We left the day after the funeral. No farewells, no mess. Packed what few possessions were important into two small suitcases, took the first bus that left town. I barely told Hazel what was happening, she did as she was told with a quiet obedience that was unlike her. On the bus she hugged Elephant close, leaned against me and cried quietly as Narrie disappeared from view. I was glad to see it go.
Everywhere was a memory. Our home, the apartment – Kate was everywhere. She was in the sound of the top cupboards, the squeak she’d begged me to fix for years. She was in the folds of our sheets, the perfume that permeated our shared wardrobe. She was in the bathroom I now had to myself for the first time in over a decade, she was in every poorly poured beer from behind the bar. I packed all of the photos I couldn’t yet bear to look at, and they sat in the bottom of the suitcase as heavy as the grief itself.
At the end of the line, we found another bus. Hazel slept most of the way, but sleep evaded me still. The hum and purr of the bus made me wonder what her last thoughts had been, what she’d last heard, what she’d last seen. Did she know how broken and battered her body had become? Did she feel the pain? I remembered her cold. I remembered her bruised, cut – and cleaned up as best as the morgue could manage. I remembered her before the mortician had painted colour into her cheeks and covered the unhealable scars.
They had to pull me away. She was cold and damaged, but she smelled the same. Her skin was as smooth, she felt just as right in my arms. For a moment it was as though holding her long enough might warm her, bring her back. I spent that night in hospital, restrained and sedated.
On the bus, I popped three of the pills they left me with.
Anything to forget.