Danny looked at himself in the hall mirror, he turned his head this way and that, then tried smiling. It looked wrong, too bright, too manic. He let his face relax and tried again. Better. “Morning! Yes, it’s a beautiful day isn’t it? Oh I’m great, how are you?” It sounded too forceful, too fake. Danny took a breath and repeated it, it sounded better, natural. He smiled at himself and nodded, it was good. He grabbed his keys from the table and turned the doorknob, after a deep breath he opened the door and stepped outside.
The day was bright and sunny, though the air held a chill. Danny felt himself relax slightly as he saw that the driveway next door was empty, their car was still there but if he hurried, he could be gone before they left. Quickly Danny got into his car and started the engine, as he pulled out the couple next door were leaving, he raised one hand in greeting and kept driving. Ok, that was good, he got through that just fine. Now he just needed to get through work. That was easy enough, people felt weird around him now, awkward, and that meant limited conversation. He hadn’t discussed anything deeper than the weather with the people in work since it happened and he was perfectly happy for things to stay that way. He just needed to keep his head down and get his work done, keep moving forward, things would start to get better sooner or later, he just had to keep going.
Danny reached for his coffee and took a sip, the day had been going by at a reasonable speed, but now it was lunch time. Everyone was going out to the usual restaurant, they had invited him but he had refused as he knew it was just out of politeness. He sat in his cubicle and mechanically ate his sandwich, one bite at a time. When he finished he realised he wasn’t actually sure what kind of sandwich it was. Ham maybe? Some kind of deli meat that was in the fridge. Lately things had been slipping, just small things, like what he had just watched on TV, or what he had eaten. People told him that things like that were bound to happen, but they made it seem like it would go away at some point, but it had already been three months. Danny frowned, was it three months already? That seemed impossible, it felt like it had only happened a week ago.
As people started entering the office Danny busied himself, pretending to work, one or two people asked if he had a good lunch. He tried to engage in witty banter with everyone, but it just seemed to feel flat, like the words had no real meaning or substance behind them. It was just noise. What ever he had said did the trick and they left him alone again. He shuffled papers around his desk, it had always been reasonably tidy before, but now there were pages and files strewn everywhere, and possibly a mug or two buried underneath it all.
“Hey Danny, how’s things?”
“I’m good, how’re you?”
“Oh can’t complain, have you gotten around to the Frank files yet?”
Danny searched his desk and found them underneath his keyboard, “Yeah, here they are sorry.”
“No worries, we don’t need them until tomorrow but I’m just trying to get myself organised ya know? These meetings always make me nervous.”
“Yeah me too”
“So uh a few of us were going to go out for drinks later, I know you haven’t been up for coming out since…well, I thought I’d let you know, if you were feeling up for it.”
“Thanks Joe, but I can’t, I promised Sheila’s parents I’d be over to see them. It’s been a while since I checked in with them.”
“Oh, no worries, just thought I’d say, we’ll be in the usual place from seven if you’re free.”
“And look, if you ever need to talk or anything.”
Danny smiled at him, Danny knew how fake it must have looked, “Thanks man, I really appreciate it.”
Joe smiled, “Well, I guess I better get back to it. If you feel like coming out we’ll be there until probably ten or so and I do mean it, if you ever need anyone to talk to, let me know.”
Danny nodded, then looked back at his computer screen, he felt a pit of worry forming in his stomach, had it been that obvious? Had people noticed or was Joe just saying the things you are supposed to say? Should he go out? Just to be seen so everyone would think he was fine? The thought of going filled him with dread, all those people and talking and music. No. He wasn’t ready for that. Not yet.
Danny turned onto his street, he looked around for a second, then sighed, he must have zoned out. He really had meant to visit Sheila’s parents, they were only a ten minute drive from the office, but now it would take at least an hour to get over there, what with traffic and everything. He felt a thin thread of relief, it was too much of a hassle now. Tomorrow he’d go for sure. Beneath the relief there was something else, a low, gnawing guilt, he had meant to visit them yesterday too.
Danny let himself into the house, he could feel the emptiness of it pressing against him from all sides. They had bought the bigger house, dreaming of the children they’d fill it with. Gone. All gone. No one left but him now. Danny went into the sitting room, he dropped back onto the couch and turned on the TV. At some point he got food, another sandwich, apparently it was pastrami that he had at lunch. He chewed the sandwich slowly, not really tasting it. How long would he be like this? Just doing things for the sake of doing them. It seemed impossible that he had been so happy once, like that life was just a dream and now he was in the real world again.
Danny sat, staring at the TV, though he wasn’t paying attention to what was going on. At around 9 he turned off the TV and made his way up to bed, it was a little early, but he had nothing better to do. He lay in the darkness, eyes closed, willing himself to sleep, to dream, so he could see her again, feel her warmth, hear her laugh. The morning would come all too quickly and then it would be over and she’d be gone again.