Confessions of a mother inferior

Posted Monday 22nd September 2014   By Ericka Waller

A laugh-out-loud tale of love, betrayal, friendship, baking and loss. Peta's best friend is dead, her kids poo in public and now her husband might be shagging his secretary. Read the first chapter here...

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Chapter one

“No Rudy, you can’t take your entire collection of Polly Pockets to school with you. Just GET IN THE CAR!”
Stupid school run. Will I ever learn a way to get through it without shrieking, forgetting something or someone or being late? I am crosser than normal because it’s that day. The one I dread all year. It was a particularly badly morning already, without that on top.

Pip, aged two, refused to use the potty. She wanted to use the toilet like her big sister Rudy, aged five. She did not make it on time. Baby Juno, aged 18-months crawled through the puddle of wee and grinned at me. I had no time to bathe her; I rolled her in a pile of wet-wipes and hoped for the best.

While I was doing so, Pip and Rudy removed their shoes and pulled out their pig-tails.

Getting my daughters in the car is like one of those mathematical riddles about crossing a river with a wolf, a goat and a cabbage. This is not a simile for how I see my children. I (the boat), can only carry one passenger at a time. If I leave the wolf and the goat alone together, the wolf will eat the goat. If I leave the goat and the cabbage alone together, the goat will eat the cabbage and so on and so forth.

So instead, I’m a one-woman circus act. Balancing lunchboxes and ballet kits and school bags on my head. Running in and out the house, growing redder and angrier each time. All I need is the Benny Hill theme tune playing in the background and a Charlie Chaplin moustache, which reminds me, I must remove my facial hair.

Even after driving like a maniac, we’re late and all the other mums are not. As always. And they have removed their facial hair and their coats match their handbags. I look down to see what I’m wearing, nervous for a second that I’m still in my pyjamas. It’s happened before.

I’m not, but I might as well be. They are cleaner than my toothpaste and snot-stained hoodie. I love it though. It’s baggy and, when teamed with leggings worn very high on the waist, will hide the extra pocket of flesh I carry round my midriff, like a life-ring.

My mother-in-law loves to brag about delivering all 11lb of my husband without a single stretch-mark. I on the other hand, have been left with what looks like a bowl of porridge strapped to my abdomen, until I bend over that is, then it looks like a pair of camel’s testicles.

I do not own a handbag. I use a child’s rucksack. My coat is bright red so the children can spot me from a distance, although normally they can hear me first anyway.

Their coats are all red too. Jimmy, hates them because it’s ‘Arsenal red’. I don’t care. I stopped caring about fashion shortly after I started buying maternity clothes and have never looked back since.

I park badly, but no worse than any other mum. They might have neat hair and handbags, they cannot parallel park for Green and Blacks organic toffee.

Non organic chocolate wrappers, high sugar drink-cartons and odd socks fall out the car along with my squabbling children. I gather them up and toss them back in. (Litter not offspring.) It’s only after I have locked up that I notice the bin next to the car.

But there is no time to do it now. Pip is refusing to go into Pre School.
“Roo, stand there with Juno and don’t move. Pip, get off my leg. You know you will have a great time once you go in there sweetie.” I try and prize her pincer-like fingers from my thigh as she hollers in despair.
A queue is forming behind me. I have no choice but to smile nicely and say good morning to everyone, then drag her through the door, still clinging stubbornly on to me. By the time her teacher comes to the  rescue, my leggings are down by my knees.
“Faith, get her off me!”
Faith laughs as she peels Pip’s fingers from my leg. “Ah Pip, I’ve been waiting for you. Someone needs to cut up the Playdoh. Will you help me?”

It works. Pip drops me like I’m hot and trots off behind Faith to the activity table.  She does not even look back.
“By then!” I say as I hang up her coat and lunchbox.
“Bye Peta. By the way, did you know your leggings are on inside out?” Faith yells at me through the closing door.

Shit. I wriggle the waistband of my leggings back up to bra-level, then race off to where the buggy lies empty and Roo and Juno are nowhere to be seen.

