by Leanne Fitzpatrick
“I love you,” she whispered into her pink cell phone. Nothing but music and the rustle of paper returned what she thought was an open and honest expression. “Did you hear me?” she paused. “I said I love you.”
Still no answer. It was always this way. It would always be this way. Sighing she ended the call and placed the phone in a small black purse. She dabbed tissue under her eyes, quelling the tears before they could damage the mask she had so painstakingly applied.
Outside the people waited. Inside the car the driver watched her through the rear view mirror. Beyond the fencing she could see the flash of light against camera lenses. It was such a beautiful day- and she was thankful for that.
She reached for the door catch, took a steadying death and stepped out into public view.
There weren’t enough seats for everyone in the little chapel. She walked alone behind the coffin. Not even his family stood with her, and that was fine. She had expected no less.
His ex-wife cried, gave a long and winding speech about how wonderful he’d been- how much she had loved him. Not enough to not sleep with other men behind his back, she thought bitterly. His father gave a brief speech, extolling the virtues of a man he hadn’t seen in five years.
She stood quietly at the back. They all knew her- at least, knew of her. What they knew was only what the tabloids wrote. She’d been prepared for that. You didn’t date a celebrity after they divorced their darling-of-the-public wife without being hung, drawn and quartered by the gossip rags.
He would be buried. They wanted him cremated, but she knew what he wanted. They’d wanted him whole. The barely dry ink on their marriage licence gave her the authority to donate his useable organs just as he’d wished. She didn’t know what part of him had gone where, but it was comforting to think about him living on somewhere else.
She grieved for the man she’d loved so completely, and lost so quickly. When she followed the coffin to the burial site she was aware of the photographers, and the muttering from the mourners when the vicar turned to her to throw the first handful of dirt.
She was an intruder at her own husbands funeral.
She didn’t care. Not for them- people that barely knew him, those that leached a life from his good looks and craft. What good had they been when he’d needed help? What friends had they been when he’d found out his life was a lie? Where had they been when he’d begged for help? All these beautiful people, stars of screen and stage… but they looked good on camera, and they mourned to prettily.
She stood there, resolute as they drifted away, gathering in groups and offering pretty, meaningless words to his family, to his ex. Eventually they were gone, to the wake held at his parents’ home. It was understood that she would not be there.
She didn’t want to be there.
Even the paparazzi left, and she stood there with the sun beating down on her back as the grave diggers sweated in the heat, filling up the rectangle cavern that was her love’s final resting place. When they were gone, mumbling their condolences, she eased off her shoes, letting her toes curl in the grass and let out a long sigh of air as she sat down with him.
She pulled the pink phone from her purse and scrolled through the photos. Finally she dialled her voice mail and listened to the automated recording giving her options. She didn’t need to hear them- she knew them by heart.
The recording began to play.
“Amy? I-” In the background soft music played- the song they had danced to after their marriage. Their elopement. Paper rustled and she could picture him putting it all straight, fussing as he tried to restore some order to the chaotic quagmire of his mind. “I love you Amy. I’m so lucky to have met you- I just want you to know I-” More shuffling of paper, and the soft, slow sound of music. “I’m sorry. I tried. We tried… but I’m so tired… I love you so much, but I can’t do this anymore. I’m sorry.”
“I love you,” she whispered, staring at the mound of dirt where he now lay. “Can you hear me? Wherever you are? I love you. I’m pregnant. I found out this morning. We’re having a baby. Don’t worry, I’ll love it enough for both of us, and it’ll know all about you and how amazing you are. Were. Are.”
She reached out, pushing her fingers through the sun heated earth and clasped a handful in her fist.
“I miss you,” she murmured. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you more.”
The recording cut off and she dropped her hand into her lap, letting the heat of the dirt soak into her cold fingers as the sun slowly sank further in the sky, sending the shadows reaching for the chapel.