The First Time

It was the letters that moved her to tears. Hunched over one of the many cardboard boxes that summed up a different part of her late husband’s life, she could not help but recall the circumstances behind each one. Happy moments, joyful times, all now gone, never to be repeated. It was as though he had died that very day, rather than several weeks ago.

Amber paused for a moment to grab a tissue from the coffee table beside her and dab her eyes. In one instant she’d gone from being determined and focused about moving her husband’s things out of the house – gaining ‘closure’ as they say – to wanting to horde every last tiny detail of his life and their time together. Every photo, every note, every t-shirt, every little trinket, had suddenly become more precious than pure gold to her.

“Pull it together Amber…” She said to herself, standing up and taking a deep breath. The drinks cabinet had suddenly become awfully tempting, but alcohol wasn’t going to help her achieve anything. Instead she steadied herself and forced her feet in the direction of the kitchen. Her bare feet made smacking sounds upon the black and white tiles – she allowed herself a wry grin at that sound – it had driven Eric insane.

On went the kettle, the strangely soothing sound of boiling water permeating her soul. Caffeine was another big temptation, especially in the form of coffee, but Amber settled against it, instead grabbing a ginger and lemon herbal teabag from the little wooden cupboard above the kettle. She let the paper packaging fall upon the black marble-effect worktop and left it there, not feeling the desire to be tidy at that moment. Instead she sat, barefoot and in her warm Doctor Who pyjamas, chuckling at the thought of Eric stumbling across her, tutting in that way he did. ‘The TARDIS is for sleeping in, not lounging in’, he would often say.

Not today it wasn’t. Today she had no plans or wishes to leave the house and would not be dragged out unless the place burned around her.

Why did I decide to do this alone? It was stupid really. Stubborn and stupid. Some of what the home held was going to remain in place forever. Their time together at various sci-fi conventions, all the pictures and memorabilia from those events, would stay up on the walls, symbols of pride in their shared geek-dom. Photos from their wedding day would forever take pride of place upon mantelpieces and units all over the house. None of that would ever go anywhere. The trouble was, Eric had collected so much stuff over the years, that Amber now had to find places for. She couldn’t physically keep all of it around the house but whilst she’d told herself she would donate a lot of it to charities, now she found herself unable to part with one pair of socks. The silliness of it all made her want to scream. The anguish of how senseless his death was… that made her let out a small cry of anger and frustration at the situation she found herself in.

Eric’s parents had very kindly volunteered to help but Amber couldn’t accept that. They would be every bit as crushed as she was, it wasn’t fair to expect them to pore through Eric’s possessions and be reminded of losing their son. It would be hard enough for them as it was. Amber’s parents had also offered to help, but their strained relationship with each other wasn’t something Amber needed to be in the middle of, especially right now. One thing was abundantly clear, she needed help to get through this bit.

Her phone began to ring. The Duck Tales theme tune blared from its tiny speakers. With a sigh Amber pushed herself up off of the floor and crossed back into the living room.

“Amber Cooper.” She automatically answered in her work voice, without checking the number.

Hi Amber, I’m really sorry to bother you, especially now, only, there’s been a breakthrough…” The young male voice quivered ever so slightly with excitement.

“Breakthrough? What do you mean Grayson?” She sat down on her sofa.

Well, you know the calculations you submitted a couple of months ago, the little adjustments you made… they, um, they got tested the other day…” Grayson sounded nervous, timid. Amber had to take a deep breath, suddenly stunned.

“Wait…” She closed her eyes for a moment. “Two things. Who decided to run a test on my calcs without so much as consulting me, and what happened?”

You remember Dr Walsh? He was sympathetic and didn’t want to bother you, so he ran the test a couple of days ago. Been crunching the numbers over and over ever since. They’ve all come back positive.

“Wait, they worked?! The numbers… they fit?” Excitement filled her, just a little.

Yeah. Dr Walsh wants to prepare a paper on them, move them forward to the next phase.

“Not without me he isn’t! That’s my work, it’s been mostly my work and my numbers from the beginning! I’m coming in.”

But you’re on leave…

“I don’t care, I can’t stand this anyway, I need a break from it… from it all. You make sure Walsh does nothing about anything until I’m there and have had a chance to go over everything myself. I’m still joint head on this one so if he so much as types one syllable and tries to take all the credit, you tell him I’ll burn his fingers.”

Yes, but… oh jeez… okay, when will you be here?” Grayson knew when he was beaten.

“Very soon.” Amber hung up, leapt off her sofa and ran upstairs to get changed. No way she was being overlooked for this one.

 

 

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