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Young Writers Society



Wherever You Will Go Chapters 7-9

by bexy89


Chapter Seven

A shoulder to cry on

It was around 9 o clock that night, while I was nursing Abigail that she called. I hadn’t heard her voice in years now. I hadn’t even considered her calling me, after everything. Trying to juggle Abigail in one hand and the phone in the other, I answered.

“Hi, Zoe. It’s Barb. I just wanted to ask, erm... is he alright? Lee?” she sounded uneasy.

“No.” I replied bluntly.

“Oh. I see. I was thinking of taking a trip over with Brett so maybe I could call in and see you?”

Typical. Her son was dead and all she was concerned about was coming for a weekend break with her toy-boy.

“I’ll probably be busy. Just like all those times you were too busy to see your own son and your grandson. You’ll be glad to know your son is no longer around so you won’t have to go to any effort whatsoever to remember sending him a birthday card or anything.” And I slammed the phone down.

Lee’s mom, Barbara had always been a pain in the ass. Not just as a mother-in-law but as a mother and a grandmother. About six years ago, Lee’s dad, Frank had a heart attack. He lived but was greatly limited to what he was allowed to do. It crushed him because he was such a proud and active man. Barbara and he had been married for twenty two years and so she promised she would stay around to take care of him and quit her job as a hospital receptionist.

But after a few months, their money started to dwindle so she took a part-time job at a local cafe, serving coffee to regulars, usually businessmen and builders. It wasn’t the best job in the world but it brought in a bit of much needed money. While working there, she met Brett. He was a trainee banker in the city, pretty much fresh out of college at twenty. He would go in every day and they would talk over the counter as she made him his cappuccino. They grew fond of each other and began an affair.

It lasted a year or so in secret. She would see him in her lunch hour or her free days or sometimes in the evening after her shift had finished. She told her husband that she was working overtime. He doted on her completely and was so happy that she was helping him when he needed her the most.

Until one night, she brought Brett home. She confronted Frank and told him that she and Brett were in love and she was leaving. Frank took it badly and understandably so. He was distraught and we began to care for him instead. Lee spoke to his mother and told her that she had a choice. Either leave this man and he would welcome her back with open arms or stay with him and to expect him never to speak to her again. She chose the latter and Lee cut all contact with her. A few months later, Frank had another heart attack which sadly he didn’t recover from. If there was ever a case where someone died of a broken heart, it was most certainly this one.

Lee was a soft man at heart. He no doubt missed his mother but he despised what she had done. She tried a few times to get in contact and at first Lee refused to talk to her. But after a while he did take her calls but all they ever did was end up arguing. Once she rang to ask could she come and visit Bobby on his first birthday given that she had not met him before. Lee agreed, saying that no matter what she had done, it was unfair to deprive Bobby of his grandmother. The date was arranged and we made up the guest room for her. However, the evening before she was due to arrive we got a phone-call. She told us she was unable to make it as Brett had a work function to attend and she had already told him she would go with him. Excluding the initial times where his mother had first left his father for her boyfriend, I had never seen Lee so angry before. He was yelling down the phone, so much so that I had to come over and take it out of his hand.

“Leave it.” I had told him. “It’s her loss.”

Ever since then, she has tended to stay away. She said it was “to cause less heartache” when really it was because she was more interested in her cosy little life with Brett. I don’t think she even knew I was pregnant with Abigail.

I was so angry. How could she have been so passive about Lee? There wasn’t a waiver of emotion in her voice. I put Abigail into her basket to sleep and got myself a drink of water from the kitchen. I really didn’t need all of this, not now. I had the events of yesterday and losing my husband and the events of today and giving birth to my daughter. It was too much to take in and I was too exhausted to allow myself to be neither sad nor happy.

