This is the twenty-seventh part of a fiction serial, in 720 words.
For the next couple of years, life was pretty good. By a twist of fate, my old bank bought out the new one I was working for, so I amalgamated my pensions and carried on as manager of mortgages. I even did a local TV interview about the way our brand was appealing to the younger home buyers, and got myself on the front page of the company magazine as a result. All the extra money coming in meant more treats too, but I eased up on the spontaneity. We talked about moving to a bigger house, and went so far as to go and view some a bit further out. But we ended up agreeing we didn’t need anything bigger, and it would just be more to clean and maintain.
I still checked on Becky’s blog during that time, smiling when she raved about our Paris day trip, and how much she loved the bracelet I bought her. She even posted something about what a good idea it had been to change the car, and how much she preferred having four doors to two. The photo on that page was a selfie of her sitting in the driver’s seat. Although she mentioned me on almost every blog post, she never wrote about my job, or my promotion. Her dad seemed to be the only one interested, and when he talked to me about it, she usually tried to change the subject.
Then just before last Christmas, I was shocked to get a early morning phone call from my mum to tell me my dad had died. He wasn’t that old, and had never been ill. She just woke up and found him dead next to her. Becky was at work, so I sent her a text, and another to my work, then drove straight over to see my mum, hardly able to believe what was happening. She had called an ambulance, but they had pronounced him dead, then informed the police who had advised the local coroner. There was going to have to be a post-mortem, and by the time I arrived after struggling with the solid rush hour traffic, the undertaker appointed to remove him had already left with his body.
It was all rather surreal. Neither of us were crying. Mum kept making tea until I thought my bladder would burst, then she asked me to ring around a few friends and relatives. She had already called in to his job and told them. He had been due to retire in two years when he hit sixty, and mum sat and told me about the plans they had discussed about moving to the coast, and doing some travelling by buying a campervan. It sounded as if she was talking about some other people though, not about her and dad. She was detached, drinking cup after cup of tea, and leaving me to answer the calls from anyone who phoned.
Becky had rung me as soon as she finished her shift and saw the message. She was the only one crying. I told her to go home and get some sleep, as there was nothing she could do, so no point in coming over. Mum had told me not to bother to stop over, adamant she would be okay. So I stayed with her for the evening, refusing her offer of making me a huge dinner. We settled for toasted cheese sandwiches, eaten in silence. Both of us had talked enough for one day. Christmas was going to be grim.
Dad’s death was caused by a brain bleed, described as ‘catastrophic’. I took some time off to help mum sort out dad’s things and the funeral, which was a simple cremation held early in January. Freezing cold, and light snow on the ground, followed by light snacks and a few drinks in a reserved room in a Romford pub. Mum wanted to be on her own after, so Becky drove me back to Colindale, constantly asking if I was okay. I think my dad’s death had brought home the mortality of her parents, who were both a few years older than mine.
That was a shitty start to the year. A year that was only going to get worse.
But I didn’t know that at the time.