked into jeans, jumper and shoes. She jumped up, eyes wild. ‘It is Her!’ she cried. ‘I didn’t mean it, don’t let Her hurt me. Don’t let Her take Her revenge,’ and she ran from the house. He didn’t know what she meant. Revenge for what? Anyway, he knew revenge wasn’t Her thing, nor jealousy, but he knew there would be a reason for Her actions.
The job was done, she wouldn’t be back, she wouldn’t dare, knowing she would be at Her mercy. One day he would meet someone who would be right for him, and it would give Her pleasure to see him move on. Until then, he had Her to watch over him.
(C) Jennifer B Goodwomangonetowaste.wordpress.com