The college secretary came to fetch me from my first class, said she was sorry that she had to inform me of such devastating news. She did so, then left me to sit all morning in the college sick bay. The morning sun poured in through the left side window, but I suddenly felt cold all over. I turned to face the wall trembling. My head was spinning. I couldn’t tell whether I felt shocked, angry, upset or all three. Later, the nurse came in and brought me some food. I counted the bells which were knelling classes to a close while I tried to force bitter-tasting sandwiches down my throat.
After a while, I began to feel a little drowsy. I shut my eyes and saw a soft, swirling fog. The billows of fog lulled me into a deep, dreamless sleep. I slept until the next bell awakened me, and I pulled myself up, confused. I shut my eyes and pictured the swirling fog again. This time it felt as if it were choking me, wrapping itself round me, strangling me. I opened my eyes, forcing the image away. I let out a long breath, and stared at the wall. The tiny roses on the wallpaper appeared to fade behind more billowing fog. I suddenly wanted it to wrap me inside it, disappear into thick walls of fog and never come out.
At two o’ clock the receptionist came back and told me that our neighbours had come to collect me and take me home. Of course I was relieved at the thought of going home but my mind went blank again as soon as I remembered why.
When we finally got home, I saw my father standing in the porch. Usually he would greet me with happiness and laughter but this time it was different, just as the rest of our lives would be. I ran to the porch only to witness something that I had never seen before. My father was crying, and he looked as though he had lost everything. He had always taken funerals in his stride. He used to tell us that we should always try to deal with difficult situations without difficulty. I also remember my mother once saying that death never comes too late’, well that was certainly true in this case.
One of my father’s friends, big Jim Evans was standing with my father. He was uncomfortably trying to console him and saying how it was a hard blow, then I left them to talk about the ‘adversity’ as they called it. I walked into the house in a daze, looking for my mother. My head still hurt from earlier but I felt much better. It helped to see my little brother, the baby who cooed and laughed in the pram. I stood there for a moment and watched him rock the pram. He was too young to understand, he seemed confused and bewildered but still laughed and giggled in his pram. “If only you could understand”, I thought. But having thought that, it was good to see something happy, that brought a sense of normality to the day.
As I walked further into our house I felt honoured but embarrassed by old men who stood up to shake my hand. It felt awkward, older men treating me as their equal
with respect, I could usually walk through here as many times as I liked without being noticed at all by anybody. The old men gave me pitiful smiles and told me they were “sorry for my troubles”. I gave them nods of appreciation and walked on to find my mother. I could hear people whispering, informing strangers that I was the eldest, away at school as I walked past them. I had that strange feeling that you get when you know that people are whispering about you right in front of you. I know that they were only pitying us but I really didn’t think that there was any point in whispering about me when I could hear their every word.
I saw my mother and quickly ran over to her. I gave her a long hug as she clasped my ice-cold hands and held them tightly in hers. We had barely said a word. But then what was there to say? Nothing that we didn’t both know already. Mother was not crying but I could tell just how upset she was. She coughed out angry tearless sighs, I know she was trying her very best to hide her true feelings from me but seeing her like this was just as disconcerting. I decided that I just couldn’t. I pulled my hand free of hers and ran upstairs, I just couldn’t bare to look at her in this state any longer.
At ten o’clock the ambulance arrived with the corpse. I heard them come in while I was in bed though not asleep. I couldn’t sleep but I didn’t want to get up. I would go to see him in the morning. The next morning I went up to the room. I hesitated for a while, but walked on. I didn’t know if I would ever feel normal again.