This Is Me

This is the story of a girl who got lost along the way. Her journey is one threaded in between that of thousands of others and fate will take its path. Follow your yellow brick road.

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3. Chapter 3

The next day was one of those beautifully blinding summer days that swelters with the summer heat, the sound of grasshoppers filling the sweet summer air. It was hardly the day for a life to end.

I remember my Mums’ two closest friends coming over to help her through the day. Lorna, my best friends’ mum and Casey came over for the day as my Mum went through the stages of saying goodbye to Jess and my Dad began to dig the grave.

There is something very sinister about digging a grave for someone when they are still alive and very much with you.

Me, my Mum and Ellen sat outside leaning against the cool stone wall, just listening to Jessy breathing heavily. Tears welled in my eyes as Lorna and Casey came over with food and drinks, sitting down with us a little distance away. I think they could sense that this was a very private moment.

With one hand I was stroking Jess’s ears and with the other I clung on to Ellens’ hand, my Mum on the other side clinging to my wrist and to Ellens’ other hand. This was goodbye forever, all of us interconnected as one for the last time.

Finally we heard the buzzer for the electric gates as the vets arrived to end a life. I went round to let them in, very very grudgingly and looking back I wish I never had. I remember wanting to punch the grave-looking vet in the face, clenching my fists and grinding my teeth. I don’t think I even said hello. I just pivoted around and left. That was that.

Jess came lumbering round to see who was there, as she always did when guests arrived. I think if she could have understood me I would have told her to run to the hills and not come back until the stupid vet had gone.

The last time I ever touched Jess was then. I leaned down in front of her and threw my arms around her, so tight I swear I would never have let her go if my Mum hadn’t tapped my arm, signalling my time was over. I whispered to Jess that I loved her for the last time and fell into Caseys’ arms, holding back the ever-present tears.

Ellen and I stumbled into the den, our own little living room, onto our sinking red sofa that needed to be chucked out years ago and Ellen pawed through the DVDs, both of us desperate to have the TV on as a distraction. We finally decided on Mary Poppins and with shaking fingers I put it on and put the volume on full.

The next thing I knew, Lorna was bringing in the digestive biscuits and stayed in with us while my Mum was supported by Casey as my Mum help Jess in her final seconds, sobbing ‘I love you’ into her face as her eyes closed for the last time. To this day I can’t watch Mary Poppins without hearing my Mum’s awful disjointed howling in my mind.

When we were little, we always used to have massive bowls to put the washing in to go take to hang out in the garden on the washing line and one of them, the biggest one which was grey, was used as Jessys’ bath tub. Washing her was a traumatic experience as she wouldn’t actually get in in the first place and then if you didn’t keep a firm grip on her, should had the tendency of jumping out and running away.

Washing her used to be a family event where Ellen would guard the tub and me and Daddy would take turn scrubbing her with soap and holding her still, while Mum would just sit on the sofa laughing at our attempts at staying dry while washing Jess (it never worked).

There was a ritual to carry out before getting Jess into the bath. That was: fill up the tub with warm water from the hose which we dragged across the lawn, get out the special dog soap so that it wouldn’t agitate Jess’ skin and set out the towel.

The towel is the part I’m trying to get at. It was an old blue, green, yellow and orange faded patterned towel that got holes in it over the years. It was Jessys’ special towel and we always had to lay it out vertically in front of the tub for her to hop out on when the bath was finally over.

As it was a special towel and a memorial to Jess, Daddy wrapped up her still form in it and gently placed her in the ground. That was the last time I saw Jess. For the last six days of my past life, I went to her grave and cried every day.

Next came saying goodbye to my friends. It’s odd, when I lived in Cyprus I never used to see my Cypriot family at all that much but it’s funny how certain events can really bring you closer.

I remember my Uncle Solon as my Dad’s half-brother who occasionally came to visit with lots of presents for me and Ellen (he even bought me my first ever phone) and to me he was almost a stranger, as was the rest of my family.

