I watch with eyes full of tears as Rose makes her way up the stage, shaking visibly, even from where I’m seated. Danielle’s coffin is place in the front of the stage, white and glistening in the sun that shines on it.
Quite a few people turned up for her funeral which is no surprise. On Sunday I had called the newspaper asking they place an advertisement in the paper, not wanting to be the one to ring all her friends.
As promise, her family called the relatives and they sit beside me now, sniffling as Rose begins her speech.
“Even though I hate to admit it, mum really was my best friend.” People chuckle and I see her eyes brighten a little bit, helping her continue.
I don’t know when she wrote her speech. I never even asked her if she wished to, assuming that she wouldn’t want to because she hates public speaking. It wasn’t until this morning when she handed me her notebook and asked me to check it did I know.
“You want to make a speech?” I had asked, dumbfounded. “You hate making speeches.”
“Its mum’s funeral,” she shrugged. “It feels wrong not to.”
Rose flows through her speech flawlessly, chocking up only once in a while. I can see the strength and pain behind her eyes and the struggle to keep strong. She recounts her favourite memories of her mother, like the time she was angry and they had a paint war together or the time we all tried to eat octopi, only to end up getting food poisoning and we had to stay home all day. It was Danielle’s idea.
By the end of her speech, she had the room in tears. They applaud her loudly and I stand up to help her down the stairs, hugging her tightly when she reaches the bottom. Finally, she can cry.
We bury Danielle in our Church’s graveyard with the senior pastor George conducting the ceremony. The sun isn’t too hot at this time in the afternoon, making for a comfortable gathering of family and friends.
Rose and I cry the whole time together. We try to keep quiet but every now and then one of us will sniffle and let out a loud sob. Many relatives and friends give us reassuring pats on the back, but they do nothing to curb the pain in our hearts. There are only one’s hands we desire and we’ll never receive them again.
After the coffin is lowered and people say their goodbyes, Rose and I make our way back to the car with Tayla in tow. Her parents weren’t able to make it so I offered to take her with us, much to Rose’s gratitude.
The drive is quiet and uneventful. Rose chose to sit in the back with Tayla and they’re both listening to music with earphones in. They’re the old styled ones so I make a mental note to buy them both a pair of better ones for Christmas which is only a matter of weeks away now.
We drop Tayla off and make our way home. This time Rose is seated in the front beside me with her head resting on the window.
“You know,” I tell her, trying to make conversation. “They’re re-inventing the driverless cars.”
“Telcorp?” she lifts her head.
“Yes. They think they might finally have a system that could pull it off properly this time.”
“They all said that,” Rose points out.
Not too long ago, the driverless car made its first appearance in the world. For the first four months everything was uneventful, but then the computer system crashed, killing up to two hundred people when the vehicles lost control. After that, the driverless car was shoved in the discarded pile of great inventions. That was the same year Telcorp first opened and began supplying new and exciting technology to the world. Of course, they immediately began designing a new and better system for the driverless car.
“I don’t know, honey,” I tease. “I think they might have this one perfected.”
“You say that about all their inventions.”
I laugh a little and she joins in.
“Maybe you can take the day off school one day and come visit the lab. One of the geniuses, Timothy, might be willing to show you around.”
“Maybe,” Rose shrugs. “That would be kind of cool. Can you do that though?”
“I don’t see why not.”
I can, but I don’t tell her that. Telcorp is well known for keeping secrets. Everything in the lab and that isn’t authorised for full viewing is rarely witnessed legally by anyone outside of the work force. If I speak to Riles though, maybe he could pull a few strings.
“Maybe Tayla could come to,” I hint to Rose and she smiles lightly before resting her head on the window again.
We don’t have to cook dinner that night. At the funeral many gave us all kinds of meals of comfort so we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking for a few nights. It’s almost annoying because the cooking is a gentle distraction from the sadness, but I appreciate the people’s efforts to help and comfort us.
As our own memorial service to Danielle, Rose and I sit on the lounge room floor and go through some of the photo albums – pointing out old favourites and laughing a little.
“What are we going to do about mum’s studio?” Rose asks at one point and I pause.
“Her friend Kirsty might buy it if she’s still interested in running the place.”
