To Mend a Broken Heart (2 page)

* * *

 

I wake later and hear music coming from the kitchen. I pick myself up and hobble to the kitchen and find Ginny rolling out pastry singing along to the radio. She is wearing my apron and has flour all over the place, even on her face. The sight actually makes me smile.

 

“You’re awake!” she grins, looking up.

 

“And you’re covered in flour. Why do you have to make so much mess when you cook?” I sit down on a kitchen stool and watch as she places the pastry she just rolled out to one side.

 

“Because it’s part of my magic!” she smiles, “I’m making you sausage rolls. I’ll pop them in the freezer and you can cook them whenever you want to.”

 

“Thank you,” I smile, “Your sausage rolls are the best. They might even tempt me to eat something that isn’t pure sugar and additives.”

 

“You’re right. They are the best. You know what else is the best?” she raises her eyebrows at me.

 

“You?”

 

“Well
yes
, but no. My homemade tomato soup! Which you will find, portioned up and in your freezer also. Along with some bread rolls.”

 

“Ginny, honestly, what have I done to deserve you?” I rest my head in my hands and close my eyes.

 

“And in your cupboards,” she steps back completely ignoring my comment and opens the cupboard to her left, “You will find, cereal and some crisps and nuts. Some tins of fruit and some chocolate digestive biscuits, plain of course and three boxes of those sultana cookies you love so much.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“And your fridge has smoothies and fresh pasta and milk and cheese and everything you’ll need to survive for the next week, okay?”

 

“Okay.”

 

“And I expect it to be empty this time next week, Kate. I want you to eat, you’re wasting away in front of my very eyes.”

 

Ginny is right, I am losing weight. I am losing it fast. Grief is eating away at every single part of me, from the inside out. It has such a firm hold on me, I can’t shake it off. I can’t even if I want to, that requires energy and strength, both of which I don’t have right now.

 

“I’ll eat.” I tell her, not believing the words.

 

“And I want you to get out of this house, come for a walk with me, come over to my house, I don’t care where you go, but you cannot stay cooped up in here. I went into your bedroom earlier and changed your sheets, and I opened the windows, it smells awful in there sweetie.” I watch as she finishes making the sausage rolls and puts them into a container and into the freezer.

 

“Charming.”

 

“It’s the truth. Now, I’ve put a load of washing on and it will be ready in about ten minutes. While we wait for that, I’m going to paint your nails and give you a facial.”

 

“You’re going to
what?
” I look up and scowl.

 

“You heard me, Mrs Blake. I’m going to paint your nails and I’m going to give you a facial.”

 

She heads out of the kitchen and up the stairs. I hear her walking around up there then she comes back down, hands full of my cosmetics and nail varnish. She places everything onto the table and pulls out a chair, holding out her hands indicating she wants me to sit.

 

“I don’t want my nails painted, Ginny.” I huff as I sit down in the chair.

 

“Does it look like I care?” she rolls her eyes at me, “Every woman in the world feels better with their nails painted. It’s a well known fact.”

 

“I’m not going to argue with you. How does Ryan live with you?”

 

“He knows when to zip it, and he has slowly gotten used to the fact, I. Am. Always. Right.”

 

An hour later, my nails are painted red, and my face is shiny and clean. Ginny is grinning at me and I can’t help but smile too. I have no intention of telling her she is right, I do feel a little better.

 

“I have to go. But before I do, I’m putting you a couple of sausage rolls in the oven and I’m making you a coffee.” When Ginny comes back over to me five minutes later and wraps her arms around me, I cling to her and I don’t let go for a long time. When she eventually pulls back, there are tears in her eyes.

 

“You’re going to get through this. And I’m going to be here for you every step of the way.”

 

“Thank you. Not just for today, but for everything. I love you so much, I am so incredibly lucky to have you as my best friend.” I tell her.

 

“Yes you are,” she grins, wiping her eyes, “And I’m lucky to have you too. Now check on the sausage rolls in ten minutes, drink this,” she hands me my coffee, “And try and get some fresh air tomorrow okay?”

 

“Okay.” I nod.

