When I’m working at the prison, I get home late - such was the case on Friday.
On parking the car, I noticed that Alex’ curtains were open – that meant that he was having a sleep-over at Emma’s parents. Earlier in the day, Emma had set off to help her Mum clear the home of Ruby, her Mum’s deceased aunt. Now back at home, as I entered the living room I noticed that Emma looked like she’d been crying.
Shane: What’s wrong?
Emma: We went to Ruby’s.
Emma: I’m just being silly.
I sat down.
Shane: Talk to me.
Interspersed with snivels, she did:
Emma: You know how I said I didn’t really know her?
Emma: Well I didn’t – and neither did Lou (Emma’s sister) – all we knew of her was that she used to send us presents when we were kids… and we would write to her saying thank you. I know it sounds horrible, but she was just a name really… Then when she got ill, Mum used to go over and see her every so often – she had neighbours and carers who helped her with a lot of stuff, and two sons – neither of them married - who saw her most weeks – I just learned most of this stuff today - I only went cos I didn’t think it would be good for Mum to go on her own.
Emma: The sons had sorted stuff out to an extent – the financial stuff – not cynically, but they asked Mum to sort the personal stuff out when they saw her at the funeral… As soon as we walked into the house, you could feel that it hadn’t been touched for a while – the air was so still, there was a thin layer of dust across everything - and the way the light came in – it was all tidy, but a bit eerie… We had a look in all of the rooms then Mum started going through some cupboards in the hall and in the front room as I just rootled about… just looking at bits and pieces and photographs of people who I didn’t know… and then… there was this photo of me and Lou that my Mum has, the same photo - it must have been taken in about 1982 – it was on the mantelpiece amongst all the pictures of her close family… but, I didn’t know her, it felt like we didn’t belong there – like we didn’t really deserve to be there, so central.
I squeezed Emma’s shoulder.
Emma: …And then… when I went into the bedroom, there was this gorgeous music box in front of her mirror, so I lifted the lid and it played and I opened its drawer and there was a bundle of papers tied really neatly with a pink ribbon.
Emma was now into a full-blown sob.
Emma: …I untied the papers – half-expecting to find them to be love letters or something like that, but… they were all the letters that Lou and me had sent when we were kids – they went from when we were about five right up to when we were teenagers – she’d kept them all. They’d been treasured. It felt so… I felt so bad. It was like we really mattered, and yet I never gave her a thought! It felt awful, it felt wrong.
I couldn't find anything meaningful to say, so we hugged.