It takes me five minutes of searching until I finally find my children in the disabled loo standing under the hand-drier.

“Mummy, look at my hair. I look just like you!” Roo admires herself in the mirror.

“That is not a good thing and you are going to be late. Why did you let Juno out the buggy, and Juno WHY HAVE YOU TAKEN YOUR SHOES OFF AGAIN?!”

The second bell is ringing by the time I’ve wrestled Juno back into her pushchair and frog marched Roo up the lane.

We stop outside her classroom and I pull her coat back onto her shoulders, then try and arrange her blonde hair into something resembling a style with the fluff-covered band I find in my pocket.

“Ow, you are hurting me mummy!”
“Sorry poppet. Here’s your lunch. Marmite and cheese today. Love you, have fun, be good.”
Her little lips are a butterfly kiss on mine.  Her green eyes are shining. She has apple cheeks and a tiny nose. She smells of apricots and plimsolls and babyhood as she wrestles free of my grasp, keen to get in and see her friends.
“Love you mamma, love you June-bug!” she says, then turns and races across the playground, with feet slapping, pigtails flying and her lunch box dragging along the ground.

We stand and wave at her retreating back until she is out of sight, then I turn round and try to slip away before anyone notices my leggings.

It’s too late. We get caught in a snare-up of mums with nothing better to do than stand around talking at the gate and I end up making eye contact with The-Iron-Curtain. My nemesis. I duck my head and pretend to be looking for something in my rucksack, hoping she will take the hint.

Instead she looks down at Juno in the buggy and asks “Is he eating crisps?” “At” (She pauses to look at the time, even though we both know its only 9am) “9am?”
“No no, she must have found some in the bottom of her buggy” I lie, red-face and flustered. I try to wrestle the Bacon Frazzles from Juno’s grasp and wipe her nose on my sleeve at the same time. She shrieks indignantly and tries to bite my hand.

“I can’t believe you give him crisps. They contain so much salt. He’s still just a baby.”
“SHE!” I say again, but The-Iron-Curtain does not seem to be listening.
“How Rudy getting on at school?” she asks instead, falling into step beside me as we walk down the lane.
This is a trick question. She does not really care how Roo is settling into school. She just wants to start talking about her own daughter, Poppy and how amazingly well she is doing. How she is already reading books for ten-year olds and writing essays whilst spouting French. “Poppy love it. She already on blue-book. What colour Rudy on?”

I hate these sorts of questions. Competitive questions from competitive mums who brag about their children, but deeper down, are bragging about themselves. Last week I overheard The-Iron-Curtain and Cat (Competitive And Trivial) bragging about the books their kids were reading and how they spend all their time in the library these days, trying to keep up with the demands for more literature!

My children spend most of their spare time covering themselves with stickers or filling up plastic bags with dried flowers and ripped up bits of paper.

“I don’t know what colour book Roo is on “I tell her honestly, then brace myself.
 “You don’t know?!” She screeches back at me. “Hooy na ny! Don’t you check her reading log? You need look in it every day and pick book with her and read with her every night, and then write note in reading log. I write many notes because Poppy read many books.”

I did not even realise Roo had a reading log. I’m guessing it’s in her book bag which I lost in the first week of term. I must find it and make up books I’ve read with Roo. Hard ones. Blue sticker ones. I sneakily email myself as much while The-Iron-Curtain witters on all the way back to her car, which is parked much closer to the school than mine because she leaves an hour earlier than me.
She starts strapping children into car-seats with alarming efficiency. How does she do this? I can’t get my children into their car seats without bribing them with Dolly Mixtures, and even then it’s like trying to strap in octopi.

The-Iron-Curtain is a childminder and takes her career very seriously. She probably went on a ‘strapping children into car seat’ course. She wears a polo-shirt which has ‘Registered Ofsted Childminder’ sewn on the breast pocket. “I don’t want people thinking these snotty badly behaved children are my children,” she says to everyone who asks her why she feels the need to wear a badge.

