HOLLY HELD THE BLUE COTTON sweater to her face and the familiar smell immediately struck her, an overwhelming grief knotting her stomach and pulling at her heart. Pins and needles ran up the back of her neck and a lump in her throat threatened to choke her. Panic took over. Apart from the low hum of the fridge and the occasional moaning of the pipes, the house was quiet. She was alone. Bile rose to her throat and she ran to the bathroom, where she collapsed to her knees before the toilet.
Gerry was gone and he would never be back. That was the reality. She would never again run her fingers through his soft hair, never share a secret joke across the table at a dinner party, never cry to him when she got home from a hard day at work and just needed a hug; she would never share a bed with him again, never be woken up by his fits of sneezes each morning, never laugh with him so much her stomach would ache, never fight with him about whose turn it was to get up and turn the bedroom
light off. All that was left was a bundle of memories and an image of his face that became more and more vague each day.
Their plan had been very simple. To stay together for the rest of their lives. A plan that anyone within their circle would agree was accomplishable. They were best friends, lovers and soul mates destined to be together, everyone thought. But as it happened, one day destiny greedily changed its mind.
The end had come all too soon. After complaining of a migraine for a few days, Gerry had agreed to Holly’s suggestion that he see his doctor. This was done one Wednesday on a lunch break from work. The doctor thought it was due to stress or tiredness and agreed that at the very worst he might need glasses. Gerry hadn’t been happy with that. He had been upset about the idea he might need glasses. He needn’t have worried, since as it turned out it wasn’t his eyes that were the problem. It was the tumor growing inside his brain.
Holly flushed the toilet, and shivering from the coldness of the tiled floor, she shakily steadied herself to her feet. He had been thirty years old. By no means had he been the healthiest man on the earth, but he’d been healthy enough to. . . well, to live a normal life. When he was very sick he would bravely joke about how he shouldn’t have lived life so safely. Should have taken drugs, should have drunk more, should have traveled more, should have jumped out of airplanes while waxing his legs. . . his list went on. Even as he laughed about it Holly could see the regret in his eyes. Regret for the things he never made time to do, the places he never saw, and sorrow for the loss of future experiences. Did he regret the life he’d had with her? Holly never doubted that he loved her, but feared he felt he had wasted precious time.
Growing older became something he wanted desperately to accomplish, rather than merely a dreaded inevitability. How presumptuous they both had been never to consider growing old as an achievement and a challenge. Aging was something they’d both wanted so much to avoid.
Holly drifted from room to room while she sobbed her fat, salty tears. Her eyes were red and sore and there seemed to be no end to this night. None of the rooms in the house provided her with any solace. Just unwelcoming silences as she stared around at the furniture. She longed for the couch to hold out its arms to her, but even it ignored her.
Gerry would not be happy with this, she thought. She took a deep breath, dried her eyes and tried to shake some sense into herself.