One step at a time.
That’s what he said yesterday, my dad that is, he said I was doing fine. In fact that’s what they all say lately, the other family members. Either that or something like “You’re doing really well, honey.”
I’m not. I haven’t been doing really well for a long time. It’s been so long that I can’t even remember what doing well feels like. And whose damn opinion of doing really well should I trust anyway? Certainly not my dad’s. He who must be obeyed is probably the last person in the world who should offer any kind of judgement on people’s behaviour. What would he know about crippling nonsensical emotions? He’s the one who ran off with that slut of a woman to help himself after it all happened, pretty much killing mum at the same time. She might still be hanging around, but she also might as well be dead in reality. She just sits there and stares blankly at the telly every day, occasionally moving to pour more vodka, maybe a splash of tonic if she’s feeling frivolous.
Frivolous? What a fucking word. As if anyone here’s done anything frivolous in the last three years. Even I just do the same as her now. Rock backward and forward like my life is nothing more than this chair in this repulsive little flat that I own. I hate it. I hate the flowery walls and the beige carpet, and the horrendous stench that encroaches ever more with each passing hour, souring an already vile existence. I hate the visions of torment around every corner, the never-ending taste of disgust that floods my soul each time I remember, and the constant nagging reminder of what was.
I hate me.
“Please don’t. Please don’t give in. Please don’t. I love you, Danielle. There’s so much more out there yet. Just take my hand. It’s okay, we’ll make it better. One step at a time, you and me.”
It’s all I hear every fucking day. It goes round and round like an all-consuming torture while I sit here and gaze at his photo. I just rock in the hope I can remember something other than that. Please God, let me feel something other than the unending anguish of this guilt filled hatred.
And I can smell him, why can I still smell him? He’s everywhere. And it was his fault. Why did he do it? It should have been me that went over. It was me, my choice. Why did he have to be so stupid? I told him to let go, told him to just leave and let me get on with it, but he wouldn’t listen. He just kept chanting those fucking words and telling me he loved me, just kept holding on so tight that I couldn’t get him off me and then it was too late. And he was so bright and shiny, so beautifully unaffected by everything that is horrid and despicable in this world. Nothing in his 18 year old mind worked like mine. Nothing fazed him or made him think he was unworthy. He didn’t drown himself in drugs or taint his very existence with the vapid air of depravity and indulgence, like me. He was good and kind and decent and so very handsome. He should be here with a family and babies, and two point four fucking dogs and a mortgage. Instead he’s six feet under, and his will left his death payment to me.
So I could always be safe, apparently. Secure.
I stare over at mum sitting there in her drab dressing gown that hasn’t been washed for god knows how long. That skinks too. It smells like vomit and decades of disgust, all aimed at me. Rightly so. I’m a pointless waste of human life. There was no reason for me to be here before, so there certainly isn’t now. I don’t even know what I’m doing trying to forget anymore. I should just get on with it again. This flat’s high enough. In fact it’s higher than the bridge was. Not quite such a nice view, but what does that matter? Hell won’t be very nice either, will it? Although it’s what I deserve, regardless. At least I know he’s not there. He’ll be with the angels. They’ll probably be waiting on him hand and foot, and hopefully contemplating sending him back down here so he can heal people. Or at the very least show the world what men should be like.
That’s the other thing that happens constantly. Mum saying his name as if she can smell him too. Ben, Ben, Ben. Mind you, her permanently alcohol induced fog probably means she sees all kinds of hallucinations. Thankfully for her they’re not the reality that I see every time I close my eyes. She wasn’t there to witness his blue eyes filled with love as he pushed me backwards away from him. I see them falling away from me every single moment of this godforsaken life, and no matter how much I lunge for him, I can’t grab him back to me. I can’t stop him falling. I even find myself sitting here sometimes with my hands outstretched still reaching for him. Dr Jones says that’s normal, and that I shouldn’t worry about it, that I should just keep taking the myriad of pills he delivers weekly and try to get on with my life.
“It’ll get easier, Danielle. It’s not your fault. It was an accident.”
How about, fuck you, Dr Jones? It wasn’t an accident, it was all me. I killed him. If I hadn’t tried to jump, he wouldn’t have tried to save me. This is all my fault. And mum and dad covering the trail for me, as they always did, doesn’t make it right. I’m a killer, a murderer, a monster.
