I’ve been looking after Angela for you. I’m sure you know that. I think you watch, at least some of the time. I remember once in Burger King, the hand touching the back of my neck when no-one was there. I think it was you saying, don’t eat that crap you fat bastard.

I ate a lot of junk food since you died. I didn’t care about eating, I didn’t want to. But I couldn’t stop myself getting hungry and junk food is easy. Yeah me, the blimp. I didn’t care about the fat at first either.

Angela, she got skinny. Didn’t matter what I got her to eat. Grief is consuming her.

You’ve been gone for more than a year and now all you are is what’s in our minds. Real life moves forward without you. You’re frozen back there, thirteen months ago.

And I’m okay with that. It’s taken me some time and there were days, man, I couldn’t stand it that you were melting away and all I could do was read your old emails and look at photos — the ones of our trip round Europe — wishing you back. Knowing it was impossible but shit, it seemed like you could, that you were only away for a bit and would return. Reading your emails was like listening to you rant on the stupidity of celebrity again. Looking at the photos was like we’d only just flown back home from that manic holiday. How crazy was it that this guy, grinning round a beer in the south of Spain, that he had just finished? It didn’t make sense.

I wasted days not wanting to let you go. I called your number just to hear your voicemail message.

I know Angela did too.

The thing is, we’re locked into this, her and me. I moved in, after you died. To look after her. At first it was good. We talked about you, hours into the night like zombies chewing the fat, remembering you and building you back together with our words and sharing everything we’d ever known about you. Too afraid to not talk in case you started fading too soon. We could share our grief. We were the only people who understood.

Deep down, I think we both knew it had to happen. And it is. You’re disappearing. Every day is another day you never had, another step away from the picture of you. But I’m okay with that.

I can’t tell Angela that. She’s clinging to you, man, like a drowning person clinging to a life buoy. A buoy that’s sinking. And she won’t let it go and figure out there’s ground underneath her feet, she can walk out of the water and – shit. You should see how skinny she’s got.

I woke up one day and saw the fat padding my bones. I ditched the takeaways. I cooked a vege stir fry that night. I’m sure you saw and laughed at my effort. Angela came home and didn’t say anything. I don’t think she noticed. She ate two handfuls of food like usual, before pouring the gins we drink every night. She didn’t hear me say I didn’t want one.

I wonder if she’s noticed the last thirteen months go by. Does she see any further than the next few minutes?

Living with Angela is like living with a scab that I knock every day, the pain flaring back, the bleeding coming afresh. I’m okay with you fading but I can’t let it happen, living here. I’m not allowed.

I’ll always miss you. Sometimes it hurts to breathe, I miss you so much, you know I loved you, like my own blood, like my brother. And I can’t do this anymore. I’m sorry. I hope you can forgive me. I think I’m making it worse for her. I think she’s using me to stay in this wallow she’s dug. It’s for the best, for her.

You probably don’t believe me. It’s for her. It’s for me too, sure, but it’s for her. I have to go. I’m going. It’s time to move on. She’ll be okay. Me gone, it will help.

Keep an eye on her for me.

Kate Murray is a Kiwi currently living in London. Her nightmares involve trying to come up with pithy statements for author profiles. Perhaps the best part about being unpublished is that the nightmares are not reality yet.

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Every Day Fiction