The week after Diane’s death went by in a blur, the funeral arrangements were made and she was buried with little fuss on a Monday morning. The day itself was neither bright nor raining, it was just a regular day. It felt wrong. It should be raining, the very earth should weep at her passing, but the world didn’t care. More people had shown up than he expected, even a few past clients came to the mass. The wake was held in his house, with mourners bringing food, ungodly amounts. At the end of the day he was trying to convince others to bring food home with them. It was just himself and Ariadne. She had insisted on staying with him for a few days, to make sure he was going to be ok.
He could barely sleep at night, but when he did he was comforted by her smells and when she visited him in his dreams. The visits were always far too brief before he was woken again. He wanted to keep working, take his mind off things, but he closed down the office for two weeks out of respect to both Diane and Charlie. Charlie had been in a coma for three days before dying of a brain haemorrhage. He had told Gloria she could take all the time she needed to grieve for her son. She didn’t say it, but Patrick had the feeling that she wouldn’t be returning to work for him. He had thought that maybe they’d reach out to each other, cling together in their time of suffering, but Gloria preferred to shut herself off from the world. He hadn’t heard from her since Charlie’s funeral. Despite the time off, he tried to keep himself busy, he didn’t want to be in the house, it had too many memories, he needed some time alone before he could face them. He would go for long walks, sometimes drive aimlessly until he needed to return. Ariadne cooked for him so days he returned he would find food, either in the oven or in the fridge. Sometimes Ariadne would wait up for him, watch a movie to pass the time, more often than not, she went to bed. No matter what he did, he still couldn’t face the nursery. Ariadne had helped Diane with some of the baby shopping, so she had been able to cancel many of the orders before they arrived, but not all. She had been thankful that Patrick had gone out most days, he didn’t have to see it or deal with delivery drivers. He had entered the nursery only once, he had seen the yellow walls, the pieces of the crib, laid out and ready to be assembled. Without saying anything he turned from the room and locked it behind him, before going into his own room. Ariadne had considered painting the room white, but decided against it, it wasn’t her place to make such a decision. There were still some childish doodles left on the walls, ones that she and Diane had painted, figuring they were going to paint over them all anyway.
Patrick breathed deeply. It had to be done. He would do it, he would. He unlocked the door and carried the buckets in. He looked at the yellow walls, at the small drawings. He could tell which ones were hers easily. He looked at them all, then he opened the tins. It took him only a few hours to do a coat of paint on all the walls. Ariadne had offered to help, but he refused. While he waited for the paint to dry, he gathered the pieces of the crib and brought them downstairs, trying to decide what to do with them. It would be a waste to throw it all away, but he didn’t want it in the house, he didn’t want to have to see it. After a moment of internal debate, he decided to just throw it away. He couldn’t stand the thought of it sitting there until someone came to pick it up. He looked around the house, but Ariadne was gone. He recalled her saying something to him, he had responded, but he had no idea what she had said. No doubt she would be back soon enough. He felt hungry after the work, but he couldn’t eat, he feared that if he did he’d just throw up. He went back up to the room and was instantly struck by the rank smell of chemicals in the room, he opened the window as wide as it would go, hoping it would alleviate some of the stench. The paint seemed to have dried, so he started on the second coat. He didn’t know how many it would take, but he would repaint as much as necessary to destroy the yellow.
When he finished he was exhausted and covered in flecks of paint, his head was pounding steadily, partly from the fumes but mostly from dehydration. He went downstairs, but there was still no sign of Ariadne. He got himself a glass of water and chugged it, before he refilled the glass and sipped from it. If the headache didn’t go away soon he’d take some pain killers. He went to the fridge, there was nothing cooked. He had gotten used to there just being food there. He took out some ham and made himself a toasted sandwich, he couldn’t deal with making something more complicated.
When he finished eating, he went upstairs to shower, stripping off as he went. The shower would wake him up. When the water was at an acceptable temperature he stepped into the stall, it didn’t take him long to clean himself. When he was done, he stood under the warm water, letting his mind go blank and his muscles relax. Flashes popped into his mind, images of Diane, memories. He let them wash over him, not stopping any of them. He was tired, a deep weary tiredness that started at his core. Soon it was too much to even stand. He sat in the shower tray and let the water beat onto his back. He breathed deeply, allowing himself to relax for the first time since he had heard of the accident. He allowed himself the freedom to think of anything and everything. He went through everything that had been bothering him over the last few days, his fears of the future, his thoughts of selling the house. He let each one come to him and dealt with it head on. When he finally got out of the shower he felt much better and much cleaner, mentally as well as physically. He wrapped himself in a towel and went into the bedroom. It seemed almost vulgar to him how he had been acting. His world hadn’t been destroyed, he carried with him a deep ache, but he couldn’t express it, on the outside he was moving and behaving somewhat normally, but inside everything had stopped. Not anymore. He was coming back to life. It was the first time he had dealt with the loss of a loved one. He had been around when some of his family died, but he had never loved them, not really. He had only ever loved Diane, and together they had formed their own little family, one that was supposed to expand and grow. At first he had feared there was something wrong with him, that he wasn’t like others. Sure he cried, but it didn’t seem as though he felt the same as everyone else, others could barely breathe with their grief, but he didn’t feel that way. Surely he should, more than anyone else? He had forgiven himself for it. There was no right way to feel, to do things. He was dealing in his own way and that was the best way to go about it. The sadness was still there, maybe it always would be, but that was ok too. He had extended the closure time of the office for another two weeks, but he felt like going back to work, he hadn’t heard from Gloria much, but he had told her to take all the time she needed. He had been so wrapped up with himself he had mostly forgotten about her, even Charlie’s funeral was just a weird blur in his memory.
He was feeling peckish again and so he went down to the kitchen, there was still no sign of Ariadne and he was getting concerned. He was just dialling her number when he heard the front door open and close. Ariadne walked into the kitchen, she had been crying. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t think you’d be still up.” “What happened?” “Nothing. Nothing happened. I’m fine.” “Seriously, just tell me.” She passed him a card, he read it over quickly, feeling sick. He placed it gently on the table, as though it was explosive, then hugged her. “It’s ok, you’re safe here.” She didn’t say anything, just hugged him tight. When they separated, Patrick turned on the kettle, some tea would settle them down, make them both feel better. As they drank their drinks they chatted about nothing, it was relaxing for both, it felt as though all the landmines had disappeared from the conversation. They cooked dinner together, after a brief discussion of whether or not they wanted take away. Dinner was a simple affair of chicken nuggets and chips, both cooked in the oven.
They cleaned away the plates, then decided it was time for bed. As they were leaving the kitchen, Ariadne bumped into Patrick, they apologised to one another, but stayed where they were and began moving slightly closer until they were kissing.