When I woke up with a blanket thrown over me, I knew Hazel was back. I don’t know how she got back to the house, and I’d be lying if I said that visions of her sitting in the cold outside the school didn’t plague me for weeks after, but as I woke with yet another throbbing headache, I found some comfort in the thick quilt and the knowledge that once again, I wasn’t alone.
The tapes had gone back under the bed, I’d watched and studied every one. With memories refreshed, my dreams were so much more vivid – I woke, sometimes still tipsy and certain she was there with me. The perfume in the sheets was so believable, I remembered the sun and how solid she felt in my arms, the blind she insisted on leaving open even though the sun was rough on our eyes. It always seemed so real.
But my room didn’t have blinds. The perfume was sprayed by me, it didn’t come off her skin in the night. There was no warmth. I’d put the tapes back reluctantly, but the images stayed with me. They teased me. So many things I would never have again – could never do again. There wouldn’t be anyone else like Kate. Hazel was all I had.
She must have heard me wake. No sooner had I sat up, she was in the room with me. Her face was drawn, and she was still wearing her school uniform. I realised then I’d failed to pick her up, wondered how long she’d hung around waiting, but she apologised before I had to.
‘I’m sorry Dad.’ She said, shuffling over and hugging me. ‘I thought you were ready.’ She doesn’t move, just leans there with her arms around me.
‘I need you, bub,’ I say to her softly. ‘You’re everything to me.’