My Dads’ family all lived in Nicosia, two hours away from where we lived in Paphos and my Dad moved away from home at a young age, leaving behind everything he knew because he didn’t like Nicosia. But because everyone in Cyprus seems to know each other in some way, my Dad was okay as he knew people here.

I wish it was like that everywhere we go in life.

My godfather is my Dad’s closest and best friend and, because of my Cypriot origin, it is traditional to call your godfather Dada which does of course mean Dada in Cypriot (a slang form of Greek) and your godmother Nouna. My Dada has always been one of my closest friends, as odd as that may sound and I have in fact been in touch with him even today, just catching up on all the Cypriot gossip as he does of course know it all.

Dada came and visited us a lot in those last few days, I think to help support my Dad through having to say goodbye to me and Ellen. I didn’t want to have to say goodbye anymore and by the time my final beach party came round, I didn’t want to say goodbye.

Amidst saying goodbye and packing and burying Jess, I turned twelve and celebrated with my family in the day and with Roland, Karris, Hailey, Abby, my Mum and Ellen as my Dad was at work for the last few days before the summer rush was over and he would need a new job. (He worked at a beach bar on the beach with my friend’s Dad and I loved it there as I got free ice cream and slush puppies every time I went. The guy he worked with was called Savvas and because the beach he worked on had a long winded name that none of us could remember, it is known by many as Savvas Beach.)

I remember what I wore to celebrate my twelfth birthday, I remember where we went to eat and I even remember what we ate, even though that was just over two years ago now. We went to the new grill in town, the Grill House, and  Ellen, Hailey, Abby and I shared a portion of ribs and onion rings. It wasn’t the best but I wasn’t going to let anything ruin my birthday, not even my ever-looming departure from my home and the looking goodbyes I had to make.

I even remember going home and Ellen being sick everywhere after she had eaten too much. Funny how we remember moments, not days, isn’t it?

Do you remember Lorna, my Mums friend who came to see us when Jessy was put down? Well, she and my Mum had been friends since me and Kimon, her eldest son, had been one and a half. Since the first day I met Kimon, even as a baby, I had a crush on him. That did of course make it awkward a lot of the time but he was my absolute best friend and I loved him as he was.

He was half Australian, half Cypriot actually, his Mum being half and half and his Dad being fully Cypriot so yes, he is technically less than half Australian but it’s easier to say half and half.

We went to nursery together, where we first met, at the Little Green Mouse and I think the friends from there are the ones I cherish most, even now. Even as a five year old, I still had the idea that me and Kimon would get married one day and I used to kiss his cheek whenever I could, embarrassing him as much as is possible. Sometimes I miss those days, even if I was making a fool of myself. At least I got to see him.

Then came along his younger brother Jo and then about year after Ellen, was Jules. I miss them all so much.

I remember the day I told Kimon we were leaving, we were swimming in his pool at their house and I think he was the second person I told, after Hailey and Abby. I actually remember being pleased that he looked upset, because that meant he would miss me. Even though we were best friends, I had a crush on him for all those years, even at the times when I persuaded myself I didn’t, even when it was quite clear I did.

He looked at me and told me that he probably shouldn’t be telling me this and I had to swear to secrecy (I pinky promised), but they were probably moving to Australia as well, and their Dad was staying too.

I think I wanted to burst into tears.

I had been happy with the realisation that Kimon would probably stay in Cyprus and fall in love with some other girl and I wouldn’t be there to hold him back and make him feel guilty but I had always thought that he would be the one I could return to when I went to Cyprus for holidays, the one that I could go to as one of my last friends. I guess I was wrong, like so many other times.

The idea that Kimon wouldn’t be there when I went there, especially since Australia is all back to front and the times are odd, was almost killing me inside. I still focused on the future, but now it was tinged black at the edges, the despair and gloom of having to leave worming into my mind and becoming a proper reality for the first time.

What do you tell yourself when you know you’ll probably be all alone?

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