I went back into the lounge and peered into the basket where Abigail slept. It was strange to think that this time yesterday she had been curled up in my tummy, away from all of this. I picked up a photograph of Lee from the side table. It was quite an old photo, taken not long after we met. I had framed it because I loved looking at how bright his face was in it. He was fresh-faced and carefree, standing next to a huge elm tree in a padded jacket. He had a smile that lit up his entire face, one of the things that had attracted me to him in the first place. I kissed the photo and tucked it in beside Abigail, just out of her grasp and watched her little chest going up and down with her tiny breaths.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” I asked. Although nobody was there to answer me.

I had decided to keep Bobby home from school until the following week. He had only just started and I knew it was hard for him because he had been so excited about going but with everything that was going on and a baby barely a day old and nobody to take him it was the best idea. He seemed ok with it and I hoped that a few days off just as the new term had started wouldn’t hinder his chances of making friends.

I had sat all night watching Abigail sleeping, ready every time she woke for a feed. A couple of times her fingers outstretched and touched the photograph of her dad that I’d placed beside her. It felt like he was there with us. Which I’m sure he was in his own way. Just not in the way he should have been. I managed to catch about an hour’s sleep myself on the couch until Bobby came bounding downstairs demanding breakfast.

I’d almost forgotten Ruthie was due round so I tried to make myself look presentable. I was about to shower when Abigail started to cry and Bobby was asking for more cereal so I pinned my hair up and abandoned washing. As it was approaching eleven, I resorted to tidying up the teenage way; throwing everything that was on the floor into a pile in a cupboard and shutting the door, hoping it wouldn’t all come tumbling out mid-conversation with Ruthie.

She showed up just as I had managed to get Abigail to stop crying and go down for a nap. I managed to kid myself that she was going to be a quiet baby given that she had barely cried since she was born. Apparently today she was making up for lost time. Bobby was sprawled out on the couch watching SpongeBob Squarepants. I tutted at the stupidity of it as I walked past the TV to answer the door.

“Hi!” Ruthie greeted me with a smile and a hug. I could tell by her eyes she had been crying. I hugged her back and invited her in.

She walked straight over to Abigail’s bassinette and looked in.

“Oh, she’s gorgeous.” She whispered. She waved to Bobby who had been engrossed in the television and absent-mindedly waved back.

I took her through to the kitchen and put the kettle on and we both sat down at the dining table.

“So” I started. I wasn’t sure what to say. If I should just come right out with it. She reached over the table and took my hand.

“I don’t know how to deal with this.” She said quietly. I nodded in agreement.

“Tell me about your brother.” I took her hand now as she sighed heavily.

“His name was Gavin. He was older than me by five years. He was such a goody two-shoes. My parents doted on him and I was always the black sheep. God, I hated him sometimes. But when it came down to it, he was the best brother I could have asked for.” Silent tears started running down her face.

“He was a policeman for the NYPD. He had always wanted to be one since I can remember. He was obsessed with cop shows on TV; he used to drive us all mad with them. We’d spend our Sunday evenings watching reruns of Cagney and Lacey and Hawaii Five-O. It bored me to tears actually.” She stifled a laugh and began dabbing her eyes with a Kleenex she had produced from her jacket pocket.

“When he got into the force and started his training everyone was so proud. Even I was although I would never have admitted it at the time. He was so good at his job. He loved it too. Never shut up about it when he visited my mom’s house. It’s kind of what made me want to go into the emergency services. But I saw myself more on the gory side of things; I’m not really a fighter. I saw his passion and I wanted a piece of it. We often found ourselves working together which was nice. I saw him on Tuesday morning, leaving for work. He had a spring in his step as always. That was the last time I saw him though. I heard from one of his colleagues that he had radioed them from Tower One a few moments before it came down. He didn’t make it out.”

She paused. Then she broke down completely. She buried her face into her arms that were now crossed over the table and her shoulder heaved with her sobs. I wanted to comfort her but all I could do was join her. It was the first time I had really cried in front of someone. I had cried a handful of times with people around before but never this much, never in front of someone had I cried so hard I thought I would never be able to stop.

Ruthie composed herself first. She sat upright and dried her face with the sleeves of her jacket.

