365 days ago, yesterday

           It was a whole year ago that I lost Andrew, a whole year today. It's the first anniversary of his death, although I don't like that word. Anniversary, to me, means a celebration, and I don't feel like celebrating today.
           I don't think anyone at the hospital has even remembered. Charlie has treated me with kid gloves today, but perhaps that's because of my subdued mood. He hasn't mentioned Andrew at all. These days, no one ever does.
           The last year hasn't been easy without Andrew. He should have been there for his son's birth, and for all those little firsts since. He should have been there for Peter and Jake's birthdays, and mine. He should have been there for Christmas, seen in the new year with us. And our wedding anniversary, a redundant celebration now he's not around to share it. A whole year we've lived through, so the 'firsts' without him will be few and far between from now on.
           A whole year though.
           It doesn't feel like it.
           I remember is so clearly...
           Resus; abnormally quiet, empty but for myself, Charlie and Andrew. Or rather, Andrew's body. He didn't look right. Not like he did alive, anyway. Not like my husband, lover, father of my children, and instead he appeared just shell with a creepy resemblance to Andrew. He seemed smaller somehow too, fragile and already so very pale, and he looked like he'd been smothered by the very tubes and wires that had been used to try to save him, and that Charlie muttered apologies for.
           I don't know how long I stood there - clasping Andrew's glasses with one hand, hugging my pregnant bulge with the other, tears trickling down my face, but not quite obscuring the scene in front of me. Even now I can see it so clearly. I don't think it'll ever fade. Anyway, I stayed there for what felt like hours, lost in my grief.
           I don't remember what I was thinking then though. I'm not sure if I was thinking anything at all to be honest. You know how sometimes you just drift away as though your brain can't handle the information it's getting and doesn't even want to try? That's what it was like. No coherent thoughts, just pure emotional pain.
           Charlie, meanwhile, stood behind me, and said nothing. I don't know if he remained silent because he knew I needed the peace, or because there just wasn't anything to say; I don't suppose it matters much really what he was thinking. He was there. I was grateful.
           After a while I felt myself start to sway, unbalanced on my swollen ankles and so very tired. It wasn't a completely unpleasant feeling though. Everything hurt so much that the thought of just surrendering to it, letting myself fall into a peaceful oblivion was tempting. Charlie caught me though, held me, and gently pushed me outside.
           It was only then that he found his voice.
           "Should I call your Mum?"
           "Are you sure? Duffy?"
           "She'll worry..."
           I remember the blank look he had when I said that. Only afterwards did I realised how odd it must have sounded, but at the time it had seemed perfectly logical. Or at least as logical as anything that day had seemed. Mum was at home minding Peter and Jake, she wouldn't have been able to come in to the hospital, she would have had to sit at home fretting. What was the point in that? It didn't occur to me at the time she could have brought the boys in as well, and I'm glad it didn't. It shocked me to see Andrew like that, the boys didn't need to see it as well. They should remember Andrew how he really was.
           Charlie wouldn't let it drop though.
           "I think it'd be for the best..."
           "What'd you know!"
           I walked off. Not with any particular destination in mind, I just wanted to be somewhere, anywhere else. Somewhere where it didn't hurt so much. Of course you can't outrun your own feelings...
           Outside the hospital it was cold. At least, I think it was. I know that I couldn't stop shivering. My teeth chattered in between sniffing back tears and I lent back against the wall of the hospital for shelter and support.
           It was dark too, outside. The sky was so black, not even the street lamps or the flashing blue lights of the ambulances seemed to penetrate it. And it was noisy. Sounds coming from all directions and most of which I couldn't pinpoint, not that I was trying too hard. Engines roared, sirens wailed, adults and kids shouted, screamed and cried. I wanted to join in, to bellow like I had done when Charlie first told me, but I lacked the strength. Instead I let the cacophony wash over me and drown my own thoughts out.
           "I've cleared it - I'm taking you home".
           Charlie was beside me again, the proverbial angel on my shoulder. I tried to smile, but it got lost among the tears.
           "I'm sorry I snapped".
           "Don't be daft. Snap as much as you need. Your car or mine?"
           I couldn't face mine. It'd feel wrong now without Andrew.
           Charlie led me to his car, opened the door, buckled me in - not easy given my size, but I was beyond doing such trivial things for myself. Andrew was gone. Nothing else mattered.
