The sun hits my face, I immediately feel the warmth. I take a few deep breaths and feel more able to cope. As I walk down the corridor, the sun shines through and simulates a sea on the blue laminate flooring. Passing through a set of double doors, I clumsily hit my big toe on the metal protection plate. The laminate sea-scape changes to a dull cream corridor. A partitioning blood red strip runs through the middle of the walls. I smell disinfectant, which turns my stomach. So many bad memories. After another set of double doors and another toe stubbing, I see the signs. Stopping for a moment, I take a deep breath. God only knows why, nothing’s going to help. The arrow markers are visible now, ‘this way to A&E’. I put all my focus on them. I feel so sick, like something awful is stuck near my chest, ready to make an untimely appearance all over the cream interior. I count forty-seven arrows by the time I reach the reception.
‘I’m looking for Michael Bedford. He was brought in by ambulance, I followed in the car. He should be here by now?’
‘Ok, my love. Let’s have a check’
My heart is beating in my throat, like when you stop after a fast run and your body takes a while to adjust. You get that metal taste in your mouth, with stringy spit.
‘Can you confirm Michael’s date of birth please?’
’28th of the 1st 1982’
‘And the first line of his address, my love?’
‘8 Langtree Avenue’
‘And you are?’
His wife, Jayne Bedford. I wanted to travel in the ambulance but…well, they wouldn’t let me’
Right on cue the tears start. Snot bubbles, the lot. The kind receptionist hands me a tissue and says that she will go and get an update, that she will come straight back. I lean on the wall opposite the desk to steady myself. Even with the tears, I feel numb. Both families will surely be coming through that door any second, yet all I feel is emptiness. I don’t want to deal with them right now.
‘Hello sweetheart. The doctors are busy with your husband at the moment, but one will be out shortly to see you. I’ll show you to the family room.’
She ushers me into a very small square room and asks if I would like a hot drink. I politely decline, I cannot stomach anything. This room is different to that of any others in the hospital. It’s painted in sickly pastel colours. It has six black plastic chairs, those ones with the holes in the back, so if you have hipster jeans on half of your arse is hanging out. It also has a small square coffee table, blacked legged with a faux wood veneer top. Splayed upon it is a collection of outdated magazines. Those ones that are supposed to make even your most depressive day brighter with their ridiculous, ‘my father shagged a pig, then married her’, headlines. I don’t bother to pick them up. Also upon the table is a vase holding a single white carnation. I’m sure it has a symbolic purpose, but the notion is lost on me.
My attention is drawn to two pictures on the wall, which are frustratingly crooked. One of footprints in the sand with the poem as an overlay, the other, a picture of families picnicking and bathing in a river on a sunny day. It looks like the River Lune. We went there as a family last year. We all loved it, the girls especially.
No. The girls. What will I tell them? I can’t begin to go there, not yet.
I focus on the footprints, irritated at its supposed comfort. Its sentiment is bollocks. ‘It was then that I carried you.’
F off! I can feel no comforting arms around me now. Sat in a room, no bigger than my toilet, with nobody. Nobody at all. So you can shove your poem up your arse.
There is an eerie silence to the room. I start thinking of Mikey. We’re certainly not the best couple. We fight, of course we do, but I do love him. But my god, it can quickly go to hate when we argue. I tell him it’s because I love him so much. He always says that’s bollocks. But it’s true. I know what I mean, or at least I thought I did. If I didn’t love him, I wouldn’t care what he did.
I look back at the picture of the river. It reminds me of our first holiday to Portugal. Praia de Luz, a beautiful place, not much for the children to do, but it was still lovely. It was the first time that I met her, Mikey’s ex. I had heard a lot about her. She was the one that I was always compared to, especially by his family. Their relationship wasn’t altogether straight forward. She was engaged to Mikey’s uncle, they had a child of three when the affair started. Mikey was only nineteen, so obviously thought with his cock instead of his brain. Their affair ended when, after six months, they were caught. His uncle would have kicked the living shit out of him, if he had ever seen him again. Mikey never got to apologise. Sadly his uncle died some years later, after slipping into a diabetic coma.
This is where it gets tricky. When I first met Mikey he used to talk about her, a lot. I thought he still loved her and perhaps I was a consolation, because he couldn’t have her. He insisted it was because he felt so guilty that he never got to apologise to his uncle.
