I have good days and bad days.
Good days are when I just get on with it. When I bury the hatchet. When I focus on that day’s proceedings. And I get on with it – I’m focussed at work, I remember what I need to get from the supermarket, I’m happy that I’ve been to the gym, happy that I put a wash on.
Let’s call these days ‘Kitchen Days’. Put the kettle on. Normal, as is.
I also have days that start badly and get worse. These are bad days. These days usually begin with a vivid dream that I don’t want to leave, that mash up my memories, recent or from their childhood, with flights of fantasy that they’re alive and well, and here, still here. When I wake, the residual wave of my night brain lingers and lashes against the shore of daylight. I do my best to adjust to wakened reality, fresh coffee always helps, but the lapping of the shore continues throughout the day. I’m irritable. Grumpy. Agitated. Distracted. Now, often sleepy. I just want to go back to bed and start again.
Let’s call these ‘Night Days’. Day’s best to forget.
And then, every now and then, come day like today, days that simply take my breathe away. They catch me off guard, they come out the blue. Like a below freezing wave that smacks and smarts. They stop me in my tracks.
Let’s call these ‘Bombshell Days’.
The following describes one of them.
I’m having a pretty darn chilled Saturday morning. Trace takes the dogs out the back for their morning wee, and makes the coffee. I get out of bed, bleary eyed and come down to the kitchen to watch and wait for the coffee to brew.
Whilst I hover by the coffee plunger, I take a iPhone picture of the kitchen blackboard that’s been recently exposed, as we strip things back for a kitchen refit, from the months of leaflets and notes pinned to it. The change is a purposeful re-habituation of our domestic space. A chance to at least renew downstairs, without affecting upstairs, and their bedrooms.
A year or so Before, we had painted a blackboard on the kitchen wall so we could all write up where each other was. Well, so that Iz and Beth could chalk their work-shifts on the makeshift week-plan, so we knew where they both were.
Not long after the family habit had been instigated and they had both reluctantly and partly complied with the rules, it had become a place for a spot of banter – an expression of scribbled messages, mainly between Beth and I. I’d write, she’d comment. I’d comment back.
And now, as the coffee stands, I trace the faded curves of Beth’s handwriting on the kitchen wall. And I take a picture. I just needed to document it. I’d look at it later, the coffee was ready.
As Trace and potted around in the kitchen, we had a row. I was distracted, withdrawn. On my phone. I didn’t clock it, but I should have. It was the beginnings of a Bombshell Day.
A little later I drove Mario to the station to pick up our friend who was coming over for brunch. A friend who happens to know the inquest process inside out. We wanted to pick her brains. She wanted to help.
When we got back home, I made brunch for the three of us. Some avocados were harmed in the making of eggs, avocado and hollandaise sauce on toast. We talked, we shared. We caught up, it was a Saturday after all. But then we got down to business. I learnt that inquest outcomes have boxes. Box 1 to 4. That the coroner completes on an official form. I didn’t know that before.
And we stood in our kitchen, next to the faded blackboard work shifts and the handwritten ‘bants’, as we thumbed through the pale yellow Staples budget cardboard folder that holds our copy of the South Yorkshire police evidence, gathered from Katie Sloane’s diligent early reconnaissance on Facebook. And the circa 200 page Vietnamese Police interviews. And the summary post mortem reports. About 3 pages. One for each of them. The ones I’ve only ever skimmed. As I glanced at the san serif pages, the word ‘bruises’ stood out. And then a bulleted lists of injuries. I said out loud ‘It includes the post mortem reports. But I can’t read them’.
As I gathered the papers together that our friend had offered to read, she went to the loo. Trace and I retreated to the living room, not deliberating, but as soon as we were alone, I tried to breath it out. But to no avail.
The bomb had landed. We held each other and cried. Stillness, together, softly and quietly, in front of our memorial mantlepiece.
Our friend came back down and we changed the subject, this time deliberately. We talked living room furniture and dog petting.
A little while later, I dropped her off at the train station. ‘I have no idea’ she said ‘how you cope. But you both look much better. The last time I saw Trace, she couldn’t even look me in the eyes’. We hugged and kissed and said our goodbyes.
I drove Mario in oddly unsettling silence (for some reason I didn’t want the radio or music) to Waitrose to get a few bits for our Saturday evening in front of X Factor.
As I picked up a hand basket near the flowers, I realised I’d completely forgot what I’d come for. I wandered up and then back down the fruit and veg isle, racking my brains, as my tears started to build steadily, consistently. They were contained enough for my fellow shoppers not to notice. Although one woman did look at me directly and smiled sincerely. Not something commonly overseen in Waitrose.
I cried in each isle, even in the cleaning and domestic one I don’t normally go down, as it’s cheaper in Aldi.
I had to ring Trace twice to remind me what I’d come for.
All the week after, we both continued to feel the aftermath. A brutal, jolting reminder made worse, like a thriller narrative arch, by its unexpected and unwelcome entrance. We slept more, we drank more, we were more restless. we both stayed in and cancelled seeing friends.
This Saturday was a Bombshell Day.