“God, look at me. I’m a mess.” She looked embarrassed at having cried in the company of a practical stranger. I calmed down a little and took a couple of deep breaths.

“So, what about Lee? What’s his story? “She struggled a smile.

I began reeling things off. How we had met, where we had met, where he worked. I showed her a photograph I had of me and him on our honeymoon that I kept on the kitchen windowsill. My voice kept cracking and I told myself not to cry again. It was damn hard even though I was so used to hiding away from grief. I told her about the phone call he had made before he had died. It brought tears to both of our eyes. I didn’t go into the conversation we’d had. I couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to have to imagine what he had been going through while saying his last goodbyes to me. Not right now.

“Will you go there?” Ruthie asked.

“Go where?”

“To where the trade centers were? To see where he last was? I was considering it. I don’t know why, maybe for some peace of mind, clarification of it all.” She shrugged.

“No. No, I can’t. I might when the time is right but I don’t think I could deal with that right now.”

Ruthie nodded.

“Yeah, you’re probably right.”

“Can I ask why you came back to work so soon after?”

“Honestly? Because it keeps my mind occupied. The minute I’m left alone to think, it eats away at me. I don’t want to have to think about what he went through, what he saw, the terror he must have felt but still having to put on a brave face, which is probably totally unhealthy of me. Really, I don’t think I have accepted it properly yet. I know he’s dead. I deal with dead people all the time. I know how definite and final it is. But I can’t apply that knowledge to my brother, because he was my brother. It’s hard to explain.”

But I understood her completely. I had been there before. It took me an incredibly long time to really come to terms with losing my father, even though I knew what death meant. And when Kelly died, although it didn’t measure up even a tiny bit to what I felt when my dad died, it still didn’t sink in straight away. I knew she had gone yet I still found a small part of me watching the front door expecting her to walk in one day. Of course, she never did.

Ruthie and I talked a little more. We spoke for a good two hours, sometimes stopping to have a small cry together. A couple of times we even managed a laugh remembering funny stories. It was nice being able to share my feelings for once despite the horrific circumstances that had brought us together.

She looked down at her watch and gasped.

“God, is that the time? I’m going to have to make a move, Zoe. I need to get to the station and make sure my uniform is actually there before I start work. I’m so forgetful, I can never remember what I have in my locker and what I need to bring with me.”

I walked her to the door. She called in goodbye to Bobby whose face appeared over the top of the couch. He’d been so quiet watching TV I’d almost forgotten he was there. He smiled shyly at her and waved.

“Thank you.” I said, reaching to hug her.

“No, thank you.” She smiled and hugged me back.

“I hope to see you again soon anyway, Zoe. It’s been really nice to chat.”

“It was. See you soon, Ruthie.”

I watched as she made her way down the path and climbed into her car. She smiled as she drove off and I waved to her and closed the door behind me. I stood with my back against it and slid to the floor until I was curled up almost in a ball. Bobby watched then came over and sat beside me. He stroked my hair and whispered into my ear.

“I love you, mommy.”

Then he snuggled himself into my shoulder. I fought back more tears. I was surprised there were even any more left. I felt like I had used an entire year’s quota of them already.

Chapter Eight

Rebuilding the broken

The weeks that followed Kelly’s death rolled by in slow-motion. We sat around the house smoking and not saying anything. We hadn’t attended her funeral. Her mother had made it quite clear that it was for family only. In other words, she didn’t want any of us “smack-heads” there.

I had been up to visit her grave a week or so afterwards. You wouldn’t have believed that she had once been a lonely drug addict who had committed suicide. Although there was no headstone yet, the patch of earth was scattered with an array of bright bunches of flowers and cards. There was even a fluffy purple rabbit teddy which bore the words “I miss you” across its stomach. It was looking a little bedraggled from the rain.

I lay down a single flower that I had picked from the park. It was pink, the same pink as the streak in Kelly’s hair in fact. I didn’t say anything. When you watch movies, you see people standing by a grave and they talk to the dead person as though they were right there with them. I found it pointless because they can’t hear you, they’re dead.