Anyway, we all know how intense forbidden love is. That six months must have been bliss for them both. My problem with it? If she really loved him, why did she not make a go of it? She had apparently come up with all sorts of excuses as to why. Regardless, when it ended, she wouldn’t let him move on. Every time she heard through the grapevine that he had a new girlfriend her texts would start. ‘I still love you and always will’. Messing with his head, all over again.
When Mikey and I started seeing each other, he had just got a new phone and had given me the old one to use. A while into our relationship, the texts started coming to my phone.
‘I was just wondering how uncle Bob is doing? I hear you have a new girlfriend and you really like her.’
If she wanted to know how uncle Bob was, she could have just rang his wife. I handed it to Mikey and he replied saying that he was very happy with me, engaged and had a baby on the way. She didn’t text back.
Unfortunately, we had to meet her. Her son, Will, was Mikey’s cousin and didn’t know about it. What a bloody mess. So whilst on holiday, we agreed to meet.
Mikey was at the bar when she arrived. She clocked him instantly, and went straight to him. Shortly after they came back to the table, Mikey and Will left us to play a game of pool. I could have killed him for that.
After two, too many, vodkas she was spilling her guts to me about everything, all apart from the positions they used to do. She told me that Mikey was the younger, fitter model of what she already had. I attempted to change the subject a few times, to no avail. Instead, I tried to play it down.
‘Yeah, but anyway. It was only a six month thing that happened years ago.’
‘No. It was more than that. We loved each other. I mean.’
Then she stopped. She didn’t have to carry on, did she? I think I got the fucking idea with that one.
I couldn’t make a scene. I would have hated for Will to find out that way. Mikey and he were close. If he found out that Mikey was the reason his parents split it would break him. This made me even madder because that shitbag knew it. She knew that I wouldn’t cause anything, although I have every right to. What twisted cow thinks it’s quite alright to tell me she still loves my fucking husband? I calmed myself down.
Later that night, I spoke to Mikey. He was really understanding, to a point. He said that he didn’t want to dwell on it. However, I needed to process it. I needed to ask a million and one questions. But he was having none of it. He probably loved the idea of two women fighting over him.
Everywhere we went, for the next four days, all I could think was; did they shag here, there, everywhere? I couldn’t handle it. I thought I could, but I couldn’t. After three more holidays, I finally said enough was enough. I couldn’t go back there. The place was stained with their past lust. It sent me fucking crazy and I hated him every time we went.
The door opens. Its Mikey’s mother and step-dad. His brother Sean and sister-in-law Nicola follow. Nicola comes straight over to me and hugs me tight. I don’t hug back, but I do rest my head on her shoulder. She rubs my arm and tells me everything will be ok. His mother pipes up.
‘Has anyone been in?’
‘No not yet.’
‘Bloody ridiculous. I’m going to find someone.’
‘Don’t. They’re busy with him. The lady said they’d be in as soon as they could and that the main thing was he was getting looked after.’
‘I want to know what is happening with my son.’
If she doesn’t get out my fucking face she is going to get that long awaited slap she so rightly deserves.
‘And I want to find out what is happening to my husband. But going out there is not going to help. They need to work on him. They know how worried we all are.’
She seems to accept this and asks where the kids are. I tell her my mum has them. There’s really no point in being shitty. She might be interfering cow but she’s still his mother.
A man in green scrubs enters and gently moves the magazines to perch on the edge of the table. He tell us that he is the consultant. She chimes in, saying she is his Mother, I reiterate and say that I am his wife. He gives me a knowing look and carries on. He explains that the bleed on Mikey’s brain is quite bad, in fact, the worse they have ever seen. Sickness rises in my stomach.
Back home, the paramedics had said that his condition was severe, so I couldn’t travel in the ambulance. But surely he was going to be ok, he only fell down the stairs. I don’t understand. My heart, now beating at twice the speed has moved up into my throat.
The consultant tells me something about sending Mikey’s scans off to some department, to find out if he needs to be transferred to a nearby specialist hospital. I ask if we can see him. He tells me that he will be back soon to bring us in. He just wants to make sure that he is clean. I don’t question this, I just let him go. But, clean? What does he mean by that?
I can’t describe how I feel now. Mentally and physically I’m all over the place. What am I going to do? A bleed on the brain has got to be bad hasn’t it? I can feel the family looking at me, with varying concerned and quizzical expressions. What do they want me to do? I wish they could feel what I’m feeling.
A short while passes and the consultant returns. He tells us that he’s ready to take us through. I get up and I notice a pool of sweat on the chair, like a piss stain. I don’t care. Under other circumstance, I would have died of embarrassment.
