After the school recital, Josh drove the kids home and they ate dinner while they waited for me. Apparently Iris was mad at me and the others were sulking, probably to empathize with their sister.
‘I’ve got an idea. I’ll go and buy ice-cream. We can eat it while we watch an old episode of Charmed.’
‘Not Charmed, Daddy. It’s too scary.’
‘Well, something else, then. How about Everwood?’
‘Well, you choose.’
I know all this because Iris told me. Not once, but a million times. She kept on going over what had happened that day after the recital. In fact, she used to blame herself for her father’s death. It took me a long time to convince her it had been fate.
Josh put on his jacket, told the kids he would be back in half an hour and drove to his death.
It seems he was driving through an intersection when a truck crashed into him. The driver hadn’t stopped at the red light because he was in a hurry to deliver I don’t remember what. The funny thing is nothing happened to him. Not even a scratch. But his truck squashed our car as if had been made of plasticine. And with our car, he also squashed all my hopes and dreams.
The trucker, I heard, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and had to spend two years in prison. I didn’t feel sorry for him, but it didn’t make me happy either. All I could muster was indifference.
The days after Josh’s death went by in a blur. Each of the children grieved differently. Iris cried non-stop, mostly in her room, because she didn’t want to be seen. Josh Jr refused to talk to me. It was as if I had killed his father with my bare hands. Emma became clingy and even slept with me.
‘You will not die, Mummy, will you?’ she asked me.
‘No, sweetheart, of course not,’ I told her. My heart broke when I noticed how vulnerable she was.
The day of Josh’s funeral was sunny and warm for that time of year. It didn’t make any sense. In my mind, such a tragic day should have been grey and stormy.
The children and I got ready in silence. Only Emma spoke from time to time.
‘Do you think Daddy is watching us?’
‘I’m sure he is. He loves you so much. He’ll always want to be with you.’
The funeral was a crying fest. There were lots of friends and relatives present, but I just couldn’t see them through my tears.
It all seemed so surreal. My wonderful husband couldn’t be dead. It wasn’t possible. He was only forty-three. And I loved him. I needed him. How could our life be over all of a sudden?
When I was finally told to shovel some earth onto his coffin, time stood still. I thought I was going to faint, but I didn’t.
I could hear Josh’s voice, loud and clear. Talking to me as he always did when I was upset.
‘You have to be strong, Heather. You have to look after the children and get on with your life.’
I closed my eyes and I saw him, smiling at me. I smiled back.
‘I will, darling,’ I whispered.
‘Are you okay, Mummy?’ Emma asked. ‘Who are you talking to?’
‘I was just talking to myself.’
After the funeral we went back home. It seemed so empty without Josh. Every piece of furniture held a memory. It was so hard! It was then and there that I realized what I had to do next…