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“Hi Bobby!” Sarah smiles at me as if we were still married. From the way she holds me hands and pecks my cheek, makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I can never bring myself to hate her, even after her betrayal. A part of my soul still lives within her. Seeing her again for the first time in years just makes me want to smile.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve coming here after everything you’ve done to him?” Todd’s uninviting tone brings me back to reality.
Yes, this woman is my ex-wife. And yes, we did have many happy times together. But those happy times cannot wipe away the bad memories, the nightmares, the endless arguments and everything I’d rather just regret.
“And who are you?” Sarah asks Todd. “Are you two dating or are you friends?”
“He’s my future brother-in-law.”
“Oh,” Sarah looks straight at me. “You’re seeing someone Bobby? It’s about time. Congratulations.”
Todd shakes his head. “No I’m Kathleen’s boyfriend. We’ve been dating online for ten years.”
“I thought she died.”
“Well that’s what everyone else seems to think,” Todd says dripping in arrogance.
That guy is a mystery to me.
One minute he’s showering me with sympathy and now he’s acting like an idiot again.
“I’m sure I went to her funeral. And your granddad rang me thinking I was still married to you.”
“All that booze finally caught up with him.”
Talk of the devil, Grandpa charges into my flat in some fluorescent crocs and bright shorts. “Hello everyone!” Grandpa yells as he helps himself to my sofa. “I hope you’re all having a good weekend.”
I’m not good with my dates, but I’m sure it’s Wednesday.
“Is that Kathleen’s new girlfriend?” Grandpa asks me. “She looks like a man to me. I think I like Ruth more, always gave me a good time.”
“It’s early days though,” Todd plays along with a slick smile on his face. “I’m sure she’ll be happy with me.”
“Well I think you’re an idiot trying to ride a dead horse.”
Todd steps back from Grandpa with a wrinkled nose. “What’s that suppose to mean?”
“I know what you mean well, my lad.” Grandpa pats Todd’s like he’s part of the family. “But it just isn’t going to work. You should go out and live your life.”
“That’s what Kathleen said to me.” He must think Kathleen’s family are a bunch of lunatics, especially her suicidal brother. I wish Todd would shut up sometimes because now I have a terrible idea planted in my head. It’s a preposterous idea, but one that just won’t stop growing.
Could Grandpa really be behind those profiles? It would make sense, he knows us better than anyone. No, it can’t be. Grandpa’s losing his mind I know, but he wouldn’t dream of doing anything like this to anyone.
He has bad habits, but he would never intentionally harm somebody like Todd. Grandpa never got into any serious trouble from what I can tell. Then again, they may be lenient on him because he’s a retired copper.
I’ll know the person behind the profiles when I see him or her. I’m going to trust my gut instinct.
Todd claims to be getting constant replies from Kathleen, but when I try to message her, nothing happens. Of course, I won’t hear anything back from her. Whoever is doing this is ignoring me on purpose to try and wind us all up.
I’m even having second thoughts about Ruth of all people. Something is off about everybody and I need to seek the bottom of this if I am ever to find peace with myself again.
“How did Kathleen’s trial go?” Sarah asks out of the blue with a voice so sincere it’s the typical butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-your-mouth façade she’s had going for years?
“She was meant to be going to court. But I never saw anything in the news or internet about it.”
I don’t know how anyone could be so naïve. “There’s no court case.”
“Annie reported Kathleen and Ruth for sexual assault,” Sarah explains like she’s reciting a soap opera magazine. It sounds like something Annie would do, but if it really went as far as it did, why was I not made aware of it? And why wasn’t Ruth brought to justice after Kathleen died? No. It’s not true. Kathleen would never do a thing like that. And I’m sure Todd will back me up on this.
“It’s true,” Grandpa announced, taking off his hat. “We were all going through a rough patch. Annie’s accusations caused a lot of damage. Annie and Kathleen had a terrible fight. You were lucky not to be a part of it.”
“I hope Kathleen kicked the living daylights out of that bitch!” Todd snaps.
Grandpa kicks him. “DON’T YOU DARE CALL MY GRANDDAUGHTER A BITCH. ANNIE’S ALWAYS BEEN SEVERAL MACHINES SHORT OF A LAUNDERETTE, BUT SHE HAS A HEART OF GOLD.”
“Grandpa, please… you’ll wake the neighbours up.”
“So it seems the court case never happened then,” Sarah asks.
Grandpa nods. “That’s right. I managed to talk them out of dropping all the charges, but I think I made it worse. Annie’s lost her marbles. Kathleen stressed herself to death and Ruth has been running around like a headless chicken for ten years.”
Todd rolls his eyes at me. “Hang on! Bobby, didn’t you say that Kathleen had cancer.”
“It wasn’t cancer that killed her it was stress.”
They all venture off into their own world of bickering. I find myself becoming the elephant in the room. Please tell me this is all a dream? This can’t be real. Everything has changed since that fateful jump.
Flashback: Baby Widow
I remember the day that Kathleen passed her driving test. We drove through Annie’s village. It was a year after she got married. She was eight months pregnant at the time. She was sobbing by the tree that she warned us to stay away from.
“Hey!” I said to my sister in the front passenger seat. “Should we pull over?”
Tapping the window with my plastered arm, I could hear Annie’s crying from the other side of the road. “It’s our cousin and she’s crying. Where’s Harry? Why isn’t he doing anything about it?”
Kathleen pulled over outside the local newsagents on the end of the road. She looked at me and me alone, taking no effort to glance over at Annie. “Harry’s dead. Went to Iraq to fight and came back in a coffin.”
“He’s a brave man…” A click of the red button and my seatbelt flied away. My hands went for the door handle, but it Kathleen locked it with a press of a button. I shook the door handle only for Kathleen to slap my hand. “What was that for?” I asked.
“Don’t play with my door like that.”
“I only wanted to go out.”
She stroked my hair, or what little I had of it back then. She could never stay angry for long. “Oh sweetie, why do you want to go outside.”
“We should go and check if she’s, all right?”
Kathleen shrugged her shoulders. “She’ll be fine. Now belt up and let’s go home.”
“We can’t leave her like that.”
“She’s just seeking attention like she always does.”