Sally found that the washing up had already been done when she went into the kitchen, even though she vividly remembered that she’d left the morning dishes on the side. She later found out that was Chris’s mum who’d done that. She spent most of the afternoon that first day just pottering around the house, doing little things that didn’t really need doing and trying to think about bigger things that needed doing. Around three o’clock the phone rang.
“Sally?” the voice on the side said, sounding shaky and worried.
“Hi mum,” Sally replied.
“I heard that you’ve back home now. You should have said something I would have come round. Do you want me to come now?”
“You can come later if you want to? I just wanted to be by myself for a little while.”
“I understand that. I’ll get your dad to pick up some food and we’ll come round later. I don’t want you to feel like you’re by yourself.”
Sally thought that the best way to ensure that she felt alone was to say that the only reason she was to make it sound like an obligation to come round, not because she wanted to. The thought of eating almost made her cancel the visit there and then.
“Thank you. I appreciate that,” she said instead.
“Is everything sorted for the funeral?”
Straight to it mum, no build up to that?
“Yes, I think so. Joyce has been handling it.”
“And they’re helping pay for it? If you need any money just let me know.”
“I don’t really want to think about money right now. I’ll sort it.”
“I know you don’t want to think about it, but you have to sweetie. It’s going to be difficult to adjust. Have you told your bank about it so they can freeze the mortgage?”
“Yes, mum. Yes. I’ve done all that. I did it in the hospital when you brought in the forms. I still have other things to do, but the mortgage is frozen.”
Sally had to fight the urge to put the phone down. She was grateful that at least later her dad would stop any talk about money. She couldn’t believe it was the first thing her mum thought about.
“That’s good. I’m sorry, I know it’s not right, but you must think about the future. Now more than ever.”
“I know mum. I’m just.”
“I know dear. I know. I’m so sorry that this happened to you.”
“Thank you. I’ll see you later, alright. About six? I’ve got somethings that I want to do beforehand.”
Sally hung up the phone before her mum replied and dropped it to the sofa. She dropped her head to her hands and started crying again. On her shoulder she felt something, like a hand. It felt warm and comforting. She turned and saw Chris sitting next to her. He was blurry through the tears, but she was sure he was speaking to her. There wasn’t any sound coming from his mouth. His grip on Sally’s shoulder grew tighter until it started to hurt. Sally cried out in pain and tried to move away but couldn’t. She couldn’t shake his hand off.
“What’s happening?” she cried out. “Please let me go.”
He was just starring at her intently, making eye contact the entire time. Then he faded and disappeared completely. She could move again, but there was still pain in her shoulder from where he’d grabbed her. She was completely frozen to the sofa, unable to move, speak or even think. Her body felt like jelly, adrenaline pulsating.
Slowly, Sally pulled herself to her feet and walked to the hallway mirror, looking to see if there was a mark on her shoulders. She could still feel the pain, but wanted to make sure it was there. Very clearly, was the red marks that his hand had left. She fell backwards against the wall, holding herself up and breathing deeply. What’s going on, she thought. Was it real? It couldn’t be, surely. It couldn’t be real at all, but it wasn’t in her mind either. It hurt too much to be imaginary.
Her first thought was to call Laila and tell her what happened, but she could already hear the conversation in her head. Laila would say that she was struggling with what’s happened. It’s completely understandable and she didn’t need to worry about it. It would be instant dismissal and that isn’t something she could put up with, not then.
There was a loud crash from upstairs. Sally turned and straightened herself up. She swore in her mind and then headed towards the stairs, while wiping the last remnants of tears away from her eyes as she did.
In Chris’s old office, the one he used to start his designs, the big display board with what he’d been working on recently had fallen off the wall, paper had flown everywhere, and it was all a mess. It had been hanging there for years, without anything happening, screwed in tightly to the wall. The one time that Chris had used a drill in the house and hadn’t just left it for Sally to figure out. There was no way that it would just fall randomly.
As Sally started picking up the sheets of paper, collating them into a rough pile, she noticed that the board itself had a large crack running right through the middle. He would have been so mad if he’d seen that, she thought. Then she remembered how much she used to love looking through his designs. He had such a keen eye for landscapes and making things look so pretty. He was currently designing a playground for a local school, nothing fancy, just simple and elegant. Maybe the school would want the papers, Sally thought as the last one was collected.
To be continued!
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