“Where will she get the artwork?”
“Make it herself I guess,” I shrug. We both know it won’t compare to Danielle’s talent.
“Do you think maybe we can go in next weekend and take a painting or two? I’d love to hang some on my wall and, maybe I can save some for when I have my own place.”
“Of course, sweetheart,” I kiss her forehead. “We can take anything we want. Anything that was hers now belongs to us.”
Rose shakes her head.
“It will always be mums.”
We flick on the news later that night, interested and dreading what it might hold. As expected, there’s been more terrorist attacks, mostly on the boundaries. Some are on the outer city.
“People are stupid,” Rose wrinkles her nose in disgust. “They’re only making things worse for themselves.”
“And others, too. People forget that all their actions, every one of them, will affect those around them.” I pause in thought. “I want to say sorry to you, Rose.”
“What for?” she asks in curiosity.
“I’m sorry that these last few years I haven’t been much of a father to you. I’m going to be honest with you, but I’m sure you already know what I’m going to say because you’re smart, just like your mother.”
She smiles lightly and I continue.
“I think that instead of letting my family be the meaning of my life, I let it become my job. Where I was investing my time into it, I should have been putting it towards you and your mother. Because I didn’t I have missed out on so many precious memories that I could have shared with you both and so have you. I’m sorry for not being a good father to you and for you, but I promise to you I’m trying hard to fix up everything.”
“Thank you,” Rose cuddles against my side. “I forgive you. I’m sorry for being a brat of a teenager.”
I laugh and she joins in.
“Just like your parents,” I tease.
The next morning I manage to finish the brochure and eagerly set to work printing them out for Elaine to send off to all my clients. Despite yesterday’s despair, I feel a sense of freedom from the heaviness. I don’t want to ever let go off my wife, but I know each day I need to work hard in building a future for Rose and I. I know that’s what Danielle would have wanted of me.
Tomorrow will mark one week. It already feels like forever. I don’t know how I’ll handle the lonely nights in bed, but I know I’ll find away. After all, I have no choice.
I know I have to start planning for different things such as the clean-up of her studio, packing up her wardrobe, finding someone to clean the house and the most important, try and figure out how to be a mother to Rose.
Out of them all, the last will be the hardest. I don’t want to be Danielle’s replacement, nor do I want to find anyone to replace her. I have never believed in the idea of remarriage or even finding another person to love after you’ve lost your dearest. I believe we all have a soul-mate and I know without a doubt Danielle was mine. You can’t just replace a soul-mate when there’s only one.
That wouldn’t be fair to Danielle or the non-existent future partner.
I bundle up the brochures and make my way outside my office to Elaine’s desk. She’s currently in a phone call and holds up her finger, asking me to wait. I nod and set the brochures on her desk before flicking through one of the magazines.
“Sorry about that,” Elaine tells me after a moment as she sets down the phone. “The phone has been going non-stop today.”
“I’m sorry to add this to your workload, but when you have time whether it’s today or tomorrow, would you mind sending off these?” I push the bundle of brochures towards her. “We want people to get them on Monday.”
She takes them from my hands and smiles are flirtatious grin. Today she’s wearing an orange colour that goes well with her black outfit.
Quickly, I turn away to leave.
“Have I missed something?” Her voice stops me and I turn back around.
Her face is a mask of confusement and anger. Some sadness even touches her eyes.
“What do you mean?”
Her hands move to her hips and she glares at me.
“I mean one minute we’re flirting each day and then suddenly you stop.”
“My wife just-“
She interrupts me.
“You gave me the cold shoulder before the attack even happened that day. I can understand it now, but what did I do?”
Sighing, I pinch the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger.
“You’ve done nothing wrong. It’s my fault.”
She looks taken aback but quickly regains her cold stare. I continue.
“I was and am a very selfish man. I had and still have the most amazing family in the world, but I still seeked more from you then any married man every should. I turned my back on the responsibilities of a father and spouse for outside thrills.”
“Plenty of married men have mistresses,” she points out and takes a step closer to me. “Plus now, you don’t have to worry about being caught.”
She reaches out and runs her hands over my shoulders.