I sat there for about twenty minutes, just staring at the ground. Knowing she lay mere feet below me was a little haunting and I felt a shiver up my spine. Then I heard a voice behind me.

“I knew you’d be here.”

I stood up and turned around; it was Adam.

“Adam? What are you doing here?” I was shocked to see him.

He walked over to me and put his hand on my shoulder.

“I heard about Kelly. I’ve been thinking of coming to find you for a few months now. I called at the house but they said you had gone out. I knew you’d be here because despite everything you’ve done, I know that deep down you still have some compassion.” He nodded towards the grave.

“I passed the funeral last week. It looked lovely. I was surprised. Kelly’s mother is a lovely woman; I used to deliver her newspapers when I had that paper-round, remember?” he said quietly.

I didn’t really know what to say. I hadn’t seen him in so long. He looked different. He had stubble and his hair was a little longer. It must have been at least a year since I had last seen him, when I bumped into him in the street. I’d walked past him with my head down, hoping he wouldn’t recognise me.

“I’m sorry.” I murmured.

“So am I.”

He stood for a moment, hands in his pockets and his eyes on the flowers that lay on the grave.

“I better get going. I just wanted to see that you were ok. And you are, aren’t you?”

I wanted to scream, tell him I was living a nightmare. That I would give anything, absolutely anything, to have another chance; to see my mom again. But “Yes, I’m fine” was all I could manage.

I watched him walk away. He turned his head back only once to look at me and then carried on into the distance until he was consumed by trees and I could no longer see him.

I walked back to the house and stood at the end of the path looking up at it. Even in the Californian sunshine it looked dull. The windows were mainly blacked out, sitting in their rotting frames. The porch was falling apart and the net curtain that hung behind the grimy glass door was now yellow and torn.

And that’s when I ran.

I had no idea where I was running to; I just knew that I didn’t want to be a part of this life anymore. I ran west for about five minutes until I had to stop to catch my breath. Then I carried on running until I physically couldn’t run any longer. Suddenly I realised I recognised this place. It was only a couple of blocks away from my mother’s house. I remembered what Kelly had said, about her mom turning away from her when she saw her at the door. A decision, no doubt, that she will regret for the rest of her life. And then I wondered if it was such a good idea. Would my mother even allow me in? I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to cope with her rejection. It wasn’t until a few seconds of thinking that I realised I was walking towards the house anyway. I figured I had nothing left to lose.

As I turned the corner to the road, I took a deep breath. My mom’s house was less than a minute’s walk away. As I neared it I felt like turning around and going back to Jack’s. It might not have been ideal but at least I was accepted there. Before I knew it, I was at the front door of my childhood home.

I knocked and waited. I expected to be turned away so I braced myself. There was no answer so I turned to leave when I heard a familiar click. The sound the front door made when you opened it from the inside because of a loose screw that my dad had always said he would fix but never did. I turned back and looked straight into my mother’s face.

She had barely changed although she looked a little worn-down. Her hair hung loosely around her face as though it had been abandoned and she stared straight into my eyes. This was it, any minute now she would slam the door in my face.

But no doors were slammed. Instead she threw herself at me, arms open and hugged me so tightly I could barely breathe. I wrapped my arms around her and we both stood on the porch sobbing into each other’s shoulders.

“I knew you’d come home.” She whispered into my ear.

“I’m sorry, mom.”

After we parted from our hug, she led me inside, sat me down in an armchair in the lounge and wandered off into the kitchen. It was like everything in this house had come to a standstill since I’d left. The same photographs adorned the walls. Some of me, some of Adam. Mostly, they were of my dad.

My mom brought me a glass of water then sat on the chair opposite to me. She just looked at me like she had never seen me before. After a minute of silence, she spoke.

“What made you come back?”

I looked around the room, at all of the photographs, at the armchair of my father’s that my mother now sat in, the old Persian rug on the floor that we all hated so much but could never bear to part with.

