“Please. Can you stay just a little longer?”
Ella holds my palm to her cheek and smiles. Her radiance pushes through the withered dilution of her past glory and warms me as her skin no longer can.
“I’m lost without you.”
“Hush.” She lays light against me.
“I’m sorry. You should have had so much more. So much more than I…”
Ella raises her head and grips my hand in hers. “You were always enough for me Charlie. Always. Don’t ever think that.” She is crying now. “Promise me.”
I nod and say nothing.
“You need to learn to be enough for yourself.”
And then I wake up.
She is everywhere and she is gone. The material things are long departed. Most of them at least. Boxed and packaged. Some kept, some given away. Her memories stain the fabric and soul of our home with light and move me to both laughter and tears. On Ella’s side of the bed I stoop to pick up a red dress that isn’t there. It’s the one she wore the day we moved in and threw to the floor laughing after a supper on boxes. The old cliché of fish and chips in paper and Chardonnay from plastic cups, me covered in paint and dust and Ella in her red dress that even the dirt chose to sit back from and admire.
I dress and walk to the kitchen. I scramble eggs and put the toast on too late as always. I wait for an espresso to judder its way into my cup and change the strength from strong to normal with the same unconscious surety that will guide me to change it back tomorrow morning. I refill the machine with a handful of beans and grab a second from the jar. I remember. I put them back in their container and turn on the radio. The tap still needs fixing.
Work passes without incident. It’s better now that the slow torture of uncomfortable, well-meaning silences have abated. I smile at the irony of drawing solace in the embrace of a building I spent years trying to get away from on time. I stay behind for a drink and leave when I’m ready.
I cook supper and flick through a dozen sports channels with bare attention. Washing up is quick, leftovers to Tupperware to fridge even quicker. I settle down in front of the computer to write. Words come, words go. Some get second-guessed and others remain. It’s a love story. Something I always wanted to write but wasn’t sure how. It’s easy enough. Write about the insignificant shards of magic that connect two people down to their bones. And make it funny. If there isn’t any laughter there isn’t any point.
I manage a full chapter before wine-fuelled weariness overtakes me. Two more to go and then out with the red pen of justice. Ella always knew what worked and what didn’t. I’d argue but she was always right. She was right about most things. I turn off the light and go to sleep at peace.
When I wake tonight she will still be gone and in the morning I will still be here.
But it will be enough.