Here is the ‘new’ first chapter for ‘Something To believe In’.
Dedicated to Theresa and Grainne who very patiently read the first one.
I stood in front of the solid grey gravestone, my feet firmly planted in the overgrown grass, a few errant beech leaves blown in from the nearby hedge underfoot. With a practised art I ripped off the horrid cellophane with which the garage forecourt flowers were strangled. Freed from their restrictive wrapping I clutched them for a second, focusing all my energy on the job in hand.
“That’s for leaving me on my own!” I screamed, swiping the yellow and white carnations across the headstone.
“And that’s for not being there for Libby’s first day at school.”
“And that’s for missing another family holiday; and that’s for being stupid enough in the first place to try and be a hero and getting yourself killed!”
Swipe after swipe after swipe, hurling insults at my dead husbands’ gravestone; I kept at it until the flowers were no more and my grief was sated once again. I forcibly ignored the odd looks I was getting from the old couple walking past; it was only ten o’clock on a Tuesday morning but being a widow still sucked.
I pulled a plastic bag from my pocket and bent to lift the battered flower heads from the grave. A quick brush with the back of my hand was enough to keep the tears from hitting the ground.
The pristinely wrapped second bunch was lying on the grass. I’d learnt the hard way that it was always better to leave a fresh bunch. The first time I had felt the sudden urge to batter the flowers to death over the headstone, the vicar had arrived on my doorstep by lunchtime. He’d been told by a well meaning parishioner, that it looked as though I was ‘practically suicidal’. Well I hadn’t been. I still had Libby to look after and Mum. Instead of being a family of five, we had dropped overnight to a family of three. Mum and I had the misfortune to have been widowed on the same day, and some days I couldn’t forgive either of them.
Angry? Hell yes I was that alright!
Devastated? That too.
Overcome- with- grief- and- didn’t- want- to- get- out- of- pyjamas- for- six- months? Yep. Totally. But I had survived, shrouded in a grief stricken angry haze fuelled by the realisation that the father of my first-born and the love of my life was no longer here to share everything with.
Survived. I was a survivor. It was what I did. But I hated feeling that was how I was defined. ‘The one left behind’. ‘Picking up the pieces, getting on with it,’ and all those other well meaning clap-trap phrases that people bandy about. Urrgh I could scream and stamp and smash even more flowers when I thought through it all. But it was life, and it was my life.
But today was at least better than the day of Libby’s first birthday. On that particular morning I had kicked the headstone so hard I had ended up in casualty with a broken toe and been on crutches for a week. After practically five years, I had enough sense to know I had moved on very little in my ‘journey of grief’.
Pants! Who had dreamt that little smart arse phrase up? Not a grieving widow anyway.
Today was just another bad day, another ‘first’ that I had to do alone. Leaving my only child off at school for their very first day is never easy, but I did want to share it with Tony. I had wanted to tell him how smart Libby looked in her bright red jumper and grey school skirt; and how excited she had been skipping through the gates. But I had forgotten that bit once I had reversed out of the school car park, with gasping sobs threatening to overwhelm me. Once I felt like this, I knew from experience only a good old ‘smash the flowers on the gravestone session’ would do any good. I knew he heard me, because I had perfected the art of shouting loudly how I felt over the years. It was therapy, I reasoned, and if it made me feel better, then to hell with the well meaning nosey old biddies who reverently tended graves with an almost saint like art and thought I was unhinged. If I felt like shouting I would shout, and if I wanted to whack boring old noxious garage flowers on his headstone, well that was my right too.
Mum went with the ‘standing quietly and having a little chat’, type of visit when she stopped by Dad’s grave. It just didn’t suit my personality.
Gathering up the petals and floppy stalks into my carrier bag, I kissed my fingers and laid them gently against the cold stone. Peace was restored once more. I might manage another week now. With a deft nod in the direction of the old pair watching, I thrust my headphones back in my ears and took off at a sprint down the path back to the main road.
Running. That was another thing that kept me sane.
And work. Only another 2 hours and 45 minutes until I had to grace the shop floor of Clementines again. Routine was another life saver I had discovered.
* * *