“Everything.” I answered.

It took me a while to adjust. I had been so used to doing my own thing for so long now. I tried my best to help my mom with the housework, spend time with her and Adam watching television in the evenings. I did the grocery shopping and Adam told me that if I wanted, he would teach me how to drive. I could hardly believe I had traded all of this for drugs and a bare mattress on someone’s floor for two years. I was so happy that I had finally left that life behind me.

It was nearing my 19th birthday and my mom was hounding me with questions about what I wanted. I hadn’t had a lot of material possessions while I lived at Jack’s house so the concept was a little alien to me now. Then I knew.

“I want a horse.” I told her.

“A horse? But you had one and you never rode it. We ended up selling her. Plus, you’re getting a little old for horses now don’t you think?”

“Mom, you asked her what she wants and she told you.” Adam winked at me.

“I know but... oh ok. I’ll see what I can do.” She sighed with a slight smile.

“Thanks mom.” I hugged her back and drew a cigarette from my bag. She frowned at me but I had already explained to her that it was hard enough for me to go cold turkey trying to get off cannabis and alcohol; I had to have something to keep me sane. I promised her I would quit soon although I had no intention really.

“I’m going to go for a walk” I said and kissed her cheek. As I walked to the front door I passed a mirror in the hall. I caught a glimpse of my reflection. My eyes were bright again and I was smiling, I couldn’t remember the last time I had smiled. More importantly, I was able to look at myself and feel no shame. Happily, I strode out into the street.

It was coming end of the spring and it was a fairly hazy day. The sun was warm so I had worn my favourite cut off denim trousers which miraculously still fitted me and had been kept, alongside everything else in my old bedroom, in case I decided to come back for them. I tied a sweater around my waist as I passed house after house of neat green gardens full of children playing. I knew from that moment I would never stray away from all of this again.

I got to the graveyard a while later. It was illuminated by the sunlight and looked strangely inviting considering. Eventually I found my father’s grave. I hadn’t been here in a while. I just wanted to be close to him as I had spent so long distancing myself from him and his memory. I sat alongside his marble headstone which was engraved with the words “Lt Lance. M. Ryan, a hero in life and death. Will be sadly missed by many. 18th October 1940-31st May 1984.” Above it was the Los Angeles Fire Department emblem, below it a small stone pot full of flowers that said “Forever in our hearts. Love Gee, Adam and Zoe.” Gee was the nickname my dad gave my mother because she hated her first name so went by her middle name, Georgina.

I leaned against the stone and closed my eyes. And I heard my voice being called. I opened my eyes and looked around. I even looked back at the grave even though I knew I was being ridiculous. I heard it again but it was coming from way off into the distance. It called for a third time but this time it was nearer. I got up and followed it until I came to the trees at the edge of the graveyard.

“Hello?” I called out. I wondered if maybe it was Adam coming to fetch me back for dinner. I turned around to the direction of the gates and was hit square in the face. I fell to the floor and opened my eyes. I could taste blood and I looked around wondering what the hell was going on. There were two people standing over me; two very familiar people. It was Jack and Liam.

Liam kicked me hard in the stomach and knocked the breath out of me.

“Think you can just walk out on us? After all we’ve been through? We need you, you silly girl. How dare you!” He spat at me.

“We can’t afford the rent on the house, you were bringing in the money and now with you and Kelly gone we have nothing. What makes you think you have any right to leave and go back to a perfect little life while we’re left in the gutter?” Jack yelled, coming close to my face.

I could tell straight away that both of them were on something. They’d both been known to have tempers when they had taken something and we had all been careful not to tread on their toes.

Liam grabbed me by the hair and started to drag me through the trees. I screamed at him to let me go but he was relentless and I only succeeded in getting him to pull harder. Jack walked behind him, spitting at me and giving me a foul look of disgust. As they got to the clearing, Liam let go of my hair and I dropped to the ground. Turning onto my stomach I attempted to get up but he proceeded to slap me hard across the face.

