Written and inspired by the heart wrenching novel The Fusilier by David Almond.
I tumbled and twisted through the maze like corridor of the looming mansion. I had to keep my body upright and try not to trip on any large objects which may block my pathway. Unfortunately clumsiness was a habit of mine.
I heard a sharp noise from behind me as I turned a corner. Spinning around on the back of my heels, I began to run for my life, checking out the setting which surrounded me. All appeared to be clear.
Until something moved, within the shadows.
I continued to sprit through the house, never making too much noise if I could help it. The clicking of my heeled shoes did not help in any way, nor did the hoarse breath coming out of my mouth creating clouds of smoke.
The whispers of my name in the wind encouraged me to run faster, to spring away from the haunting of the monsters from under my bed.
But they were no longer under my bed.
When all hope was nearly gone at being capture, the wooden door loomed in front of me, granting me freedom. I reached out a hand, almost touching the handle.
I was so close...
But I wasn't aware of the figure standing over my very shadow.
I woke up, breathless and dripping from sweat.
The mansion was gone, safely tucked away into my dream as I was greeted by my poster covered bedroom walls and the cream carpet of my bedroom. Everything seemed normal. Well almost everything.
I was mum who reminded me.
"Paige honey," She said softly, edging her way into my room. "I've laid out that pretty black dress on my bed. I thought it'd be quite fitting, for today."
It was then that the horrible truth dawned on me that I was forgetting. Perfect as a pictured which had been painted and scarred into my brain. An event that would make today possibly the worst day of my life, that I had been trying to put out of my mind since the date had been decided.
The funeral was pretty sad, even I'll admit. It was full of tearstained cheeks, loud cries and people I'd never met shaking my hand, while echoing 'sorry for your lose'.
All in all, it was pretty lame.
There was nothing no one could do or say that would make the fact that he was gone okay. No matter how many flowers or apologies people would send my way, it wouldn't ease the pain of what had happened.
"Hey Paige, people are starting to take their seats. Are you ready?"
I was barely aware of my younger brother's voice as I stared out across the courtyard, the wind blowing gently into my unmade up face and crispy hair.
"Let's do said." I replied, turning towards the church.
I'm not going to spin you a load of rubbish about what a lovely service it was, or how everyone said such wonderful things about Nick.
Because it wasn't lovely. It was completely and utterly horrific. And when I had to get up to 'say a few words', that's when the torture really reached it's peak point.
As I approached the stand, my piece of crumpled paper in hand, I was completely emotionless. I probably appeared not to care about the total love of my life.
Oh I did, believe me. It was just better to block all emotional feelings out.
"Erm, thanks for coming everyone." I muttered.
I never said that I was particularly good at speeches.
I looked up towards the sea of faces all staring back at me. There was Nick's parents in the front tow, sitting with his spoiled sisters. I noted that my own parents were sitting as far to the back of the church as they could, clearly trying to stay out of trouble. I could spot Jeremy staring down at the floor, trying to stay strong. He loved Nick like a brother.
It was more or less a full house.
The remaining people who occupied the seats would be distant family and friends. Well, people who claimed to be good friends of Nick, such as students from school, most of which had never given him the time of day.
The thought made me sick.
"For those of you who don't know, I'm Paige Nolan." I continued. "I knew Nick from college. Well, that was how we met anyway. There was this party where we got introduced and found we had quite a lot in common. And we were also in the same retake Maths class together. I remember getting stuck on the theory of Pythagoras."
I heard a couple of smothered laughs from the audience.
"Nick asked if I was stuck. I'd told him yes, to me Maths was likea Spanish person reading English. I remember he'd laughed, offering me his assistance. One of the many things I'd loved about Nick, his ability to help others." I paused. "I'd never have passed if it wasn't for him."
A few sniffs from the audience echoed through the silent church.
"Anyway, that's enough about me. Nick is the reason we're here together. Today. And he wouldn't want anyone to be sad. If he could see us crying, tears streaming down our faces at the fact he's gone then he'd tell us to pull ourselves together. He was encouraging like that. Always coaxing over anyone's problems. He'd take on anyone's problems as if they were his own."
I was scared of crying, scared of breaking down. Myeyes stayed glued to the stand, the word I had written blurring in front of me.
"I'm not going to go on for much longer. I just wanted you to know, Nick, that if you can hear me, that I miss you. And I love you."
I tried to keep my voice even, stop myself from shaking.
As I made my way down the platform of the stage, back to my creaky chair, I looked down at the empty seat beside me.
Where he should have been.