I know I should pull away, but I hold my ground.
She steps forehead again and wraps her arms around my neck to rest her head on my shoulder.
“I’ve always been attracted to you and that’s not about to go away. I know I could have pulled you away from your family, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have me on the side. I don’t mind what I am to you, just as long as I’m something.”
After a moment’s pause, I slowly step back and rest my hands on her shoulders, fixing my gaze on hers through her glasses.
“I know I’ve lead you on ever since you’ve started here. You’re a beautiful girl, Miss Robertson, but this has to end here. You are something to me, a friend. That’s all it will ever be and all it should be.”
Her face falls and she looks down.
“I’m sorry,” I pat her shoulder again and after a moment she sighs with a nod.
“It’s okay. I shouldn’t be chasing married guys, should I?”
“I chased you back,” I point out. “But you’re right. You deserve so much more then to be someone’s mistress or side-chick. I believe everyone has a soul-mate. No doubt yours is out there too.”
She smiles at my words and I feel a budding warmth. I hope I’m making Danielle proud.
“I’ve dated on and off again,” she shrugs. “All guys ever want is sex.”
“I’m sorry I gave the impression I did.”
“It wasn’t an impression though, was it?” she purses her lips and then makes her way around the desk again, taking the bundle in her hand. “What was your wife like?”
“She was lovely,” I tell her with a feeling of pride even though her previous words have left me almost empty. “Very creative, open-minded and smart.”
“She was lucky to have you.”
I shake my head.
“No, I was lucky to have her.”
She smiles at my words.
“I hope I find someone like you.”
“I hope you find someone better than me,” I shake my head. “No good man every cheats on their partners. Don’t let anyone ever do that to you.”
“I’m sure your wife forgives you.”
I thank her for her words and then head back into the office. I feel even lighter than before.
I have to wonder if I should change my job title to something more fitting. By the time my work time is up for the day I’ve only made one more sale. Part of the new job is ringing old customers to survey their opinions on the products and most of them are old with no more money to spend. I don’t mind though. Surveys are some of my favourite parts of the business because you get to chat with the customers.
I store my notes away in the drawer ready to type up and hand to the marketing coordinator at a later date. They use the feedback to improve and change the products. That’s why Telcorp has advanced above other companies – we truly do listen to feedback.
Just like every other day, I give Larry a pinch of fish food before making my way out the door. I smile to Elaine as I walk past and she smiles back, waving goodbye.
“See you tomorrow!”
At home I immediately crash onto the bed. There’s no point trying to plan anything more for Riles and the group because we have to wait to hear from the government if we have their tick of approval or not with the idea. I can’t even try planning it into further detail due to my own lack of knowledge. I know nothing about science or the human body so I suspect everything might have to be left in the hands of Thomas and any other geniuses Marcus can supply to help out. Can a needle change skin colour? Is it even possible to change people’s sexuality?
The questions are what put me to sleep but thankfully my alarm wakes me up ready for Rose to arrive home. I yawn as I walk down the stairs, stretching my arms above my head, just as Rose walks through the front door.
“Hey, you. How was school today?”
“Not to bad,” she leads me through the kitchen where she immediately makes a move towards the fridge. “We had a pop quiz in maths.”
“Oh? How’d you go with it?”
She shrugs and looks down.
“I guess I did okay.”
“It’s okay if you didn’t. I’m sure they understand giving the circumstances.”
“I just hope they don’t make me repeat the year like they’ve threatened to do multiple times already.”
This is news to me, but I don’t comment on it.
“Just do your best and whatever happens happens. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
She nods and eats a spoonful of yoghurt. I can see the tub is running low and I frown to myself before opening the fridge.
Besides some of the meals we had been given yesterday, there’s nothing much left for us to eat.
“I guess you’ll have to go shopping,” Rose tells me as she peers into the fridge.
“Did you want to come with?”
She shakes her head.
“I’m really tired and I don’t feel like going out.”
“I’m thinking we might have to hire a housekeeper. You’re too busy with school and I’m busy with work.”
“If you didn’t go out so late maybe you could do it?” she hints and I pat her head teasingly.
“I’ll work on an ad now. I’ll do some grocery shopping tomorrow.”