There was only one album I couldn’t bring myself to break. Ryan Adams: “Heartbreaker”. That’d be about right. It was his favourite and even though, right then, kneeling there amid splintered vinyl and ripped sleeves I hated him, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Hated him and still loved him. Heartbreaker.
I had stopped crying by the time Mum got in from work, heard the key in the lock and listened to her moving through the hallway into the kitchen. A tap running. The click of the kettle. The soft tear of her opening that day’s post, probably another reminder of how much we owed. How much things cost. I thought about cost as I looked down, again, at the letter in my hands. The one that had slipped silently out from between the rows and rows of records, undisturbed since he’d gone.
Dear Emily… please forgive me…
Fragments were all that stuck. I hope one day you’ll understand. Look after your mum. She loves you. I love you. Keep playing. Keep singing. He’d even made that stupid joke. Our stupid joke. Two kinds of music Emily: country and western. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to forgive that. What was that other thing we used to say ? All those songs are about escape, that was it. This can’t be what he meant ? Can it ? We were supposed to escape from everyone else, not from each other. You and me and Mum. They were about hope.
Look after your mum.
“Emily ?” Mum was calling from the kitchen. The kettle had boiled and she must have made her tea. “You here love ?” I didn’t answer but her voice was enough to loosen the numbness, to bring me back to the room. I rolled onto my side and pulled my knees up to my chest, choking back the huge sobs that were rising up inside me. I didn’t want her to hear. “Emily ?”. More urgent now, footsteps approaching, padding up the stairs.
She loves you. I love you.
The door swung open and bumped against my feet. Someone was calling my name, pushing harder at the door. I felt my body slide slightly on the broken, shining, black records strewn around me and then there was someone next to me, arms around me, whispering my name over and over, pushing my hair back from my face. There was a moment then, just the briefest moment, when I felt like a child again; like someone else would make it alright and knew what to do. Knew. I pushed her away.
She opened her mouth, covered it with her hands, tears tracing her cheeks and onto her fingers. She was shaking and simply opened her arms towards me, her face contorted with shock. She pleaded.
“I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know.” Her arms were still outstretched. “Please Em. I didn’t know. I didn’t want you to find out this way.” It hurt too much to look at her. She didn’t move, didn’t try to stop me, as I pushed past her out on to the landing and down the stairs. I pulled on my coat and dug my feet into an old pair of trainers, laces still done up, before opening the front door. Escape. That’s what all those songs were about. Escape but not hope.
This is story 30 in a series of 42 to raise money and awareness for the mental health charity Mind. My fundraising page is here and all donations, however small, are really welcome: http://www.justgiving.com/42shorts
This is a bit more of Emily’s story (from previous two posts, Concrete Cowgirl and Broken). I am still undecided whether Emily gets to tell her story in the first person or whether it falls to me in the third. And I’m still not sure if she has a happy ending…