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“Thanks again for doing this for me.” I coo.
“No problem. It’ll only take another couple of minutes.” Brian replies, as he rummages through his toolbox
“Do you want a drink? Juice? Tea?”
“A mug of tea, would be perfect, thanks.”
I shuffle to the kitchen in my slippers, impressed by how clean the place looks. I became bored of the book I was reading, so I gave the place a thorough scrubbing. Before I retired, stacks of dog-eared papers would lie in every corner, and crumbs would moulder between appliciances. I was never a houseproud kind of woman, and Kenneth would roll his eyes if I so much as suggested he do any housework. Kenneth was a good man in many ways, but he certainly had some traditional views about men and women. He wouldn’t be seen dead in a pair of washing up gloves.
Of course, if he were still around, I wouldn’t have to ask Brian to put up the mirror for me. He would have done it in a second. Kenneth took pride in being the ultimate handiman. There was nothing he couldn’t stick, fix or make better. Well. Apart from himself. I pause for a moment before pulling a teabag out of the jar, wondering if I could have said something that would actually have made a difference. No, I decide.
After that first heart attack, I begged and I pleaded. “Let’s go for a walk, get some exercise.” I’d suggest. He’d always grumble, saying that he was watching something on the telly. I tried cutting out red meat, all the things the doctor suggested. He’d get angry, saying he was hungry and he wasn’t going to eat this slop. What was I to do? In the end, it was his body. Those kind of thoughts didn’t make the funeral easier, though.
I walk back to Brian with his mug of tea. The mirror is on the wall, and we stand next to each other and both stare into it. He gazes at my reflection, and I smile like a self-conscious teenager. I loved Kenneth with all my heart, but he had his flaws, bless him. I don’t feel guilty about thinking that and I don’t feel guilty when I have thoughts of Brian. There’s a difference between replacing someone and letting someone else take the empty place they left behind.