 

“Phone me if you need me. Anytime of the day.” she grabs her handbag and sunglasses and kisses me on the cheek, “I’ll phone you tomorrow before work.”

 

I watch as she walks out of the kitchen and to the front door. She looks back once and blows me a kiss before she closes the door behind her. I finish my coffee, eat my sausage rolls, which are delicious, and then I sit on the sofa and watch reruns of
The Vicar of Dibley.
I even laugh once or twice. Ginny is right, I am going to get through this. It is going to take time, but I will feel better, I will be able to breathe again without it hurting.

I will be okay.

 

I will be okay.

 

Chapter Two

 

 

I don’t know what made me do it. But I’ve done it now so I have to go through with it. Today is my very first day volunteering at the local children’s hospital. After my visit from Ginny, things did get a little easier. I made a conscious effort to try and get back into the light again, figuratively and literally. It has been a little over three months since I lost Richard and I am slowly, piece by piece, getting my life back together. I am eating, I am showering every day and I am getting out of the house. Last week, I found myself sitting holding my phone with the number for the volunteer line at the hospital in my hand. I dialled the number and I waited for someone to answer, and when they did, I explained with complete honesty why I wanted to volunteer, or at least, I tried to. The lady I spoke to on the phone told me she was so very sorry for my loss, and that there was a place here for me when I was ready.

 

“The children here are incredible, Katie. They will welcome you into their hearts and they will keep you there.”

 

“I look forward to meeting them.” I told her.

 

Today I am going to meet them. I am getting ready when my phone rings, I race into the bedroom and answer it. I don’t need to check who it is, I know who it will be.

 

“Are you ready?” Ginny’s voice comes down the line in way of a hello.

 

“I’m just getting ready. I had to stop getting ready because you phoned me!” I smile.

 

“Are you excited? Nervous?”

 

“Both. I think.”

 

“They will love you.”

 

“I hope so.”

 

“I know so. Will you phone me later? Tell me how it goes?”

 

“Of course I will. You’ll be the first person I phone, like you always are.”

 

“Okay. Well, I have to get into work. I’ll be thinking of you, Kate.”

 

“Thank you. Love you.”

 

“Love you too!” she sings down the phone making me smile.

 

Over the last three months, Ginny is what has kept me going. I’m pretty sure, if it wasn’t for Ginny telling me to eat, making sure I did and that got out of the house, I’d be… well, I don’t want to think about where I would be. She is the best friend anyone could ever have. I finish getting ready and head downstairs. My stomach is doing flips so I settle on a glass of orange juice and a banana. When the clock in the kitchen tells me it’s nine-thirty, I grab my denim jacket and bag and head out to the car. When I arrive at the hospital, I find a parking space and follow the signs to the ward I am volunteering on today. My hand is shaking as I press the buzzer to get in.

 

“Hello, who are you here to visit?” a voice comes through the intercom.

 

“I’m um, actually not here to visit. I’m Katie Blake, I’m a new volunteer?”

 

“Oh, good morning Katie, I’m Sally, we spoke on the phone. Come on in!” I’m buzzed in and greeted by Sally a few seconds later. She is small, blonde and smiley. I feel instantly at ease with her. She shakes my hand and leads me to the reception desk.

 

“You’ll need to get your photo taken for your ID, but you can do that later. First of all, let me introduce you to someone,” Sally walks around the desk and to a man who has his back to us.

 

“Katie, this is Daniel.” Sally smiles, at me and holds her hand out, pointing to a man dressed in blue jeans and a blue jumper. She taps him on the back and he turns around. When I get a look at him, my stomach does this funny little leaping thing and I swear a whole lot of butterflies are taking flight in my stomach.

 

“Sally? What have I told you about sneaking up on men.” He grins.

 

“Daniel, I'd like you to meet Katie. She is our new volunteer.”

 

He steps forward and sinks down a little to meet my eyes, he smiles and I feel a sudden rush of warmth wash over me.
What is that?
I look around, up to the ceiling, trying to find a source of the sudden warmth. I can’t find any.