I just remember seeing the grave stone. His name printed in big, bold letters, standing out against the black background.
That's when nothing seemed impossible anymore. The image was still in my mind at the reception, when a blur of humans ran up to me, embracing my bones, telling me what a wonderful job I'd done with the speech.
I weekly smiled back, thanking them with about as much generosity as a two year old. I just wanted everyone to leave. I just wanted Nick.
"Paige darling! What a beautiful ceremony!" A girl from college named Veronica came rushing up to me as if we were great friends, kissing both my cheeks.
"Well, I'm glad you liked it." I replied.
She clearly didn't notice the bitter tang to my words.
"I definitely did! Oh gosh, how are you coping? You know, if you need someone to talk to, I'm always here! Ohmigod, we should definitely hang out sometime?!"
If I had to listen to this girl utter the lord's name in vain, one more time, she'll be resting with Nick in the dirt.
"Did you ever even speak to Nick?" I blurted harshly.
Veronica's perfect. pixelated face turned from that milky white colour to deep, velvety red.
"I, erm, I..." She stuttered, doing her usual ditsy face.
My brother must have sensed my adjuration, because he pulled Veronica away by the elbow, muttering something about what a tough time I was having.
"It's a ghastly funeral, it's it?" A voice said to my right.
I turned, expecting to see some awful uncle, ready to comfort me, clutching a box of tissues. But when I locked eyes with Ted Andrews, to say relief flooded through me would be an understatement.
"Teddy!" I exclaimed, throwing my arms around him.
His grip tightened around my waist as I buried my head into his shoulder. His neck smelt strongly of Armani, ascent that made me feel safe and secure.
Although I still longed for a whiff of Nick's Lacoste.
"It's good to see you." I muttered, pulling away slightly.
Ted smiled down at me, his big blue eyes twinkling the way they always do.
"You too, Paige." He said, flashing me his teeth.
We held a moments look.
"Considering the glares you've been giving most of the guests, I'd say that you were having a miserable time." He said.
"Had it really been that clear?" I asked, mockingly.
Teddy laughed, setting the knots in my stomach at ease. What I liked most about Teddy is that he can make such an awful situation appear bearable. Even if it's just for a short amount of time.
"I can't believe that Veronica has the nerve to come today and start feeling sorry for herself. This was supposed to be Nick's day. He didn't even like her, he used to say..." I trailed off.
"That's she was all skin and blonde hair?" Ted finished.
I nodded, biting my tongue.
"I used to get so angry at the fact he'd dare talk about someone that way. Now, what I'd give to heart him utter those vile, tasteless words." I said.
Ted was quiet for a long amount of time. When I shot him a sideways look, he was regarding me quietly, taking in my grieving state.
"You know, for a grieving girlfriend, you still look pretty good." Ted said, giving me a weak smile.
I smiled back, poking him gently on the arm.
"Aren't you the sweetest?" I muttered.
"It was then that I clogged Ted's black, sleek suit. His hair was also perfectly slicked back, resembling silk. A perfectionist is what Ted is known as.
"How are you coping, Paige?" Ted asked, clearly unable to contain the question for any longer.
"Oh, you know. I just try and block it all out." Then, after a moments thought, I added. "Tubs of ice cream also help."
Ted grinned, picking up a napkin from the buffet table. He began to pull off little piece at a time, giving his hands something to do.
"What about you Ted, how are you coping?" I asked gently.
Of course, Ted was just as cut up as I was. Nick and Ted were best friends from secondary school, and all through to college. I even met Nick through Ted myself.
Teddy looked up at me, the twinkle in his blue eyes dying down for a moment.
"Me? Oh I'm not coping." He replied simply.
There was a long silence.
When the reception was finally over, and every last grieving soul had left the building, I was finally allouwed to go home. Mum tried to convince me that it would be a good idea to join her, dad and Jeremy for am meal out, but I refused to let her ware me down.
All I wanted to do was to sleep away a fraction of my pain.
I didn't mind walking home though. It gaveme a chance to clear my head, turn off any unwelcoming sounds by plugging in my headphones.
The sky was blue. Unfitting for the mood of the day.
When I finally slouched in through the door, it was nearly 6pm. I should have been hungry, craving food like I always am after a long day.
But I wasn't/
I shrugged my jacket onto the floor, stripping down into my last layers and crawled beneath the covers of my welcoming bed. I found myself dialing Nick's number, getting his voice on answer phone message. I can hear his smile as he speaks. I've probably listened to the message at least once a day. Every time it cracked my heart a little more.
And as I fell into a sleep of absolute pity, all I could see was his face.