Rose woke up to the sound of the shrill alarm. She groaned, asking herself for the umpteenth time why she didn’t simply replace the blasted alarm clock with one that wasn’t made to startle the dead. She reached over and turned it off without even opening her eyes. She didn’t need to; she knew exactly what time it was.
It was 5.30am. The alarm went off at the same time every morning. She yawned and reached over to the other side of their super king-sized custom-built bed to shake Colin awake as she did every morning. Colin was not a morning person and would sleep for two more hours if she let him, not even that strident alarm ring could rouse him.
Suddenly it all came flooding back to her with painful realization. She stopped herself midway and let out a heart-wrenching wail. Colin wasn’t in bed with her, not now, not ever again. He was in heaven…or hell, she sobbed even harder when she couldn’t make up her mind exactly where he was.
The nightmare had begun while she watched the 9 o’clock news on CNN three days ago. There had been a plane crash in China. All 112 passengers and crew on board the London Heathrow-bound Air China Boeing 767 had been killed as the aircraft crashed into a lake just a minute after taking off from the Beijing airport.
Colin had gone to Beijing a week ago to meet potential business partners. He was due back on that flight.
She curled up into a ball, stuffing her mouth with the bedclothes as she wept. Tears rolled down her cheeks into the already wet pillow. She must have cried in her sleep or cried herself to sleep, she really couldn’t determine which. She had cried so much she could have sworn she wouldn’t have any tears left but no, they came unbounded at every turn, leaving her weak, vulnerable and bereft of coherent thought. She cried herself into a stupor, lulling herself into the false belief that this was all just a horrible nightmare and she would soon wake up to her real life with Colin lying beside her.
After what seemed like an entire lifetime, she uncurled herself and sat up in bed. A cursory glance at the annoying alarm clock revealed the time to be 6.30am. “Just one miserable hour” she thought. She wished a whole day had passed, a whole year even. She wished she didn’t ever have to get out of bed again…oh how she wished! Alas! All the wishing in the world wouldn’t change a thing, she conceded grudgingly, she had to get up and face the world again. She had her children to consider, her precious girls, Elaine, Christine and Anna. She had to be strong for them. They were now her reason for going on. She had to pull herself together.
Exactly what it meant to pull herself together, she was yet to find out. Yet this was the kind of advice people tactlessly doled out as they came to pay condolence visits. Empty words spouted from thoughtless albeit well-meaning friends and family who, having done their civic duty returned to their lives and their very alive spouses leaving her to wallow in this bottomless pit of misery and grief. They had no idea what she was going through yet they were quick to dole out advice.
Sometimes she just wanted to scream and throw them all out. She felt like telling them where to stuff their mindless chatter but she couldn’t, she wouldn’t. She would sit there, head bowed in grief, listening politely to them prattling on or at least pretending to. She would grit her teeth and bite her tongue, stifling the bile rising within her intestines from spewing forth its venom and destroying all in its path.
She was bitter; in fact she was drowning in bitterness. Her constant companions, these days, were grief, bitterness, depression and anger. She was bitter that the world didn’t stop to mourn her loss. She was floundering in utter despair and gloom; her world would never be the same again. She was furious with herself, with Colin, with all the people who purported to grieve with her yet were merely passing acquaintances with her grief. She was a contradictory mass of emotions, none of which she could control. One minute she was calm and collected and the next, a quivering pulp of tears. Her life was a topsy-turvy roller coaster and sadly there was no getting off. She just had to ride it out.
Today was another day. The beginning of the end of her life, that’s how it felt at any rate. She had to prepare herself to face another endless stream of guests who would start pouring in shortly but this was her time. What she needed time to herself for, she really could not fathom. Time on her own only magnified her loss and brought poignant reminders of what could have been. However, she chose to have this time to herself, for whatever good it may serve, if any. She tried to focus her thoughts as there was so much to do but she could not will her errant thoughts into submission. They jumped out of the recesses of her mind of their own accord, in no particular order; each seemed to have taken on a life of its own, demanding immediate attention.
She gave up trying to sort out her thoughts, letting them all have their way like wayward children. Time, they say, heals all wounds. Perhaps in time hers, too, would heal. She scoffed at the thought since she couldn’t really see beyond a time when every breath would be like inhaling acid. Determining to claw her way out of this hopeless cycle of despair, she began to ready herself to face the day.
She untangled herself from the Egyptian cotton sheets, rolled out of bed and into her well-worn, pink grinning bunny slippers, which Colin had surprised her with a few years ago. The memory of it brought a smile to her lips.
She was really upset with him for missing their youngest daughter’s annual school play, even though he’d promised to be there. He had called her begging off due to a meeting that had been scheduled at the last minute with a company whose custom he had been chasing for a while. She had to calm the very distraught Anna as she explained why her father couldn’t be there but she had been livid herself.
When it ended she herded the girls out to the car park and there was Colin, waiting, wearing an apologetic smile. She ignored him as she marched up to the car, yanked the door open getting in while the girls chatted with their dad. She was so angry she couldn’t speak and even if she could, she didn’t think what she had to say would be appropriate for the children to hear. So she fumed in silence.
Colin ushered the girls into the car and stepped into the front seat, announcing he was taking them all out for a celebratory dinner. As the girls let out whoops of excitement, it took all that Rose had to keep from blowing up completely.
“It’s a school night,” she hissed.
“I know baby and I’m sorry I couldn’t make it. Please forgive me?” Colin whispered back, kissing her on the cheek.
She looked at him, let out a sigh and smiled. “I’m really angry, you know and you have to make it up to Anna.”
He smiled back “I know, Baby. I have promised to take her swimming on Saturday and I’ve got something for you too.”
“What is it?” she’d asked feigning nonchalance while brimming with curiosity. “You’ll have to wait till we get home,” he replied mysteriously.
In the brouhaha of dinner and putting the girls to bed, she’d forgotten that Colin had something for her till, exhausted, she rolled into bed and got under the covers. Her feet brushed against something furry and she flew out of bed screaming.
“There’s somehting under the covers.”
She’d expected Colin to jump into action, rip the bed covers off and grab whatever it was but he’d just lain there, grinning like a cat that had found cream. He then threw back the covers and pulled out a pair of pink, bunny slippers with a grin that mirrored his, like a magician would pull a rabbit out of a hat. She collapsed into bed laughing her head off when she realized how silly she’d been.
Wow! She’d taken a shower and got dressed without even realising what she was doing. She could get through the present by losing herself in the past, living in her memories. Perhaps this was the way forward.
Who was she fooling? It would take much more than reminiscence to get her through this nightmare. Besides she wouldn’t be of much use to anyone if she tried to live in the past.
Where could she start? How could she carry on? A myriad of questions bombarded her mind. She had no clue what the answers were. But she was determined to figure them out. She had no choice.
She had never been been one to allow her circumstances get the better of her. She wasn’t about to start now. She would take it one step at a time and try not to worry about the future. Hard as it might seem, she could do it.
With that thought, she took a deep breath and walked out the door to face another day.