She is still talking. “She read this one about a Tiger, and then she read this one about going to shops and then she read me this one about a lost dog and..”
“Oh dear, I think I Juno has done a poo.” I interrupt, desperate for a chance to escape.
“NO!” Juno shouts at me. Ignoring her, I lean in and deeply inhale her nappy. “Uh oh, I think you have sausage. Nice chatting to you,” I say vaguely in The-Iron-Curtain’s direction. “Must dash!” then I race off down the lane with Juno screeching all the way. I’ll come back for my car later.

As soon as we are out of sight I give Juno back the Bacon Frazzles. She snatches them from me, giving me a kick for good measure in her bright blue trainers. We walk until we get to the village pond where we sit on the damp grass to watch ducks climb on the island and wade about in sticky mud.

“Rabbits” Juno says, pointing a crisp-dusted finger in their direction.
“That’s right poppet. Very clever,” I say distractedly as I help myself to a Frazzle.
She smiles and looks pleased with herself.

Juno takes after Jimmy. It used to be just what I wanted. In our dizzy dating days when we discussed having children I was so infatuated with him, the thought of a mini-Jimmy had me taking my basal temperature and searching Amazon for Ovulation kits.
Now I find the things that remind me of her father slightly irritating.
Jimmy was very shocked at the end of my first pregnancy when the midwife announced he had a 9lb girl. He was convinced I was carrying a boy. So much so, he checked for himself. “But what about..?” he said pointing
“That’s the umbilical cord sir, would you like to cut it?” The midwife suppressed a smile.
He went squeamish and declined.

We both thought Pip was going to be a boy. My pregnancy was so different from the first. I felt sick as a pig and over-produced saliva.  Jimmy hid his disappointment a bit less the second time.
“Oh bloody hell. It’s another pink one” he sighed as he passed her to me “and she looks just like your mother.”
“Should we not find out the sex at the scan?” I asked him nine months later when I was pregnant again, “before we start buying lots of blue?”
“No. Third time lucky love, I feel it in my waters. This one is going to be a boy.”
“Luck must be a lady” I said to him as I stroked Juno’s newborn cheek, whilst simultaneously delivering the placenta. The first time something so large slipped out so easily I felt rather concerned, but by the third time it was no big deal.

They may not have been his first choice, but he is a great father to our girls. Roo was so much bigger than the newborn clothes we had prepared. Jimmy went out to Debenhams and came back to the maternity ward with pink sleep suits, and snow white vests. They looked so small in his hands. “I picked them because they felt the softest. Is that right?”

He bundles with them as though they were boys, but he also sits patiently while they style his hair with sparkly clips and lets them colour his toenails in with felt tip pens.

He has still not quite given up all his dreams though. Yesterday he took them to the park to play football, but all they wanted to do was rub mud over their pink scooters, and then go and clean them in a puddle. They came back an hour later hour covered in dirt and very cross with one another.

“You could have tried to kick it Roo!”
“But every time I went to kick it, you moved it away Daddy.”
“That is the whole point of the game!!”
“Well it’s a silly game isn’t it mummy?”
“Sorry poppet?” I said, zoning back in.
“Looking at cooking books again?” Jimmy picked an apple from the fruit bowl and stood crunching it by my shoulder “why don’t you just bloody write one?”
“It’s not as easy as that” I said standing up, and shutting down the window I had open on the computer “you don’t just write cook books. You have to research them and think about them. For a long time.” I took the quiche out the fridge and peeled off the clingfilm.
“Excuses, excuses” Jimmy said, patting my bum as I bent over to put lunch in the oven.
I slapped his hand away as I straightened up. “What is a silly game anyway Roo?”
“Football. Daddy says we all have to learn how to play it, but I don’t want to.”
“Well you don’t have to play football my sausage.” I gave Jimmy a stern look “and you need to get over it. Honestly, you are like Brian Glover in Kes. Go and play with people your own age.”