 

“It's lovely to meet you, Katie.” he holds out his hand and I lift mine.

 

He reaches the short distance and takes my small hand in his much larger one. As our hands connect, something I can only describe as a current, runs up my arm and spreads through my whole body making an involuntary shiver run up my spine.

 

“It's lovely to meet you too.” I say in as big a voice as I can muster.

 

“You'll be working together a lot of the time. So I thought it would be good to introduce you.” Sally's voice snaps me out of whatever this daze is.

 

  I still have my hand in Daniel’s, his blue eyes are looking right at me, a small, gentle smile on his lips. Now that I look at him properly, I notice not only how incredibly handsome he is, but how sad his eyes are. There is a darkness behind them, a look of pain. I know the look, I am often told I have the very same one.

 

“It's slow right now, everyone is resting, why don't you both go and grab a coffee and half an hour before it gets busy again.” she suggests.

 

“Coffee? I'm there.” he smiles, a smile I note, doesn’t reach his eyes.

 

He is like two conflicting people. His face is smiling,
and what a smile.
But his eyes are so terribly sad, Daniel has something he is battling with inside, a great sadness that he has to work on every day to conceal.
I know what that feels like.
We walk down to the little staff room on the ward and Daniel holds the door open for me. When I walk past him and into the room, my senses are assaulted with one of the most delicious scents in the world, and it’s coming from Daniel. He smells of clean laundry and warmth and something so manly my mouth waters a little. I look over my shoulder as he comes into the room and moves to stand in front of the coffee machine that sits on the counter. He turns and smiles at me and I feel that odd warmth again.

 

“This machine looks like it wouldn't even be capable of making hot water, but it actually makes pretty good coffee. What would you like?”

 

“What does it make?”

 

“Latte, cappuccino, mocha… I think
.
” he leans over and looks through the cupboards for a pack of little pod things.

 

“Yes. Mocha too. Which, if I’m correct, is a chocolate coffee mix?” he looks at me questioningly.

 

“You would be correct. It just so happens, I love a mocha. So I’ll take a mocha with whipped cream.” I smile at him.

 

“Coming right up.” he smiles at me.

 

I watch him move around and make our drinks. He knows the space well and gets everything ready. He is tall, over six foot, his dark blonde hair is a little long and has that look of hair that is effortless but probably takes ages to arrange. Daniel doesn’t come across as the type of man who would spend ages on his hair, I could be wrong though.

 

“Here we are.” he walks over and places a coffee on the little table in front of me and takes a seat opposite.

 

“No cream?”

 

“We’re fresh out of cream today, M’am.” he smiles at me.

 

“I’ll let you off.”

 

“So you’re going to be volunteering?”

 

He sits back and crosses one long leg over the other, resting his hands in his lap. His eyes are the most amazing blue and still, I see the sadness. Something inside me wants to help him, to find out what caused that pained look, to help him like I need someone to help me right now.

 

“Yes. I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone and meeting the children.”

 

“The children are the most amazing little people you’ll ever meet.” something flashes in his eyes and I want to reach out and hug him.

 

“I have no doubt about that.”

 

“Do you mind if I ask what made you want to volunteer?” he picks up his cup and takes a sip.

 

I take a deep breath and steady myself and my emotions before I try to explain why I want to do this. I’m not sure how to explain it, I’ve not been able to explain it to anyone up till now.

 

“I lost my husband three months ago. We were in a car accident. Ever since then, I’ve felt like…”

 

Daniel leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees, paying me complete attention. The look on his face tells me, he knows what I’m going to say before I say it. That he understands my pain.

 

“I’ve felt like there is this huge void in my life that nothing can fill. That there is so much sadness and pain inside me, it’s killing me from the inside out.” I close my eyes and try to calm myself. Tears are filling my eyes and my chest is aching just saying the words.

 

“I’m so sorry, Katie.” he reaches out and rests his hand on mine.

 

“Thank you.” I’ve lost count of the amount of times someone has said those exact words to me, with that exact same look in their eyes. But this time it seems a little different, it doesn’t seem like he is sorry just for me.

