Her eyes opened and she took a breath, letting the cold air reach right down into the bottom of her lungs. Exhaling she let the dreams of the night escape back out. The room was still dark but the clock showed that she’d managed to sleep right through to six o’clock. First time in ages. Then the pain kicked in.
Reaching out, she only touched cold bedding.
Everything felt cold, and her jaw ached.
This. This was out of her control. There was nothing she could do except embrace it. Time was the only thing now that would work.
Flicking back the covers she climbed out of bed, the cold morning air washing over her as she struggled to pull on some socks and a dressing gown. In the kitchen she turned on the radio, moving the volume up the scale to drown out the silence. Listening to the kettle boil mixed with music, she stared out the window. This time last week, or was it the week before, the sun was already starting to creep in. Today there was only blackness staring back at her. That and her ghost reflection with shadowed eyes.
Moving through the usual routine, her body took over, freeing her mind to shrink and hide. A favourite song came on, smiling she started to dance, letting the sound travel through her body, the baseline be her heart beat and be transported by the words to a happy point in the past.
Still smiling as the song finished, she glanced out the window again at a dark shape, and started to move to open the window. She caught herself in time. A reflection from the kettle, not a small furry body waiting for her. And she blinked back the tears. How many times had she caught herself looking in the usual places. Searching her out? Caught a glimpse from the corner of her eye and when she turned to look, hopeful, and then had been disappointed.
The day after it had happened, as she got out of the car, hands full of bags, her black coat swirled, the end seen out of the corner of her eye triggering a memory. Her lips opened in exasperation at the annoying habit of getting under foot. The tears fell then. Knees trying not to buckle under. The hope it had been a bad dream.
That she hadn’t held her beautiful cat in her arms when she brought her back from the vets. Cradled her close, as she sobbed into her fur, wishing she would just wake up. Knowing it had been for the best. That nothing could have saved her and in fact pain and suffering had been avoided. Then trying to dig a hole in the dark, through the tears and the rain and the body shaking sobs. Needing to push herself on before the children came back. Wondering what to say to the children when they did. Their sobbing and grief equally raw. Wanting to get her answers right, so that they would have positive thoughts to carry through life. And she was the one who had to make it better for them, when she couldn’t even do that for herself.
The images and thoughts came tumbling through her mind again as she gripped the edge of the work surface. Her own little hell locked in her head.
She let it wash over her, waiting for the tears to slowly stop as she came back to numbness. Yes it wasn’t fair. But it had happened, and nothing could change that.
Eventually she’d stop looking. But she’d never forget.