“All gone” Juno pulls me from my reverie to tell me there are no crisps left.
“Time to go then,” I say, picking her up and holding her close “You little stinker.” She giggles in delight, showing her orange stained teeth from the crisps.
I suddenly realise she has never been to the dentist and feel a wave of mum-guilt. I still have not booked her in for her one year jabs and check-up either. I’ve not labelled Roo’s school uniform or put her name down for gymnastics. I’ve not dropped Jimmy’s suit into the dry cleaners, or changed the sheets.
I sigh as the weight of all the things I have not done settles over me.
“Say bye-bye to the ducks June-bug”
We get home and I see that the house has not been cleaned in my absence by some Disney mice and bluebirds wearing clothes.
“Seems I’ll just have to do it myself then Juno.”
I put her down on the kitchen floor and find a selection of pots, wooden spoons, biscuits and wellies to keep her amused.

Then I look round at the upturned cereal bowls, piles of washing, abandoned toast and lumps of play-doh, trying to work out where to start.

Then I put my head in my hands and cry.

I hate this day. I knew it was going to be hard, it’s always hard, but I had sort of hoped it would get easier each time this day came around.
Today is the day I get a pain in my chest. Today is the four year anniversary. Four very long and yet short years, since I lost my best friend. I hate that term for it. I did not lose her. She died.

She died with no warning. No word of what was happening to her. One minute we were talking about the pink of her nail polish, and the next Sara was on the floor.

We were at work. She had just taken a sip of her Irn Bru. “Ye can take a girl outta  Scotland..” she used to say each time she uncapped the lid for her morning sugar rush. I was nursing my first tea of the day when Des, the Sales Director came over.
“Sara, how many bids in the pipeline this week?”
Her cheeks flushed and I saw her hand shake slightly on the mouse as she opened the spreadsheet.
“Forty thou” she said quietly
 “You’ll need to double that. Pronto,” he said frowning at her, before turning on his heel to go and bully the production team.
Two seconds later she collapsed on the floor. Sara was a tiny size-eight, but the sound of her fall seemed to shake the foundations of our four-storey office. It rattled the floor around me, where she lay unconscious at my feet.

I wanted to believe she had just fainted, but I saw her body convulse, and the blood trickle from her mouth where she had bitten through her lip. Her face was lopsided when she finally came to. She looked like a stroke victim, slurring her words to me “Wha’ happened? My heed. My heed. Help.”
I had no idea what to do or say. I shouted for someone to call 999 and then went and sat with her, stroking her hand and trying to keep her calm until they arrived.
She drifted in and out of consciousness.
“Make way love” the ambulance man said as he crouched down next to us. “Now can you tell me your name darling?”
He gently took her hand from me. I stepped back to grab her handbag and then started making calls.

Pat answered on the fifth ring.
“Pat? its Peta.”
“Hello hen. How’s ye? Ah was in the garden. Always so much to do.”
I pictured her on her knees, tending to her beloved roses. Did she prick her finger in the same second that her daughter’s blood ruptured? Did she feel the earth shake, miles away in Epsom? Or was she lost in the calm before the storm?
“Pat, it’s Sara, she’s had a fall. Collapsed. You need to get here. I think she… I don’t know, does she have epilepsy?” I’m making no sense.
“Ye know she doesn’t. Is she okay? Is she hurt?”
I couldn’t bring myself to tell her about the stroke-face bit “Pat, please. Just come.”
The ambulance people were so kind. Looking back now, I see that they knew the inevitable outcome already. They talked about making her comfortable. They tried to calm her down. She was talking but it was making no sense. I could only make out one word in the muddle of Scottish vowels. “Bairns”
“Don’t worry Bird, I’m on it. I’ll sort it. I’ll get them picked up and we’ll come to the hospital as soon as we can.”
It was hard to look at her, lying awkwardly on the floor. The paramedic smiled at me sadly. I did not understand why. I didn’t know she’d had an aneurysm. I didn’t even know what they were. I thought it was nothing serious. Back then I was one of those people who thought horrible things only happened to other people in other lives, not you and the people in yours.

I kissed Sara’s cold hand as she lay on the stretcher. I fought to stop the room from spinning as they wheeled her away, and then I sat down and carried on making phone calls.