 

“I know a little about how you’re feeling. That void you can’t fill, the feeling of being so completely consumed by grief.”

 

He looks away from me and I see tears in his eyes too, I can see them shining in his blue eyes and my heart hurts for him.

 

“I lost my daughter, Poppy, six months ago.” He looks back at me and all the pain I see in his face I suddenly understand.

 

“Daniel, I’m so very sorry.” I say the words and I mean them.

 

“Thank you, Katie. It was, the darkest time in my life. She was my whole world, the light and the warmth and when she died, she took both of them with her.”

 

His words hit me in the chest like a sledge hammer. I can sympathise with him. I know how he feels to some degree. But I lost my husband, Daniel has lost his daughter and I can’t imagine what that feels like. I don’t really know what to say, what do you say to a man who just told you that?

 

“So I do understand your pain.” he smiles a small smile and squeezes my hand.

 

“I somehow think my pain is nothing compared to yours.” I squeeze his back.

 

“No ones pain is any greater or less. Everyone has their own problems, their own struggles. They may not be the same as your own, but they are just as valid, just as painful.”

 

At his words, a shiver runs up my spine. He is living with the worst possible thing in the world, he has lost his child, and he’s telling me that everyone’s troubles are equal to that?

 

“I think some might just be heavier to carry.”

 

We both pick up our cups and take a drink then. Who is this amazing man sitting in front of me?
How do you even attempt to keep on living when something like that happens? When your child is taken from you?

 

“Can I ask.. About Poppy? I don’t want to upset you. Make you talk about something so painful.”

 

“It is painful, but it is also one of the most joyful things I can talk about. She was so incredibly brave and her memory deserves to live on.” he smiles at me.

 

“Then I’d love to help that memory live on, Daniel.”

 

“She was six when she first got ill. It was so sudden. I thought she had the flu, she complained she ached everywhere, that it hurt to walk. I kept her warm and rested. When she wasn't any better a week later I took her to the doctors. It all happened pretty fast from there.” Daniel leans back and looks out the window.

 

“They ran some tests, but I think the doctor had a pretty good idea what it was even then. Five days later, I was asked to take her to the hospital, to this hospital, this very ward. I was met by a doctor who told me, Poppy’s tests had come back. She had leukaemia.”

 

“Oh, Daniel.” my hand flies to my mouth and tears fill my eyes and spill over.

 

“I stayed with her, through everything. There wasn’t a moment she was alone. Through everything, I was here.”

 

“You’re an amazing father.” I offer, the words not seeming enough.

 

“I did what any father would do,” he shakes his head, “She was doing so well. For a year she fought, she was so brave. She was getting stronger, she was the most incredible little girl. But then she got worse, and they told me, her only hope was a bone marrow transplant. I got tested, I wasn’t a match.” he winces at his own words, the pain at not being able to help his daughter harrowingly obvious.

 

“She was put on the list, and we waited. But the disease ravaged her little body before a match could be found. I was able to take her home, to have her surrounded by her things. I made the most of every moment I had with her, Katie. We watched her favourite films, we did finger painting which was her absolute favourite.” he smiles at the memory and a tear slips down his cheek.

 

I can’t stop myself, I stand up and go to sit next to him, wrapping my arm around his shoulders. He is so broken, so hurt, I feel like he needs to be held together. I’m not sure anyone is capable of doing that, if it’s even possible but I want to try.

 

“Daniel, I’m so very, very sorry.”

 

“We painted her hands, and she printed them on the wall, right in the lounge. Right above the fireplace, with mine right beside them. Now, it’s all I have. She died, two weeks after. In my arms while it snowed outside. It never snows on Christmas Day, but it did that night. The softest, purest snow I’ve ever seen. Like a blanket of feathers.” a sob rips through him and he shudders and cries in my arms.

 

“I shouldn’t have asked, I shouldn’t have made you talk about it.” I rock him a little, trying to stop the heart wrenching sobs that wrack his body.

 

“I have to remember, I have to talk about her. Not to hurts more. She is my baby.” he whispers the last few words.

 

“She sounds amazing, the bravest little girl in the world.”

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