“Seven o’clock, Martin, time to get up,” said Siri from the bedside table.
“Alarm off,” he said.
“Today is Estella’s birthday, would you like to send her a greeting?” asked the cheery voice.
“I’d love to send her a greeting but she died a week ago so it seems a little pointless.”
“I’m sorry Martin I don’t understand the question.”
“No,” he said.
He’d looked after Estella through her long months of illness, visited her every day during her weeks in the hospice and finally arranged her funeral at the Green Glades woodland burial site and it was all still very raw.
“Would you like to wish Estella a Happy Birthday, Martin?”
“Not really,” he muttered but Siri misheard him and dialled Estella’s cell phone, he heard her voice encouraging him to leave a message.
“I’ll get back to you,” she finished.
He lay, staring at the ceiling, wondering how he would fill the day, retirement hung on him heavily. When he first retired he’d tried all the usual suspects: Tai Chi, amateur dramatics, a reading group and, in desperation, a writing group. He hadn’t really taken to any of them. It was time spent with Estella that was the engine of his life, walking with her, shopping together, cooking for each other, chats over coffee at the ‘Hideout café.’ They’d found each other relatively late in life and had talked of marriage, maybe they would have got around to it eventually.
“A life of quiet desperation, but a life all the same,” she’d called it and now she was gone.
They’d discovered Facebook a couple of years before, but after about six months of posting pictures of meals they’d cooked, snaps from holidays they’d taken, anything to show their Facebook friends what a perfect life they too were leading it all began to seem competitive, futile. They ran out of material and started inventing things just to see how their ‘friends’ would react. Pictures of adorable pets they didn’t own. Martin standing proudly next to an expensive car he hadn’t bought, a selfie outside the big new house that they hadn’t moved into.
It became a hobby, everywhere they went they took pictures and sometimes brought small props to enhance them: in a kitchen show room holding up the champagne glasses, on either side of an enormously vulgar flat screen TV in the local electrical store, their newly remodelled garden, the holiday home in Minorca, the five metre yacht.
The chance find, at a church bazaar, of a box of postcards documenting a trip around the capitals of Europe encouraged Martin to take a short evening course in Photoshop. Suddenly the world was their oyster. With the help of a few sales brochures and their all-in-one printer/scanner they cruised the Mediterranean. Estella’s charity parachute jump got a considerable number of ‘likes’, as did Martin gaining his private pilot’s license, pictures at the controls, views from the air. They were limited only by their own imaginations, the more outrageous their posts the more people joined their following, they had over a thousand ‘friends’ by this time.
“How about a visit to Mars,” he suggested one evening as they watched a documentary about NASA.
“That would give the game away,” she said. “Let’s do it as a finale when we’ve had enough and want to move on to something else. In the meantime, ballroom dancing might be fun.”
But it was over now. He began to type the post announcing Estella’s sad demise but stopped as a thought occurred to him. Why should it end? He had a shoebox full of photos from before they went digital. He could carry on with the project, if he started at the front of the box they’d look virtually the same as now, but as he used pictures from further back they’d get progressively younger and more attractive. How incredibly galling for the ‘friends.’
He could see the future unfolding before him, into the past.
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