“Stay there.” He growled and he and Jack walked a little beyond the trees, presumably to check there was nobody coming. I found the strength to stand up and I didn’t hesitate. I ran in the opposite direction towards the other gate. It wasn’t long until they had noticed and came after me. My stomach was in agony and my face was bloody and swollen but I was stopping for nothing. Finally I reached the gate and looked behind me; they were seconds away from catching up with me. Running up the street I hoped that now I was next to the road that they would let me go. But they carried on chasing me. Then I tripped over a paving stone and fell face first onto the concrete. I was done for now, I told myself. I tried picking myself up but I was too late, they had caught me and one of them yanked me up.

“Did you really think we were going to let you get away?” Liam snarled. He threw me against the wall and came so close to me that I could smell the alcohol on his breath.

“You’re a nothing, Zoe Ryan. The sooner you realise that, the better. You’re no more superior than us and you know it. Masking it with a fakery of trimmed lawns and a cosy house won’t work.” He slapped me again then smiled.

“Zoe?” I looked over Liam’s shoulder. It was Carl. I hadn’t seen him since the last time we had gone to a party not long after Kelly had died.

He walked over to us and grabbed Liam by the collar of his jacket. Carl was at least six feet tall and towered over all of us. He pushed Liam to one side, straight into Jack who stumbled a little. He took hold of my arm.

“I think you boys had better run along, don’t you?” he hissed at them. They ran. He turned to me.

“Are you ok? Let me take a look at those cuts.” He touched my face and I flinched as his fingers glided over the gashes.

“I’ll be fine. Thank you” I told him. But he wasn’t convinced.

“Let me patch you up. I did used to be a doctor you know.” He smiled. I agreed and we walked to his apartment which was luckily on the next block.

He led me up a dingy stairwell and up to a green painted door. I expected it to be a small, dirty place full of junk and mess. So I was surprised to walk into a clinically clean place with big comfy couches and large expensive looking canvas paintings hung on the walls.

“Not what you expected?” he looked at me as if he had read my mind. I suppose my face had said it all.

“No. It’s lovely.” I smiled.

He gestured for me to sit down and brought over a large first aid kit. He dabbed at the cuts with a cloth which stung like hell. After he had cleaned me up, he gave me a hand mirror to look in.

“I’m afraid I can’t do a lot about the black eye.”

I looked at my poor, swollen face. My right eye was bruised and I had several cuts on my cheeks and forehead and one across my bottom lip.

“They’ll come back for me, won’t they?” I asked him.

He looked at me. I could tell he knew the answer but instead he decided to reassure me.

“Not if they know there are people looking out for you.”

We sat and talked for a while. He asked how life was going now I had moved back with my mom and brother. He asked about Kelly. It was almost 7 o clock before I realised the time.

“Wow, I’m going to have to go or my mom will be going mad.” I said, standing up and brushing myself down.

Carl stood up beside me and put his hand on my shoulder.

“Yes, of course.” He said and walked me to the door.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to walk you back? In case those idiots are still out?” I shook my head.

“No, I’ll be fine; it’s still light out and not far from the house. Thank you again by the way.” I reached up to hug him.

As we pulled away, his eyes caught mine and before I had a chance to think, we kissed. Then he pulled away.

“Oh God, I’m sorry Zoe. I didn’t mean...”

“It’s ok.” I smiled. He opened the front door and I stepped out.

“Come and see me whenever you like!” he called to me as I made my way to the stairs. I nodded back to him and waved.

As I cautiously made my way home, I couldn’t help but feel strangely excited about what had just happened, although there was a twenty year age gap between us. I had grown fond of him and I knew he was just lonely. But it still made me think.

I got home, totally forgetting my face was still in a pretty big mess. My mom shrieked when she saw me and told me she thought I had left again and Adam started asking me who had hurt me. I told them some punks had been messing about in the graveyard and I had confronted them and I’d got into a fight but that I was fine. In reality, I was panicking wondering how long it would be until I ran into Liam and Jack again.