They hoped to operate on her the next day. To stem the bleeding before it did further damage.  I was in my car on the way to go and see her when I got the call from Pat. “They ha’ taken her down to theatre now. Scans showed damage ‘at cannot wait. Don’t come. I’ll be in touch.”

What do you do with your hands while your best friend’s are full of tubes and drips to keep her alive? What do you do in the hours that she is being operated on and no one is calling you to tell you if she is going to be okay? The rest of the world keeps talking, eating, and sleeping. The rest of the world keeps living, whilst your life is on pause.

My brave best friend tried, but she had another bleed as they tried to work on the first one. It was too big. They stopped trying. Instead, they carefully stitched her head together and hooked her up onto life support. She never woke up. Her brilliant, beautiful brain died quietly and without fuss. And at her family’s wishes, the machines were switched off and her body joined it.

She never got a chance to say goodbye to her children, her bairns. It would have been too much for them to see her at the hospital, weak and hooked up to monitors. To see her lopsided mouth and hear her slurred speech.

So their last memory of her is their goodbye kiss that morning, hastily planted amidst a flurry of “Have ye got yer coat an’ book bag? HURRY! Now time for teeth brushing. No you can’t wear ‘at to school!”

How could any of us have known it would be the last time they felt her lips on their forehead.
She never got to meet my Pip and Juno. How much she would have loved them.

Ignoring the mess and destruction indoors, I open the back patio and walk out onto the deck. Through the kitchen window I see Juno putting saucepans on her feet. The sight of her lifts my spirits slightly, as your child doing something adorably daft can.

I pull at the ivy growing through cracks in the brick wall and think about the first time I met Sara. She was taking notes in a production meeting where I was talking about ideas for the new website. No one could understand her Scottish accent. I thought she was German.
After the meeting she stopped by the photo of me and Roo on the beach.
“Whit a bonnie bairn. How auld is she?”
“Ich spreche German nicht” I said slowly. “J’aime English.” I pointed at myself. “Oh shit, that’s French, um..”
“D’ ye think I am German? How rude are ye? Am fae Glasgae.”
“Och aye ye bapit hen!”
We were both part-time working parents, living in fear of being made redundant.
Our time together was always running out, right from the start.  If I only I had known. Our lunch breaks were snatched ten-minute affairs that we felt guilty for taking. We’d wolf down our tuna-melt bagels as we raced back to the office, laughing at our un-ladylike chomping and the mayonnaise round our mouths.  Then we’d spend the afternoon sending one another hastily composed emails about our post-lunch slump and how much we hated the receptionist who made us feel like shite for leaving early to pick up our kids.
“It looks like she’s been dunking for apples in a chip pan”
“I bet she has a fanny like a pub carpet”
“It looks like she has been set on fire and put out with a golf shoe!”
I’m still laughing when I walk back inside, where I spend twenty-minutes playing raucously loud drums with a wooden spoon on a Le Crueset pan I found at a car-boot sale, while Juno nods her head and stamps her feet.

When she looks tired enough, I hoist her into my arms and carry her warm weight up the stairs.
“Sleep babyface” I lay her down in her cot with the duck Sara bought Roo as her christening gift. If I sniff really hard I can still smell Diptyque perfume. The posh one Sara could not afford but fell in love with.
I watch as Juno’s eyelids lose their battle to stay open, then make my way back downstairs.

Later, I’ll take flowers to Stanmer Park, where we planted Sara’s ashes. Her children will be there with Pat. Gracie, Abi, Jake and I won’t say anything as we solemnly weave roses and lilies round and through the wrought iron bench we buried her below.
It takes a long time and no one bothers to wipe their tears by the end. When every inch is covered we will stand before our work in silence. Nothing left to say or do, but no-one wanting to be the first to leave her behind again.

