Every morning, when I wake to face another day, I step into the shower, to wash away the mangled darkness of my dreams. The startling wake-up calls throughout the night, where she walks into my room and says, “There’s a message for you,” and I struggle to wake, to take the call.
Because it’s important, I know that.
But of course, as soon as I’m awake, she’s gone, and I miss the message again.
Daylight always comes as a relief, even when it’s raining. So I get into the shower and stand there, water as hot as I can, and I shampoo my hair, and then —
I reach for the bottle, her conditioner.
It’s not the same one, of course. But it smells of her. I never used to use conditioner, until last summer, when she came home from hospital, and explained it to me.
“Shampoo and conditioner in one bottle is a contradiction in terms,” she told me, as she practiced walking again, and getting in and out of the shower on her own.
“You need to shampoo, and then rinse, and then use conditioner. Leave it on, while you wash. Then you get the benefit.”
I didn’t know that. I remember her laughing gently at me, but my hair looked healthier for doing it the way that she said. It got left behind, that bottle, when she went back into hospital, the last time. Things were rushed.
But I used it every morning. And then I topped it up, when it was finished, and it starts my day. Helps me to face the world without her.
And when she appears, during the night, smiling, and says, “There’s a message for you,” and I struggle to wake, to hear her voice again, there’s a faint smell of her hair, disappearing softly into the night-time.
Well, I’m not going to do it any more. When she comes to me at night, I’m not going to wake up. If I stay asleep, I can hear what she has to say. I can listen to the message she wants to give me. But it’s like a reflex. There she is, and I know she wants to tell me something. Before I know where I am or what I’m doing, I’m forcing my eyelids open, and every single time, she vanishes.
“I’m just not sleeping,” I say to the Doctor. He gives me that long, studied look that Doctors give you, when they know they have only six minutes to make a decision. “Can you give me something?”
“Well,” he says, after a pause. “It’s understandable.” Five minutes later, I have my prescription. Thirty minutes later I have the pills, and I’m sitting in the café, looking out across the river. Sunlight sparkles upon the water, and I feel that everything is suddenly crystal clear.
This time, when she comes to me, I won’t wake up.
Come to me. That’s what her message is. I weigh the little bottle in my hand, and blink into the sunlight. Now I have the necessary.
I tidy up the house a bit, and leave a note. I leave the back door unlocked. I soak in the bath for a while, much more relaxed than I have felt in — well, since she went back into hospital.
Tonight I’ll see her again. Tonight, I’ll be with her. And this time I won’t wake up. I’m not very good at taking tablets. But at last I’m asleep, drifting off into that half-world, and certain that tonight, she’ll come to give me the rest of her message.
At last, here she is. Walking into my room like sunlight, the faint smell of her hair as she moves softly past me.
“Wake up!” she says, urgently. “There’s a message for you.”
That’s funny. She’s never told me to wake up before. And now I can’t. But her face is stern.
“Give me the message,” I say, and she looks into my eyes.
“Wake up! You have to live! I want you to live. Do it for me. Live for me.”
Her eyes fill with tears, and she’s fading now, the sight and the scent of her, just as surely as if I had woken up. But my eyelids are heavy, and I can’t move. Her voice is an echo. She is gone.
Live? She wants me to live?
I fall onto the floor and crawl to the bathroom. My eyes are still refusing to focus. I lean by the toilet bowl and suddenly all the contents of my stomach rebel, and I am heaving and sweating and vomiting. I sit on the cold floor, sobbing. I know she won’t be back again, not now. I’ve heard her message. Then I pass out.
I wake in a lot of pain, from the cramped angle of my neck against the bathroom wall, during the night. There is sunlight, through the window, and I can’t believe the mess I’m in. I try not to look too closely at the toilet bowl as I flush it. I strip off and step into the shower.
Full force. Water as hot as I can.
Live for me.
There are tears pouring down my face, mixed in with the shower. I shampoo my hair.
And I reach for her conditioner.
Because it smells of her, that’s all.
Zena Greene (pen-name) lives in the United Kingdom and writes fiction and articles for magazines in UK. She is a research nurse, and a member of the Society of Authors (UK) and the Lancashire Association of Authors. On Livejournal she is wiltinwickwitch, and welcomes new friends. Hobbies and interests apart from writing are too numerous to mention, but all provide food for thought!