The radio kicked into life softly, and she felt his arms snake round her waist to pull her closer. She leant back against his warmth gratefully, rested her head against his shoulder. He kissed her neck and she smiled, secure in his arms. His voice was warm, like velvet.
“Did I wake you?”
“No…” She shook her head. “No, I was dreaming…” Her voice tapered off, she didn’t want to remember. “What time is it?”
“Quarter to five. Well, four forty-four to be precise.” His breath warmed her face, and she turned to nestle into him, suddenly fighting back the tears. His grip tightened. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, I’m just being silly. Forget it.” She wiped her face and smiled up at him, eager to show how happy she was. The look of concern on his face, in those eyes, broke her heart, and she reached out to draw him close. “Why do they always play that crappy song at this time of the morning? It’s guaranteed to make me cry.”
He cupped her face in his hands, smoothed the hair out of her eyes, just as he always had. “Tell me.”
So she did.
The radio blared out, and Lucy sat up with a start. That bloody alarm! She’d reset it time and again, but still it wouldn’t work right. “A glitch,” the man in the repair shop had said. “Nothing’s wrong with it that I can see, it should work fine. You’d best replace it.” Then, of course, he’d wanted to show her the biggest and most expensive radio alarms he had in stock. Angrily, she picked it up and fumbled for the off button, sighing with relief when silence descended.
“Same time again?”
“Sorry, love. I didn’t mean to wake you. Yes, 4.44 again. Weird.” She placed it back on the bedside table and turned to face Sam, laid with her head propped on one hand, watching the way he breathed. He lay on his back, one arm splayed out across her pillow, ready to encircle her as it usually did. She watched the rise and fall of his chest, listened to the sound of his breathing, and waited. It didn’t take long. He opened one eye, and smiled at her lazily before closing it again.
“Want to tell me about it?”
“Tell you about what?”
He sighed, and opened both eyes, drew her into the circle of his arm again. “Whatever it is that’s got you so wound up you can’t sleep again. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you were awake before the alarm went off, weren’t you?”
“You know me too well, love. Am I that transparent?” He said nothing, just smiled and nodded, waiting for her to unburden herself, as she always did. “It was just a dream, that’s all.”
“Must have been some dream. You’re shaking.”
“I couldn’t find you.” Even the thought of it brought the tears perilously close again, and she swallowed hard, not wanting to be so soft, upset by something as intangible as a bad dream. And yet… “I was all on my own.”
His arm tightened around her, his voice calm and smooth as he laid her on his chest, lulling her as usual. “I’ll never leave you alone, love. I’m always here, whenever you need me. Always will be, don’t worry.”
She fell to sleep once more, peace regained.
“What’s the time?”
She turned from the window, arms wrapped tight around herself to fend off the chill. “I’m sorry, did I wake you?”
“Yep, not to worry. What time is it?
“4.40.” She grinned, but it just made her look sadder. “I woke up before the alarm again. I wanted to turn it off before it disturbed you. Looks like that backfired.” She stared at the street outside, first touches of light tingeing everything with indigo, rather than the jet black of night-time. “Everything looks so mysterious at this time of the morning, doesn’t it? No lights, no one around. The world’s holding its secrets close.” The clock ticked over, and the music blared out, quickly muted by Sam. “That’s got to be some sort of record.”
“How many mornings has that song played at 4.44 now? Three? Four?” She smiled at him, eyes bleary from lack of sleep. “I could swear someone’s trying to tell us something.” She moved back to the bed, and climbed in, let him cover her up and stroke her face - his concern apparent in every touch-. “I have to get some sleep, before my mother turns up this afternoon.”
He groaned, the humour gone from his voice in an instant. “You don’t mind if I make myself scarce for that, do you?”
“Nope. Kinda thought you would. It’s okay.” She fell asleep crying silently, with no idea why.
Or why she felt so lost.
Just call me…
“Christ!” The radio went flying across the room, only to bounce off the wall and land on the carpet with an insignificant thud. The wall didn’t escape so lightly, and she winced at the dent left behind, along with the tear in the wallpaper. That wasn’t going to be cheap to fix.
“I take it you wanted the bedroom painted again, then.”
“I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me…” Sam got out of bed and retrieved the clock, placed it back on the bedside table before sitting down beside her. She leant into him as the mattress sank under his weight, and shivered at his touch. He felt so cold.
“I do. Your mother.” She said nothing, just let him wait – until he lost patience (as much as he ever did, he wasn’t one for confrontation.) and went on – “She upsets you every time, I don’t know why you let her do it.”
“I don’t let her!”
“You do, love, you know you do. One word from her and all your confidence flies out of the window.” Silence again, and this time he let it go on for much longer – waiting to see if she’d leap to her mother’s defence, as usual. Not this time. He moved to the window, looked out at the sunrise. Was that a tear on his face, glinting gold in the dawn? “You know what’s right, love. You know what you want. Do it your way. For me.” She nodded, and shuddered as a cold breeze swept through the room. It seemed as if it had taken all the light with it, leaving everything grey and chill.
“Sam?” He’d gone, off to do whatever he did when he wanted to be on his own, and she had to let him. He was right. Time to stand on her own two feet, and be strong. She looked out of the window again, watching as the sky paled. “Looks like it’s going to be a very grey day.” Turning to take in the bedroom, and gazing around as if she was seeing it, really seeing it, for the first time, she added: “Very grey.”
“Just call me…”
“Okay, okay, I get it. Now can we please have another sodding song next time? I’m rapidly going off this one.” She felt, rather than heard, Sam chuckle, and grinned tightly to herself as she got out of bed and headed for the shower. When she reached the door, she heard him whisper: “Good girl.”
The rest of the day passed in a blur of meeting people, getting ready, keeping her head held high despite her mother’s best efforts to take things over. Then finally it was time. Three o’clock, St. Martha’s Church, and she stood at the front of the church daring people to feel sorry for her as Sam was carried up the aisle towards her. She wouldn’t let him down.
She didn’t want to listen to the priest. What did he know of Sam? He didn’t know how his love – his support - had kept her going, even when his own body was failing him – all his strength concentrated on getting her through this. Right up to his death, and beyond. She smiled at the thought of the alarm clock. That was just like him. His little joke, aimed at getting her to wake up; acknowledge he was gone, but not far away.
Her mother was beside her, and that was the biggest surprise of all. Desperate to take the burden off Lucy’s shoulders, she’d fought tooth and nail to organise it all, to help her cope, protecting her. And Lucy had gone along with it, to an extent, too numb to do anything else. Now her mother was sobbing like a baby, and it was Lucy who was the rock, holding her close and staying calm. The priest’s voice trailed off, and the pallbearers moved forward, ready to take the coffin - not Sam, no, not her Sam; he was somewhere else. - outside for burial. Tears threatened, and she took a deep breath, determined not to let him down now. Then she looked at the coffin and smiled. There was an enormous white feather resting on top of it, and just for a moment she heard Sam, whispering in her ear: “Told you. Just call me angel.”
The congregation looked on, bemused, at the woman laughing at the front of the church. What mystified those close enough to hear even more, was what she said.
“Oh, Sam. You never could sing.”
©2006 Marie O'Regan
© Marie O'Regan - 2001 - 2017. All rights reserved. Materials (including images) may not be reproduced without express permission from the author.