Previously: It's Christmas day and Elaine, although apprehensive, joins the merry happenings at breakfast. She was seated with three guys and, sensing her sadness, but not knowing why, they try to keep her occupied. Remember this is an unedited first draft. I've now reached exactly 11.111 words. It's still a mammoth task I've got ahead of me, but if I write a little every day, I guess the novel will be finished by May/June. It gives me half a year to edit and polish before preparing for publishing.
|Cycling along the canal in London|
'Right, everyone.' Susan stood in the middle of the room, cheeks glowing, eyes almost as glittery as the silver stars on the tables. 'Seeing that you guys are enjoying yourself so much, please feel free to open your presents. It's only a small gift, but nevertheless it comes from the heart.' Something in her voice hinted at mischief.
'But she's opened hers already,' a guy shouted, pointing at his girlfriend. Silence.
'So did he,' one of the girls at Mr Obnoxious' table screeched.
Susan threw her arms up in despair. 'Well, what can I say? Kids will always be kids.' Now everyone laughed. The laughter didn't stop when we all opened our presents; it looked like we'd been dropped into a bad Secret Santa game. Gary had a golden necklace with a pony, Ben a shower gel for infants, and poor Ronnie held up a bright red lipstick, which he put on instantly, making him look like a clown. My present was a packet of condoms which had the guys cracking up. Since I had no use for them, I swapped with Gary, the necklace would be a nice gift for Liz, Amy's daughter.
I kept up the façade for a further hour, then excused myself in need of some alone time. The struggle with my feelings had become too much to hide. How could I be happy and laugh—this kind of belly laugh—when I had to miss John? It wasn't fair that he didn't get to experience this with me. I felt terrible for it and then felt terrible for feeling terrible. Again, tears blurred my vision.
'I see you made some new friends, lady?'
'Leave me me alone,' I replied without turning; the last thing I wanted was for Mr Obnoxious to see me crying.
'Gee, relax, man. I was just trying to make conversation.'
I didn't reply, sobs were already trying to find their way out, so I ran up the stairs and just managed to slam my door shut before sinking into a heap onto the floor.
Two hours later, a fresh breeze cooled down my swollen eyes. I'd never thought that humans had so many tears in them, as if there was a never-ending source, like a pool that refilled itself after it was emptied. And they were still hot, a constant stream of pain. Yet they didn't bring any relief. Like a volcano, the hurt bubbled inside me until it became too much and burst to the surface, breaking through the tender process of my healing.
Generally, I thought I was doing much better than a few weeks ago, and being here probably helped, too. I guess the guys thought I'm suffering from a broken heart after my boyfriend left me, why else would a young woman go away on her own? They'd not said a word and I hoped it would stay that way. In that respect, this holiday was doing me the world of good. And I was safe, too, if one took the annoying half-flirtatious attempts of Mr Obnoxious out of the equation. I had no idea what type of women would normally fall for that dross, but with the girls at his table, surely, one of them may. 'Fine by me,' I muttered as I circled around some horse shit. A drove past, two kids in the back waving at me, big smiles on their faces. If you knew what life will throw at you, you'd wish to stay this young, with not a care in the world. With my finishing the thought, they turned around the corner and out of sight. I took a deep breath and pulled back my shoulders. 'Come on, Elaine.' After all, I was healthy, alive, and in this beautiful village, on a lovely day. Mourning John shouldn't keep me from living, should it? I wasn't so sure anymore myself. A gust of wind tousled my hair and I stopped my brisk walk for a moment, closing my eyes. There was no sound to hear, everything was so peaceful. I imagined it was John, reassuring me that everything would be fine, caressing me like he used to do. Soft hands with stubby fingers I learned to love over time. He wasn't a woman's dream on first impressions, but the more I'd got to know him, the more I'd fallen for that man with the receding hairline. The age difference never mattered to us, he was more adventurous than many men my age. He'd been rafting in Australia, been to Africa as a voluntary helper, worked on a farm in New Zealand just for bed and food, he'd done sky diving, and snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately all before we met, although I'd probably not been too open to many of those activities, the safe-player I am. Accepting John's proposal was most possibly the riskiest thing I'd ever done in my life—no regrets there. I doubted I'd ever love someone with that much certainty, increasing with each year spent together, discovering little secrets like on a scavenger hunt, making you more and more curious of what's ahead. I doubted it, and I didn't want it. John can't be replaced. I married him for a reason and if that means I'll have to go to bed and wake up alone every day for the rest of my life, then be it. One could say many things about me, but not that I'm not committed. When I love, I love for good. That's me.