We are shown to his cubical. He has a machine breathing for him. A fucking machine. I am dying inside, every part of me is throbbing. There are blood stained dressings around his ears and under his nose. Next to the pipe coming out of his mouth is a big blood clot. I reach for a tissue from his bedside and wipe it away. I am an absolute mess, no words can explain. I lie my head on his chest, I feel it rise and fall beneath me. This steady, pacifying motion makes me think that he’s going to be ok. His breathing seems normal. Then I remember, it’s the machine. Fuck, what about the children? I can’t think of them right now. I know for sure he would go mad if I brought them.
The doctor says that he can hear us. His family begin to talk to him, offering him words of encouragement. I remain silent. We stand there watching the machine breathe for him.
The consultant tells us that they’re ready to make him comfortable up on the ICU. I don’t question what he means by ‘comfortable’. I ask if I can have a moment alone with him. He says yes, and everyone goes with ease, apart from his mother who walks out reluctantly. I cast her a glance to hopefully encourage her to not make an issue over it.
Once alone, I turn to him. My gorgeous man. I wipe more blood from his face and kiss the part of his lips that don’t touch the tube. I run my shaking hands through his beautiful soft brown hair and I tickle his head with my nails. I search his exposed skin for the goose bumps that usually follow my touch, but nothing. My head is empty. It’s just me and him. I stroke his face, like I have done a million times before. It’s just how I like it, with a two day stubble. Even with the tubes and blood he’s the best looking man. I tell him he really is like a fine red wine. He used to always say that he would age well and he couldn’t wait to go grey. That’s not going to happen now. I put my head to his chest again and my tears form a pool in his sternum.
‘Oh god, I can’t go on without you. You’re my rock. You’re my world.’
In my head I’m begging the God, which I haven’t believed in since school, to help us get us out of shit. Promising that I’ll be forever devout and in his debt.
The consultant comes back in, he tells me that Walton specialist unit have been on the telephone and there was nothing they could do. Even though part of me reluctantly knew, since hearing the horrible grunting noises he made at the bottom of the stairs, its confirmation is still awful to hear. Just this once in my life I wanted to be wrong.
‘How long do I have with him’
‘I would say at the very most a few hours. I’m so sorry. We really have done all we can. As you are the next of kin I have to ask about resuscitation. We would just be prolonging the inevitable. He will never come round from the state he is now, the bleed is just too bad.’
I nod there nothing else I can add, I give Mikey one last kiss. As I do, another clot works its way out of his mouth. It doesn’t bother me at all. I grab another tissue and clean his mouth up and then mine.
The family room is only a five minute walk away, but it feels like hours as I return. The door is heavier than I remember. I enter and explain the outcome as best as I can to the others. His mother doesn’t understand. For the first time I don’t get cross with her, and I explain again.
In the ICU, his mother and I are stand either side of his head. His stepdad and Sean are by his waist and Nicola sits in chair near his feet. A nurse comes in and gently tell us that the time is almost here. As she turns the monitors off, she explains that she will confirm when he is gone, as the machine will still keep his chest going up and down till they switch it off. I manoeuvre my face onto his chest, with my hand on his shoulder. His mother strokes his forehead, like she should have when he was a baby. I cannot bear it. I’m now in full guttural sobs. He really was my everything. I really did love him.
It feels as though only seconds have passed when she tells us he’s gone. She says that once the machine is disconnect, we can come in one by one to say goodbye. I can feel his chest still rising and falling. I can’t move. This will be the last time I will ever feel him breathe. The last time I can lie next to his warm body.
‘Please leave the machine on, please. Just let me lie here. Please just one more minute. He’s still breathing.’
‘Oh love. I’m so sorry. I know this is hard, but it’s the machine that’s breathing for him. We need to disconnect him. Please let me take you to the family room.’
It’s my turn to go back and see him. All of the machines are gone. There’s only the tube still down his throat. I want to stay here with him forever. He looks as though he might only be sleeping.
I always watched him sleeping. I used to smile at how lucky I was. When I see him again at the funeral home he will be swollen and cold. Then, after that, I will never see this beautiful face again. This grief comes out in a sound that doesn’t resemble any sound I have ever made before. I kiss all over his beautiful, his handsome, his gorgeous face. I stand back and look at him. Drinking in every crease, every hair, every beauty spot; they’re not freckles apparently. I take a deep breath and I move to his left ear and whisper,
‘I love you with everything I have. I’m sorry, but she shouldn’t have text and you shouldn’t have replied.’
With that I sit down and put my head in my hands and think of my story.