That is not entirely how it happened. The words and the actions are the same, but the sentiments are not. I’m sure I was never so quickly sold on Kate; I never remember thinking the L word in any other context, other than what it should have been, but was not.
That was what had upset me the most. That Kate would take something from me that should have been given in love. I did want to see her again, I wanted to make it special, I wanted to validate what we’d done with some sort of ongoing attachment – and she’d denied me that. But the mind plays tricks on you, and what was unhappiness at the time presents as jealousy and love in the memory. Nonetheless, the memories are powerful.
I wake up and reach for a towel, the ‘special’ towel. The bedroom dreams are becoming more and more frequent, and always leave me the same way. It feels like more of a job than anything now, like milking a cow. Something that has to be done, but I take no pleasure in it… and I never will again. I clean up, roll over, stare at the ceiling.
Her side still feels empty. It’s hard keeping a bed this size warm. Before she died, I’d never felt cold in bed – it was always the opposite. She was always annoyed by my insistence on having the air conditioner on, even in winter – and of throwing the blankets off in the middle of the night. I miss the sound of her nagging most of all. Even more than I miss the way she held me through the night terrors. It’s strange what hurts you the most.
‘Dad, you’ve got to get out of bed.’ Hazel is in my room. I haven’t even had time to dress, or even cover up properly. I jump, shuffle under the sheets and try to pretend nothing is going on. She stays in the doorway. Hazel has been pushier lately, knocking on my door early – and like today, barging in without even bothering to knock. When I don’t move, she comes inside and opens the drawers. A pair of boxer shorts is thrown onto the bed within my reach. Sometimes it is depressing just how much my little girl knows about life.
‘Thank you.’ I say softly.
‘Get up.’ She says, waiting until I’ve stopped shuffling about under the blankets and the boxer shorts are safely protecting anything I don’t want my daughter to see. She’s insistent. Very insistent. ‘We should go out and do something, Dad. It’s the weekend. Maybe we should get icecream?’ she lunges forward and pulls the blankets off.
‘We can get icecream delivered.’ I disagree. Online shopping has made my life easier; there is now literally no reason for me to leave the house. I like it that way.
‘It’s not the same, Dad. Come on.’ She yanks on my hand this time, nearly wrenching my arm out of its socket. I have to admit, I’m starting to get annoyed – I don’t know where this is coming from. She’s never been particularly demanding. There are overtones of Kate in this so strong they hurt. I pull my hand back roughly and pull the blankets back.
‘Don’t be a pest, Hazel.’ My tone is harsher than I intend. Stubbornly I bury myself deeper under the blankets, wrapping them about myself so she has no chance of pulling them back off. She looks almost as annoyed as I am, jumping on the bed and ripping back my shoulder so that I have to face her. God she looks like Kate.
‘You have to get out of here, Dad.’ She insists. ‘This isn’t good for you. You have to get outside, go shopping, talk to people. Do something.’ She’s pushing too hard. Too fast. I can’t handle it. I sit up and push her back. Roughly. Too roughly. She looks surprised, upset. That should be my cue to stop, but I don’t.
‘Get out of here and do what?’ I snap at her. ‘Meet people? What bloody good will that do? There is nothing, and there is no one out there that would make it even slightly worthwhile. Your mother is gone. That’s it for me.’
She shrinks off the bed and towards the door. She’s crying. Later I feel bad for it, and later I put myself out to try and forget how it felt to push her back. She’s rubbing her shoulder. This is the man Kate said I couldn’t be. Never, she said. I always told her not to use the N word.
‘Get out of here and live…’ she said quietly before slipping out of the door.
‘I don’t want to fucking live!’ I shout back. Not precisely what I meant, but either works for me. I’m too angry to think my words through, and how they might sound to my already petrified daughter. I just don’t want to face the outside world. I mean it, without Kate – I no longer see the point. What use are friends, when they only ruin the life you have? Where is the point in seeking love when you’ve already had the best there was to have?