The ghost of the half-empty bed

205 bed 814532“You look knackered,” they say and you feel like it. Six-hour sleeps certainly haven’t done you any favours.

“Early night tonight,” you mumble to yourself unconvincingly.

Life’s never been quite the same since Doris died and the void is so big that you think you’ll never get over it. Still, you plod on, doing your best. It’s just a shame that it’s not quite good enough.

Night times are the worst. The bed seems huge without her petite frame lying next to you and the house is too quiet. Your brother Matthew says that you should have moved on by now, but what would he know? He still has Jane. He might think about the possibility but he couldn’t know what it’s like to lose a soul-mate. How it feels now you’re only a half.

Unbearable, that’s what it is, and you do wonder why you carry on but the little voice, Doris’, tells you that you have to, so you do it for her.

You think Christmases are going to be the worst but as soon as you’re widowed, everyone thinks you’ll hate to be on your own, so invitations flood in. Having people around takes your mind off the day-to-day.

At least there’s the dog to be walked. Billy’s getting a bit slow but he’ll see out another year or two. “Good company” you imagine Doris saying. She’s the company you really want. He was her dog not yours but you look after him all the same. She named him after you.

The alarm finally goes off and you look up. Billy’s there, as always, lying at the end of the bed; on Doris’ side. He looks as miserable as you do, and you smile sympathetically. He doesn’t notice; still fast asleep, and you laugh at his twitching legs. He won’t hear you of course; deaf as a foghorn, just like Doris.

Billy reacts to movement these days, so you edge out of the bed, slowly pulling back the sheets. You imagine Doris shaking her head. She’d upgraded to a duvet years ago but it never suited you. With Doris’ shifting and Billy’s weight, you always ended up with a cold side. You didn’t like to complain because Doris always had other things to think about, but now you’d give anything to swap the sheets for her. You treated yourself, gave the duvet to the animal refuge, but the sheets aren’t how you remember them. You no longer have a cold side but you’re not warm either; the ghost of the half-empty bed sees to that.

You walk to the window and peek through a gap in the curtains. You think that anyone seeing them move will misjudge you, now you’re on your own. You no longer have a wife to hide behind; just curtains.

The snow that started falling last night is now as thick as a doorstop and your heart sinks. But then you smile. Matthew’s house is going to be impassable in this weather and he’ll be too busy with his children building a snowman to think about collecting you. You’ll have phoned to say you’ll stay locally and imagine the smile on his face as he realises he can have a beer or two after scooping up his children when they refuse to come in for lunch.

You will stay locally, very locally. You’ll share the sofa with Billy, something else Doris would have frowned at, wading your way through turkey and trimmings for one. You’ll open a big bottle of malt which you’ll raise to the health of the Queen. Yours isn’t so good these days but you don’t complain. You’ll wait for Billy then have your early night and look for Doris’ smile.


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