You know when you’re on a long journey and although you’ve done nothing but sit and eat all day, you’re utterly spent? Those times when you reluctantly allow permission to let yourself wander into those dusty, little crevices of your mind that you usually ignore or forgot you ever knew? Or when you’re in a strange place and you see memories of features or expressions of people you used to know in the faces of strangers? I hugged someone I’ve never even met before, at Chrissie’s funeral because she looked so much like her. I thought this holiday would relax me but I’m still so tightly wound and raw. I cry whenever anyone touches me. I hope it doesn’t put off the new kitten from loving me. I need a new friend.
Four hours into an overnight, trans-atlantic flight from JFK to Heathrow, it hit me. I’d worked it all out. It was so simple that it couldn’t possibly be true. The realisation almost winded me. I felt like a nervous tourist who kept patting their pocket to check that their passport and foreign currency were still there.
“Are you awake?” I whispered.
“I am now,” he replied, opening one eye. “What’s up?”
“I think the chest of drawers in the spare room is haunted.” I blurted out.
He breathed out heavily, opened both eyes and wriggled in his seat. “Is there any of that pepsi left?”
“Yeah, it’ll be a bit flat though.” I said, reaching into the seat back pocket. He yawned, scratched his head, gulped some of the sweet black liquid then said,
“go on, then. You’ve woken me up now, so you have to tell me.”
“Ok, right, so the people who lived in Mum and Dad’s house before them were Russian. She was called Joan but her real name was Zia. Josef was actually called Yosef and their son Alex was actually Xander. They all died in that house. The chest of drawers in the spare room was already there when Mum and Dad moved in. Remember when my uncle Alan came to stay last year and he had a heart attack in that very room? Then our cat died. Babs napped on that window seat all the time in winter because of the sun, and Chrissie had slept in that bed loads of times but nothing bad happened until after Alan died. X, Y, Z, A, B, C. Don’t you see?”
He makes a snorting noise like he’s read something funny and shakes his head, smiling. “Aw babe. C’mere.”
I don’t need to say any more. He gets me. He puts his arm around me and I breathe him in as I sob on his chest.
“I think you’re just tired babe. Honestly, furniture can’t be evil. I know it looks like it makes sense right now but it’s just a coincidence. Cool story though. But really, babe, it sounds like you need to get some sleep.”
He was probably right. I was exhausted. I desperately needed answers but the Drs couldn’t give me any, so my mind was creating them out of nothing.
A few hours later, whilst I was in the queue at Passport Control, I switched my phone on for the first time since yesterday morning. I had a few notifications about roaming charges, a couple of texts from Mum and a picture of our neighbour’s newborns.
“Saw Danny and Georgie’s twins, Freddie and Ella. They’re absolutely gorgeous! I’m already knitting! Mum xx”
“Spare room finally finished! Dad took that chest of drawers round next door for the twins’ room. How come babies are so small but they need so much stuff? Mum xx”
Watching people lift (apparently identical) black suitcases off the conveyor belt, my phone pinged with a new text alert. Mum again.
“Blue light ambulance and police car next door. Don’t know what’s going on. Hope those kiddies are ok. Text me when you land Mum xx.”