At her funeral we made everyone wear fuchsia pink nail varnish. And no one was allowed to cry in front of the children. We toasted her with her bloody Irn Bru. I tried to hold it all in, but back at home I fell apart. Each time the garage door slammed I heard the sound of her chair falling backwards as she collapsed in front of me. Each time the phone rang I thought it was going to be her telling me she was fine, that it was just a prank. Calling me hen. Making me laugh. I’d wake in the middle of the night, forgetting she had gone, and then, a sucker-punch in the gut as I’d remember it all over again.

Jimmy would find me sobbing as I watched Mamma Mia with the sound off at 3am, lost in memories of us dancing along, singing into wooden spoons.

He was the one who picked up my pieces and put me back together. He put me to bed, took my phone away and fed me Double-Decker bars. He took Roo to the park for hours on my worst days, so she did not see me crying. He listened to me tell him what happened over and over again as I tried to make sense of it in my own head. He cried with me, for my loss. For the death of someone so beautiful.

After a while the pain in my chest eased but I still could not face going back to work. To walk into our office and see her old desk with the tea stains, and the lip-balm that got passed back and forth between us. The Scottish to English translations board she made for me.

Instead I handed in my notice and took Roo out of nursery. I spent spring in my garden watching things that looked dead come back to life. Trying to get my head round what it was all about. Pip came along that winter. We hadn’t even been trying.  She saved me, with her newborn demands for love and attention. She lifted my bell jar and connected me to the world again.
I’m staring into space when the phone rings. I assume it will be Jimmy, but Joe, his business partner’s face shows up on the screen instead. Business partner and dear family friend.
Joe’s son Max is in the photo too.
Max was a miracle baby. His mum was 46 when she finally fell pregnant. 10lb of dark, Spanish beauty. “Too great for her to bear” Joe said. She never even got to hold her son. Complications in delivery meant Joe became a father and a widow in the same day.

“Hey Joe”
“Hey Guapa. How you doing today?”
“Oh, you know. Pretty shit.”
“Yeah, I know. I still miss my Bonita every day.”
“Does it ever get any easier?”
“Not really, but you learn to accept it.”
“I don’t think I ever will. I still don’t understand it now.” My voice breaks and I take a deep breath. “How’s marvellous Max?”
“Marvellous. He sang today in assembly. He sounded like an angel.”
“I’d have liked to have heard him.”
“Another time Peta. Today you need a quiet day. Just be kind to yourself. Are you going to Stanmer Park later?”
“Yes, once the kids are in bed.”
“You need their Grandpapi Joe to come over and read to them?”
“No. Jimmy should be home to help out. I hope. Thank you though.”
“You not heard from him?”
“Nope.” It comes out harsher than I intended. Joe picks up on it and immediately tries to pacify me. “I am sure he has not forgotten Guapa. It is so busy here at work. Management reports and new staff documentation and..”
“It’s okay Joe,” I force a smile into my voice “I know he’s busy working hard for us. And I always have you, my other man.”
“You know it.”
“Just don’t you go dying on me OK Joe? I really couldn’t take it. I can’t lose anyone else I love. It’s just too bloody hard, this grieving business.”
“Ok Guapa. I promise. Now wipe those tears.” I did not even realise I had been crying.
We say our goodbyes and he promises to bring Max over to see me soon. When I have cut off the call I compose a text Jimmy.
Stanmer Park tonight. Four years today.
I am matching melted Tupperware lids to Tupperware pots when my phone flashes twenty minutes later.
Shit, forgot. Sorry. You ok? In meeting. Call in a bit xx
He always seems to be in a meeting these days. I can’t remember the last time he actually answered his phone to me.

I reply to his text, assuring him that I am fine. But I’m not, and I hate him in that second for his ability to forget Sara. Her absence has gone through me ‘like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its colour’.

Juno wakes up ten minutes later and I spend the rest of the morning cleaning the house absentmindedly whilst she messes it up again behind me. My thoughts flick between Sara and Jimmy. Last year on her anniversary he bought me a cup of tea in bed and a bunch of fusia pink Gerberas.
“These are not for her bench. These are for you. There is still beauty in life and all that.”
When I got in from Stanmer Park the bath was run and there was a glass of chilled Bellina next to it.  We toasted her in silence and I sat talking about how her children were growing up without her until my bath went cold.

