The next few days were painful. There were visits to the doctors, a parade of visits from friends and family, and phone calls from people Sally hadn’t thought about in years. Each day she could feel that her ribs were healing, but none of that mattered. Chris was gone, and it was only just starting to sink in. Each night when she went to bed, she was sure he was sitting in the room with her, sitting on the armchair in the corner and watching over her. A couple of times she was sure that she’d seen him in the mirror, but when she turned around the seat was empty.
On the third day she went for a walk by herself, around the nearby streets. It wasn’t a long walk, as her body started to ache, but she saw him at every turn, in the face of almost everyone she walked by.
“I keep seeing him everywhere,” she told Laila while they ate sandwiches in the conservatory. “It’s like he’s there watching over me.”
“That’s exactly what he would do. He wouldn’t want you to be in pain, you know that.”
“I know, but I just feel like he’s still here with me. I’m not a spiritual person, but I don’t think I’m crazy.”
“Of course, you’re not crazy. He would be here if he could, and you’ve been through a lot.”
“His mum called me this morning, to see how I was. She sounds heartbroken on the phone. The funeral is next Tuesday. She’s going to pick me up from here and then you can follow behind.”
“She told me to be strong, but I don’t think I can be. I can’t stop crying whenever I’m alone. I don’t think I can face the funeral at all. I don’t want to.”
“Oh baby, I’m so sorry. It’ll be okay. We’re all going to be here for you, don’t worry. I’ll be right next to you and if you need to leave, we can leave at any point, but you have to go.”
“I know I do, but I don’t think I can.”
Sally’s head was dropped into her hands, and she was sobbing freely. It was the first time she’d cried in front of someone else. Laila got up and sat next to her, putting an arm around her and holding her tightly. Sally wanted to shrug her friend off, and just be left alone, but she didn’t.
“It’s not real,” she said over and over into her palms. “It can’t be real.”
On Friday morning, the week before the funeral, Sally started to pack up her bag in her room. She hadn’t told anyone yet, but it was time for her to go home and face reality. As much as she didn’t want to believe that Chris was gone, it was starting to sink in and being around other people wasn’t what she wanted. As she was zipping up her bag the phone started to buzz.
It was her boss, telling her that she knew what had happened and was very sorry. It almost felt like a routine by then, saying the same things over and over and not really listening. The call went exactly as Sally thought it would. As much time off as she needed, no need to rush, someone is covering all her cases, they’re all thinking off her, they’ll be there at the funeral, if she needs anything she knows where to ask. Sally replied to it all as usual, but by the time she’d hung up the phone she couldn’t remember saying a word and she didn’t care whether she had or not.
“I’m going to go home,” Sally said over breakfast.
Before speaking, she’d been playing around with the beans and sausages that were on her plate, not taking a single bite. The idea of eating anything had made her feel physically sick. The sauce that the beans were sitting in was cold and congealed. Each day she’d eaten less and less. The only thing she’d touched was the glass of water, to try and deal with a sore throat that was getting worse.
“Are you sure?” Laila said.
“Yes, I want to go home before the funeral.”
Laila stopped eating completely, and the room turned quiet. Sally instantly missed the sound of scraping cutlery.
“I hope you don’t think you’re not welcome here, you’re welcome to stay as long as you’d like.”
“I know and I’m grateful, but I think it’s time for me to go home. I’m physical better, but I need time to deal with everything. There are so many things I have to do. Paperwork I have to complete. There’s bank accounts that need to be closed. I need to tell his employer. It’s a lot and I have to start it sooner rather than later.”
“I can help with that.”
“No. I want to do it. I think it’s important that I do it.”
“Okay, at least let Satish drive you back. You’ll do that, won’t you?”
“Yes of course,” her husband replied.
Satish has been starring at his phone, slowly draining his cup of coffee, but he was very aware of what Sally was saying.
“Whenever you’re ready,” he said. “Just let me know.”
“Thank you. I appreciate it.”
“If you need anything, anything at all. Please just let me know,” Laila added.
“I will do. Thank you both for everything.”
To be continued…
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