But it turned out; it wasn’t them I had to worry about.

Chapter Nine

Bringing him home

As the weekend drew in I became more and more attached to the couch. I didn’t get dressed. There was no point. Even if I wasn’t on constant food duty for Bobby and Abigail, I just didn’t have the energy or the purpose.

On the Friday night I had got a call off my mom telling me she was flying over the next day. I should have prepared the guest room for her but I really didn’t want to. I figured she would understand.

I waited for her on Saturday afternoon. Bobby kept running to the window looking out for her cab. I sat on the couch in my sweatpants and a t-shirt I had been wearing since Thursday, holding Abigail and praying she wasn’t going to cry too much today because she’d already taken it out of me. Then I heard Bobby shriek “She’s here!” and he ran to the front door.

I followed him holding Abigail in one arm and opened the door with the other. My mom dropped her bags to the floor at the bottom of the driveway and ran towards me, her arms open. When she reached me she hugged me so tightly I could barely breathe. It took me back to the hug she had given me when I had turned up at her door all those years ago after realising I no longer wanted to be on a path to destruction.

“Oh Zoe, my beautiful little girl. I’m so sorry.” She pulled away and I saw her eyes were almost as wet and raw as mine had been these last few days. She diverted her look down to Abigail; then to Bobby. She looked back to me and smiled so I moved aside to let her in, leaving her bags abandoned.

We sat on the couch and Bobby leapt onto her knee and wrapped his arms around her neck. Then she took Abigail and cradled her in her arms, gently stroking her head.

“She looks so much like him.” She said, a tear escaping down her cheek.

“Bobby, do you want to go and get your fire truck to show grandma?” I asked and he jumped up and ran upstairs. My mom laid Abigail in her basket, sat down and turned to me, taking hold of my hands.

“How’re you holding up?” she looked deep into my eyes. She had loved Lee like a son. They were thick as thieves and she would always tell me how much my father would have liked him. As she looked at me I could see that very same sadness on her face that I had seen the day that he had died. The way she broke down hysterically in the kitchen but how she always used to try and hide her grief from Adam and I. I always wondered where I had taken my way of dealing with grief from as both my mother and father had no problem expressing theirs. Then I realised that over the years, I just became hardened to it.

“I don’t know, mom. One minute I’m ok, and then I can’t stop crying the next. I don’t think it has really sunk in yet. It just all happened so quickly I haven’t had time to think. Everything I see around me is a constant reminder of him; the hundreds of photographs and when I look at the kids. He’s always here. It doesn’t feel like he’s really gone even though I know he is. Does that make any sense?”

She nodded and squeezed my hands tighter.

“When your father died I felt the same. I was distraught, out of my mind with grief. He was the love of my life. But when he died, I would hold a photograph of him or I would sit on your bed or on Adam’s and I would watch you sleeping. You were both a part of him that I had left and I felt that as long as I had you both there with me, he would never be gone. And then you left and I felt like part of him had been ripped from me. The day you came home was one of the happiest of my life. Not only were you coming home but you were bringing him back with you.

I know it sounds crazy but when you have your children, you can never forget. You were my saviours, my little rays of hope. Without you, I don’t know what I would have done. You both helped me more than you will ever know.” Her voice began to waiver and she started to cry, her hands leaving mine to wipe her face.

“It’s not crazy mom. I understand. Bobby and Abigail, they’re a piece of Lee I can keep close to my heart. But it hurts so much because when I look at them I see him and it reminds me of what I’ve lost.” I couldn’t hold the tears back any longer. I hated my mother seeing me cry but she held me while I sobbed into her shoulder.

Bobby appeared with his fire truck a minute later and jumped between us.

“Mommy told me that my granddad used to drive a fire truck.” He beamed.

“Your mommy is right, he did.”

“Where is granddad?”

“He’s with your daddy, looking after him. Hey, how about tonight I show you their stars?”

“Their stars?”

