The other two bedrooms were also empty, apart from a black rubbish bag squatting in a corner. David pulled it open but could not see the contents clearly, so he tipped them out on the bare floorboards. It revealed more papers, some odd socks, a crumpled handkerchief, an old towel and a man’s shirt he remembered her wearing.
He picked it up and held it out in front of him. It was frayed around the collar and the sleeves were still rolled, the way she always wore them. Paint was splashed across the front and the hem was torn.
He held the fabric to his face and breathed in. There was a mustiness there, but it had also distilled her scent, that combination of sweat and wood smoke he associated with her. He held the soft cotton to his lips, then he stuffed the other rubbish back in the bag and stumbled downstairs, clutching the shirt.
He slumped down on the old sofa in the kitchen, remembering how she had looked the first time she had made breakfast for him. He could almost smell the bacon frying and hear the fat spitting. He would have some of that tequila after all.
He found the bottle and took a gulp of the fiery golden spirit. It burnt and stung, but it helped. He took another, and another. She could have told him she was going. He could not have stopped her leaving, but she should have told him. He would have understood. But this way, it was so cruel, so unnecessary.
He stretched out his arms on the back of the threadbare couch and looked around. Her pictures, her furniture, her clothes had gone, but he could still hear her. She had told him once, “I shan’t stay here forever. I’ll go when I know I have made a difference.” And he had asked when that would be and when he would know, and she had just said, “You’ll see, my love, you’ll see.”
So now she had gone, just as she had predicted. And she had made a difference. She had made a difference to him. She had opened his eyes to truth and to questioning the truth. He put the bottle down. Getting drunk would not help. His renewed life, his family and his responsibilities were calling him. He had to go. He had to be a dutiful father and husband once more.
He stood up and then noticed that he had been mistaken. She had not actually taken every single picture from the walls. Hanging on a nail above the cooker was one he did not recall seeing before. In fact it could hardly even be called a picture really for it was simply a photo copy of a drawing of the three wise monkeys, slipped into a plastic folder. David stared at it, then began to laugh. And the three wise monkeys stared back at him. See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil. He laughed again and then began to cry. And her stained shirt absorbed his tears.
to be continued February 4