Chapter II

James spends much of the week going about his routine and then logging his day before drinking himself to sleep. He is still troubled by the same dream and in his attempts to avoid it and at least sober up a little, before Olivia is back home, he has cut back on his pain meds, and sleeping pills. But, as a result has not slept since, apart from the occasional passing out into a nap on the settee. Finally, the day he had been eagerly waiting for was finally here.

—7th march, 2017
I spent all day at the St Austell community hospital yesterday with Olivia. Now it feels like a second home to me seeing as how I have spent half of my life there with at least one family member admitted at all times. I was standing in the hallway outside her room looking at her through the big glass window, as she lay there on her bed, like i always did. The doctors were busy telling me something about some sort of therapy and going on about what could be done to ease the pain. And for some reason a large group of doctors and nurses had gathered around Olivia’s room. Some of them were staring at me, like most people do, with pitiful eyes. I guess they knew something i didn’t but i dare not ask cause I was sure that it was the one thing i did not want to hear. Olivia looked towards me, opened her eyes, smiled and with what strength she had, she slowly raised her hand and waved at me to which i smiled and waved back. She knew she was to be left home for some time until the next session and that she was coming home with me today. I could see that she was happy, so was I.

On the car ride back home she barely said a word. Only asked me once about Max and then spent the whole time staring out the window. I wanted to say something but every time I thought of anything to say i stopped and then i didn’t. But as soon as we pulled over the driveway, a smile came upon her face. Oh how i have missed that smile. I got out the car first, ran round and opened the passenger side door and started to slowly help her out the car. She was weightless, as light as a baby. I had never seen someone so feeble, so faint, so helpless… not since Anna and she looked like Anna now more than she ever did. Its been seven years since Anna left us but it feels like i went through this same thing just yesterday. Olivia leaned over my shoulder and grabbed my arm with both her hands, i took a deep breath and we slowly start moving towards the front door.

Almost out of nowhere, Max ran round the backyard and leapt towards us, barking all the way with his tongue hanging out his mouth. I grabbed him by the collar and tried to push him with my other hand. He is a big dog you see, a golden retriever, and i was afraid that in his excitement he might hurt her.

“Its okay dad” she let go off my arm and slowly kneeled down. Then he suddenly calmed down and moved unhurriedly towards her.

“Thats right boy, Olivia is home. Did you miss your big sister?” I said rubbing the back of his head.

“James, dear?”

A familiar, feminine, quivery voice came from the end of the driveway behind us. I turned and saw Mrs.Singh, the widow that lived a couple of houses down the road, standing at the pavement looking at us. She was carrying a colourful weaved cloth bag full of groceries and had a cane in the other hand and, like always, was wearing a purple sari. She is a weird, old lady and her age has always been sort of mystery to me, I mean, she has been the town’s ‘crazy old lady’ since i was a little kid and twenty years later she was still just as she was then. When i was young i spent a lot of time at her house. My mother absolutely adored her and knew her well and so she used to leave me with her instead of hiring a nanny. We weren’t as close now as we were then.

“You alright dear”

“Yes, Mrs.Singh we just got back from the hospital” I said from the other end of the driveway.

Olivia seemed to be occupied with getting reacquainted with Max and as she gave me a nod of her head reassuring me that she was alright, I started walking towards Mrs.Singh. She continued to stare at me the whole time without saying anything. Her eyebrows were in knot and she was biting her lower lip as if she was either rehearsing in her mind exactly what to say or was just confused. As i reached her she brushed my cheek with her coarse, wrinkly, shaky hand which had an earthy smell to it :

“I just heard about Olivia, how are you holding up?”

“we are fine” I said, nodding with my head dropped towards the ground.

“Just be strong dear, the universe works in mysterious ways” she continued as I took a deep breath and nodded my head again with my eyes still fixed to the ground.

“We could never contemplate its plan, I know that life gets hard and unfair sometimes. But everything will be alright in the end”

And with those words she moved her coarse, earthy hands over my cheek once more. A rush of childhood memories and memories of my mother flashed before my mind and I could no longer hold back my tears and just as I was about to let go, I stopped, nodded my head again, turned around and started moving towards the house. when i reached Olivia and Max I whispered :

“Come lets go inside… and guess what’s for dinner?”

“What?” Olivia enthusiastically inquired of me.

“Anything you want”

We enter the house with a smile on our face and as we went in, I locked the door behind me with one hand while still holding her hand in the other. Once we were in the living room :

“You want to go straight to your room? I have the bed made and everything setup” i asked her.

“Lets sit here and watch telly for a while. Then we will order some Pizza”

“Alright” I agreed.

As I was helping her lay on the sofa in front of the telly i glanced out the window and saw Mrs.Singh. She was still standing on the curb, leaning from side to side and slightly hopping trying to get a better look inside our house. I walked to the window and opening the window i said at an increased volume, but not too loud :

“Is something wrong, Mrs.Singh?”

“No dear, just making sure you are alright” she replied faintly from a distance.

“WE ARE!…” I yelled, perhaps a bit too intensely.

“Alright, just… give us a call if you need anything dear”

She was surprised by my tone, I perhaps did yell a bit too loudly. Probably the stress of the whole situation is starting to get to me, but as long as i have Olivia we will be fine. As i stood there by the window i saw Mrs.Singh walking down the road at quite an unusually accelerated pace and she did not stop till she reached her house. After she reached the front door i could still see her just looking fixedly back at our house. For quite some time she just stood there staring in our general direction before she got in. I closed the drapes and sat next to Olivia on the Sofa. She was flipping through the channels :

“So…what are we watching?” She asked just as I sat down.

“IDK, what’s on?”

“IDK…?” she grinned embarrassingly looking at me.

“What?”

“Dad…*sigh*…nobody says that” she said looking up, rolling her eyes.

We spent the whole evening together. For dinner we ordered pizza which is her ‘favourite food’ after which we just stayed on the settee watching whatever was on the telly. I must say, although my eyes were open and my ears too, I did not see or hear any of it. At some point during the evening my mind wandered back to the beach and i could see the sun set on the horizon and i could hear the sea too and Anna and Olivia were there as well. It was all too familiar, i knew now why i have been having the same dream over and over again. Because, it was the last time that we were a family, a truly happy family. It was the last time i saw Anna as she was and Olivia as i want her to be. It is my one cherished memory, one that i can’t ever let go.

At around 10:30 pm, I realised, she now lay with her head on my lap, eyes closed and her arms, and legs pulled close to her body as is a cocoon. I stayed still and did not move a muscle in fear of breaking her feeble bones as i lay my hand over her head. I could feel her heart beating, slow and weary, through the palm of my hand.

“I think I am going to bed now” she said with her eyes closed and at such a low and weak voice that i almost did not hear her. I helped her up, and to her room and after i made sure she was asleep i retired to the settee. I have stayed up writing this log and sleep alludes me—

James looks over to the desk at the bottle of sleeping pills. He reasons that perhaps now that Olivia was asleep he could perhaps take one, just one cause his eyes were so heavy yet he could not sleep.

…..Continued on the next page