“Yes, when the angels come for someone, they leave behind a star in the sky so that whenever you want to talk to them, you just look for their star and they’ll hear you.” My mom smiled. Bobby looked a little confused but nodded all the same.

“So daddy has a star and granddad has one too?”

“They do. We’ll have to keep an eye out for them, won’t we?”

My mom insisted I stay put on the couch while she tidied the house. It was a mess as I hadn’t cleaned it since the Tuesday. And for the first time in days, I slept peacefully. When I woke up the house was gleaming. Bobby was playing on the floor which had been mopped and my mom was sat in the armchair with Abigail in her arms.

“I think she wants her mommy now.” She said and passed her to me. She sat back down but in a way that looked as though she wanted to say something. Then she did.

“I was thinking, I don’t know what you think about it but maybe you should move back to California. I mean, you’re not working here; Bobby has only just started school so it wouldn’t make too much difference to move him now. I’ll be there and so will Adam. You shouldn’t be on your own. Not now. You need your family around you and I just want to make sure you’re ok. What do you think?”

I didn’t really know what to say. It sounded like a good idea but I didn’t know if I could leave the house that Lee and I had shared, leave him behind here.

“Thanks mom but I’m not sure I can leave yet. Lee is still here, you know? I’ve not had any kind of closure.”

“Of course. It was just an idea anyway, you’re always welcome back home whenever you want, just say the word. I know Adam misses you.”

“And I miss him.” I sighed.

The weekend passed so quickly. My mom left on Monday evening as she had to be back at work. I put on the bravest face I could manage as she got into her taxi and I waved her goodbye. She had been somewhat of a distraction for me and now with her gone I was back to being alone again.

It had been three weeks since September 11th. Life was still a struggle, I had good days and bad days but I had to stay strong for my children. A week after the attacks I had sat in the bathroom clutching a pill bottle and considering just unscrewing the cap and taking the lot. If it hadn’t been for Bobby walking in, I probably would have. That was probably my lowest point that I thought about leaving my children without a mother as well as a father just so I could selfishly take away my own pain. And as they say, when you hit rock bottom, the only way is up.

I was nursing Abigail when I got a phone-call. A man told me that they had found some personal items belonging to Lee. I had an overwhelming feeling of happiness and sadness together. I was told that it would be brought to my home that afternoon.

When I heard the knock at the door, I almost ran to answer it. A man in official uniform came in clutching a clear plastic bag. I beckoned to him to take a seat and watched him lay the bag on the table, pushing it towards me.

I stretched my hand out and touched it tentatively, as if it might break into a million pieces if I wasn’t careful. I opened the bag and pulled out the first thing. It was a torn and battered wallet. I stroked my finger along the rough leather. It smelt like smoke and was still covered in ash. Opening it up, I looked inside and began pulling things out. There was his credit card, his business card, his employee card with his name and his photograph on. And there was a small passport sized photograph of me and Bobby when he was about two, sitting on the swing in the back garden. I remembered it being taken. It was a week or so before Bobby had fallen and broken his arm. It was a beautiful day and we had spent the whole of it outside, exploring bushes with Bobby and eating a picnic under the shade of the trees. I had loved the swing, it was painted white and had lovebirds carved into the back of it but it had broken beyond repair during a huge storm where it was struck by lightning.

I placed the wallet onto the table and picked out the other item; Lee’s gold watch. The time stood still at 9:59, the time his tower had collapsed. It felt a little bit eerie to look at, knowing the clock face showed his last living minute. I turned the watch over and brushed my finger along the surface. I could just about make out the engraving. It read “From now until our clocks stop ticking. I love you, Zoe.”

He had wanted a gold watch since I met him and when he’d seen this one in a jewellery store in California, I had bought it for him, had it engraved and hidden it until our wedding day. I always joked, when he told me our wedding was the best day of his life, that it was only so because he’d gotten his beloved watch. He never took it off and I had prayed that if they couldn’t find him in the rubble of those towers that they would at least find this. It was as good as bringing him home.

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See, we could have been called The Shoes.
— Paul McCartney