Chapter 34: Cry Cry

In the morning, my friends and I eat breakfast in front of the TV and I can feel the daggers Josh sends in our direction when he finds his normal spot on the sofa occupied. Faint December are a big enough deal that the national news programmes are still reporting on Ben Chester’s suicide. Aerial footage shows his body being wheeled out of the hotel. Either it’s draped under a black cloth or it’s in a black body bag, it’s difficult to tell which. The gravity of the situation hits me all over again and perhaps even harder than it did yesterday. The sight of that trolley carrying Ben’s body seriously disturbs me. I feel sick.

I catch Mum looking at me. I didn’t even realise she was there. She knows that I’m in a bad place and I realise now that she knew it yesterday too. No wonder she didn’t want us go to London unsupervised. When she sees me crumple, she crosses the distance between us in one stride. She clutches me to her. It’s as if I’ve been filled overnight with a sea of water and now I cry it out. The more I shake, the tighter Mum grips me to her. I can feel her heart beating. I let her cling to me and I sob in a way I haven’t done since Dad died. I shouldn’t be this upset over someone I never met but even as I think this I know that it’s not just about Ben. Seeing him lying there like that was like seeing Dad’s body all over again and now the memory of losing Dad is being washed to the surface by the tide of my tears. I am almost convulsing.

“I know,” Mum says, “I know.”

My body continues to vibrate.

Cry.

Cry.

Cry.

I can’t stop.

“I know,” Mum says again, “I’m here.”

I’m sure she knows what I’m remembering. I should never have been in the garage. It’s not that I wasn’t allowed, it was just never a place I went. It was Dad’s place. Yet that morning, for no reason I could think of, I’d gone looking for him. If I had to explain it now, I’d say that I’d had this sudden urge to tell him that I loved him. I remember those final moments before everything changed and it seems to me like I was in some kind of trance. Realising that Dad wasn’t in the house, knowing that he must be in the garage, I’d opened the kitchen door in my dressing gown and slippers and crossed the garden.

The memories are as clear as a film in my head. The door at side of the garage is closed but I check to see if it’s locked. It’s not. I feel the coolness of the handle as I turn it. The door opens. The window in the garage is almost fully covered by the wisteria growing outside so it’s hard to see at first. My immediate thought is that Dad’s not in here after all. If he was, there would be a light on and he’d have got rid of the gross smell that I recognise but can’t quite put my finger on. But then my eyes begin to adjust to the dark and I see him. I don’t know it’s him at first, it looks like someone is hovering in mid-air and I step back in fright. I know vampires don’t exist, but the thought that it is one flickers through my mind. And then I see what it is. Who it is. It’s Dad and he’s hanging from the metal girders that run along the garage roof. His body is rotating slightly and I watch him there. I want to move, to get away, but I am frozen to the spot. I feel myself trembling and then I’m screaming. I have so much noise in me and I let it all out. Dad’s right there but I have never felt so alone. It’s as if I’ve somehow walked into a different universe where nothing is the way it’s meant to be.

Three years later, I still live in that place, that crazy mirror version of the world I grew up in. I can still hear the noise of the screams that brought Mum crashing into the garage and how she threw her arms around me and pulled me out of that place as quickly as she would have if a bomb had been about to go off. Except that the bomb had already gone off. All this time on, I can still feel its blast. We both can. I remember watching Mum from the kitchen window as she went back into the garage and how she stumbled. I couldn’t see her after that but it didn’t stop me imagining what happened next. In my head, she fell to her knees. In my head, she grappled with Dad. In my head, she struggled to get his body down. All on her own. No one to help her.

By then, my screams had stopped. I was in shocked silence by the time I heard the sirens. I remember thinking that the emergency vehicle must be heading somewhere else, that someone else must be in trouble and that maybe there had been a whole chain of unexplained, tragic events. Dad’s death being part of a chain that he had no control over – that would have made more sense to me.  But then the sirens got closer and closer and then the ambulance was in our driveway and Mum was opening the front door.

I am still crying. I feel like I will never stop.

“I know,” Mum says.

I start to hug her back and I know then that I will fight my way out of this moment, that the water in me will run out. Mum starts to stroke my hair. Bit by bit, we relinquish our grip on each other. I pull back and look up at her. She pushes my hair away from my face and I notice Josh standing in the doorway behind her. He sees me look, turns and disappears out of sight. My friends have already deserted their bowls of cereal and plates of toast and gone upstairs. When I join them in my room, they swamp me with cuddles and we start the day again.

Go back to chapter 1 of Faint December.

Chapter image by Liz Cahillane.