This year it is so different. He seems so out of focus. Always distracted and his phone rings more than usual.  The more I think about it, the crosser I feel. I slam un-rinsed plates into the dishwasher. I can’t believe he forget her.

I drink a cup of tea and try and calm down. Maybe it’s his stupid diet that’s made him forgetful I tell myself as I peel potatoes in the sink. Not that he will eat them. In the middle of January, with no warning and for no apparent reason, he told me he would be eating protein only as part of a ‘Warrior’ diet. He is 40 this year. Could it be a midlife crisis? Is he going to buy a sports car and take up Pilates? God I hope not. I wish he would get over it.

I could really have done with him today. Instead I have to manage alone, putting on a big brave face as Roo tells me about her day and Pip and Juno demand sweets and jigsaws and dressing up clothes.

“So then me and Zoe made chocolate land out of mud and leaves.. and Zac said that it was not chocolate land it was actually a poo-land and..”
“Choc choc” Juno has her hand out.
“No Juno, you are having your dinner in a minute.”
“Mumma, help! I stuck!”
“That is because it is a build a bear cardigan Pip. It’s not going to fit you. You are not a bear.”
“Mummy! You are not listening. I said to Zac it could be chocolate land if I wanted it to be. I could be couldn’t it?”
“ Yes Roo. Sorry Pip, I am going to have to cut it off you.”
“NOOOOOOO! It my best.”
“Well, sorry. There is nothing else to be done. It’s going to cut off your circulation.”
“Choc choc.”
“Zac always says things have to be a poo-land.”
“Ow mumma it hurts! You are hurting me!”
“Oh bloody hell Jimmy, where the hell are you?” I sigh as I dole homemade meatballs and pasta into green plastic bowls and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

He gets home to do the girl’s bath and bed so I won’t be late to meet Pat, which is something. He has bought lilies for me to take along too, which softens my fury slightly.
“Thank you. They were her favourite. I’ll see you later.”
He steps forward to give me a hug but I know it will just make me cry again, so I push him away instead.
“They have had dinner. There is some left in the pan for you.”
“Thank you but I can’t eat pasta.”
“You can eat pasta Jimmy. It’s easy. You just put it on a fork and put it in your mouth.”
“ Pete…”
“Sorry, sorry. I know. Warrior diet. Crap day. See you later.”
I listen to ‘Patience’ by Guns and Roses in the car on the way. It was the song played at her funeral. I turn it up full blast, ignoring the people in cars next to me, who watch as I sing along in choking sobs as we wait for the lights to go green.
I get back after dark, my fingers full of rose thorns and my shirt stained yellow from the Lillies. Jimmy is in his office, head bent over the desk, furiously typing away at his keyboard. He does not hear me come in.
“Hi” I say softly. I realise it’s the first time I have spoken since I left the house earlier.
Jimmy quickly shuts down the window he had open on his screen and spins in his chair to face me.
“Everything OK?” I ask
“Yes. Just, you know… work stuff.” He waves his arm about vaguely, gesturing at nothing.
“Oh. Girls OK?”
“Out like lights.”
“Good.” An odd silence descends on us. I want to say “Why did you close down your computer screen?” but it comes out “I am going to get in the bath then.” The bath that you ran for me this time last year I think to myself.
“There might not be any hot water.” Jimmy has the grace to look contrite.
“And you did not think to put the immersion on?” I’m actually pleased at the chance to let my anger at him show.
“Sorry Peta, I’ve been busy” He does look genuinely sorry but I’m too cross to care.
“So have I Jimmy, laying flowers for my dead best friend.” I snap out.
He says nothing but his face shows I have hurt him.
I don’t feel like saying sorry though. Instead I storm out of the study and into the bedroom. He does not follow me.

I strip off my clothes and go to wash my tear-streaked face in the sink. I don’t look at myself in the mirror, and I go to bed alone, missing Sara more than ever and wondering what my husband is up to.