“I’m not having both my children taken from me.”
That’s what she near silently screamed at my dad when we walked to the police station. Then they’d lied, and made me lie too, made me tell the men in blue uniforms that it had been Ben that jumped, that I couldn’t reach him in time. Lies, all lies.
Just like this pitiful apparent survival.
My eyes search the room for something, anything. I don’t know what I’m looking for. I never do. An answer maybe? Eventually they find it, the window. I’ll just finish it now. It’s pretty simple. I’ll just finish what I started and then this fucking hollow space inside me will disappear and I won’t have to listen to his words haunting me daily. Mum won’t even notice, and if she does she’ll probably be thankful. My weary body rouses itself at the thought and stretches its feet forward to touch the beige carpet as I push on the armrests. Five minutes is all it’ll take for me to switch off the need to bother living. That’s all. There’s nothing worth living for anyway. Nobody really wants me here. They all blame me, and they’re right too as well.
It should have been me.
The sun blinds me as I quietly open the curtains and stare into the daylight. Is it daytime? Most of the time I don’t know what day of the week it is let alone the time. Too many drugs overloading an already confused mind. That’s what dad says, as if he knows all the fucking answers.
I gaze down at some kids in the snow throwing snowballs and laughing about something which causes my lips to attempt a smile of some sort. It feels odd, as if my mouth is uncomfortable with the movement. I suppose it is after all this time, but nevertheless the merriment of the bunch of Christmas revellers is enough to make it stay there for a while as I watch.
“There’s so much more out there yet.”
That’s him again, still trying to cover me in his optimism. Even now he’s trying to show me the way. That a younger brother had the foresight and empathy to try is unbelievable really. But try he did, still does, even from the grave.
“Please don’t give in.”
He never gave into anything. He was always the one up front, leading the pack. Full of buoyancy and self-assurance with his blonde hair ruffling in the breeze and his gangly legs propelling him forward, always forward.
“We’ll make it better, Danielle. Just take my hand.”
And I wish I could. I wish he was still here so I could grab hold of it and absorb that energy from him again, that boundless enthusiasm that he seemed to own somehow. If I could just see a way through this endless maze of chaos and drudgery in my mind then maybe I’d have a chance of honouring his wishes. Perhaps there would be a way of me saying sorry somehow and moving on, or at least trying to make him proud and prove there was a reason for his stupid heroics.
“Please don’t give in. I love you.”
Is that good enough reason? That he loved me? It so should be. Love should be the reason for everything. It should wrench at your insides and tell you to be stronger, to hold on longer, to push past all the hurdles and forge a path forward. I should do that. I know I should because it’s what he would want from me. He’d be appalled by this grey velour tracksuit and dowdy appearance. He’d be forcing me to eat some food and then refusing to allow me to throw it all up again.
He’d say, “Get your arse in gear, Danny. We’ve got a world to conquer.” And he’d mean it too. He’d also probably slap me and then chase me into the bedroom to force the issue until I’d swing my hands up in the air and nod an exasperated “Okay,” in response, again.
I can still hear that from him now as I stare out into this offering of freedom, calculating how long it will take for these kids to leave, but they play on, running around and giggling at each other. So young, so full of promise and joy. There’s nothing holding them back or stifling how much they can enjoy their fun and abandonment. They’re just pure and true.
Just like him.
“Okay,” I mouth to myself, still watching as a young boy pummels a girl with endless rounds of snow. She laughs in response and ends up on the floor covered in the white fluffy stuff.
Christmas. It was his favourite time of year, he would have had me out there with those kids by now, probably dowsing me in as much of the cold stuff as he could manage just so that he could force hot chocolate on me when we got in. More calorie intake, as always.
Tea. I need a cup of tea. Maybe a cup of tea will help me make it to the next day, and then tomorrow I can think about maybe changing these clothes. Perhaps going to the shops or cleaning a bit.
“One step at a time.”
Okay, Ben. One step at a time.
Charlotte E Hart © 2016
Charlotte E Hart is a smut peddler of the tallest order and she’s a little crazy – that’s why we love her!
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Thank you so much for taking part Charlotte E!
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