           As he drove off I stared out of the window. I remember the scene over by the disused ward; police cordons, paramedics, a crowd of inquisitive onlookers. I was only mildly curious about what was going on as we left the hospital grounds. I wonder how I would have felt it I'd known then that just the other side of that yellow tape lay my husband's murderer, now dead himself.
           Would I have jumped from the car, run, hysterical, through the crowd? Would I have kicked Harvey's lifeless body in anger and some form of confused retribution? Would I have cared at all? You see, even then as we drove away it still hadn't fully sunk in. I was on emotional autopilot, and my mind hadn't caught up yet.
           I know exactly when it did though.
           We'd reached my - see, one year on and already it's 'my' not 'our' - house. Charlie left me in the car as he went to the door. Mum answered in her dressing gown and curlers, immediately blushing at receiving such an unexpected gentleman caller. I don't know what he said, or what she replied, but I saw her start to cry and it made me angry. So angry that it took over everything, all the pain, fear and uncertainty.
           My Mum had never liked Andrew, not really; she thought that he should have married me when he got me pregnant and never truly forgave him for giving her a bastard grandson. But there she was, sobbing, holding Charlie for support like she was the grieving widow.
           I struggled out of the car and ran up the path as best I could, pushing aside Charlie and launching myself at my Mum. I grabbed her shoulders, forced her back into the house. She looked so scared of me. I'm sorry for that.
           "You've never liked him, you never, never liked him! I love him, I love him, I do, and he's gone..." And that was it. That was the moment it hit, knocking the breath out of me "he's gone, he's gone, he's gone..."
           She held me as I sobbed, got me into the living somehow and onto the sofa. She sat upright, and I half-lay so that my head was in her lap. She brushed my hair as I lay there, softly and soothingly, the way she used to when I was only little and had had a nightmare. I'd always feel so safe like that, and even at the age of forty it still had the same effect.
           Charlie, tactfully, had vanished into the kitchen, obviously not quite trusting that he could leave me, even if I was now with my Mum. When I was quieter he reappeared with some sweet tea although the very thought of drinking it made me feel ill and I left my cup to go cold.
           He took Mum to one side, leaving me beached on the sofa. I can only guess what they said to each other, but it was clear they were both worried about me by the way they kept glancing over to me as they whispered. Then he came over to me and crouched down on the floor beside where I lay.
           "I'm going to leave now," he said apologetically, "but if you need me, just call, alright?"
           "I'll keep my mobile on at all times, and I can be here in half an hour".
           "I'm so, so sorry Duffy".
           He squeezed my shoulder gently and left, and Mum returned to the sofa, kneeling awkwardly and holding my fringe off my face.
           "Lisa, darling, when shall we tell the boys?"
           And that's when the second half of my nightmare became real.
           "I can't..."
           More tears now, and I'm ashamed to say the first not to be purely selfish. The boys would never see their father again, and my little one, Paul, but still unnamed back then, would never know him at all.
           I never got the chance to decide what to do next. The decision was made for me. Two little boys padded down the stairs to see what all the fuss was about.
           I wish, looking back, that I could have done it better, broken it more gently somehow. But God only knows how. They saw their Mum and Gran in tears and I think they knew, on some level at least; the same way that I had known in the instant before Charlie had actually said the words.
           "Where's Dad?" Peter asked.
           "What's wrong?" Jake asked.
           I struggled up into a sitting position and opened my arms to them. Both boys flew into my embrace.
           "Your Dad is... your Dad is... There was an accident, a bad accident, and your Dad is..."
           The word stuck in my throat. It was too big, too final, to articulate. I can say it now, a year on: Andrew's dead. Andrew died. The words have a dull thudding resonance now, rather than a piercing searing pain.
           Mum finished it for me. She managed to say the words I'd been trained to but just couldn't manage.
           By morning Peter and Jake had thought up a thousand questions, each on harder than the last, and none of them easy to start with, but then, in those few minutes following on they stayed quiet. Shell shocked no doubt. And the four of us held each other so tightly I could feel every muscle ache - not least my heart.
           We slept like that. Nodding off into an exhausted dreamless slumber until the sun rose the next morning; 364 days ago.
           And the sun has continued to rise every morning since, just as I've coped with everyday since. Passing each and every milestone with rationed tears and good grace. But even though today, a full year on, is basically the last of the 'firsts' I've had to endure, and everyone else has moved on and started to forget that night, to me it still feels like yesterday.

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