It’s my birthday tomorrow. Fifty. The big five-oh. I’m not having a party – I’ll be in court. The charge is murder. More than one way to make the occasion memorable. Sorry. I’m being flippant. Fear does that to me. While it squeezes my insides and tightens my spine, my brain seizes on irreverent wisecracks and sarky comments. A defence mechanism, I guess. To hide how close I am to dissolving in terror at my situation.
The authorities find this verbal bravado very difficult to deal with. My lawyer soon cottoned on and told me to button it. Menopausal women with dead husbands are not meant to offer up smart remarks. Too bold. Too hard. It makes people uncomfortable – not least because for a nanosecond they share the humour. An expression of delight and hilarity flashes across their faces, chased away by frowns and winces. They wriggle in their seats, swallow and ease their stiff shirt collars with the hook of a finger. They expect a victim, all soft sighs and shame, begging for mercy. Not a backchatting bitch having a laugh. Different century and I’d have been fitted with a scold’s bridle or floated on the village pond. Instead it’s the Crown Court and the front pages of the nationals.
When the fear gets too large, when it threatens to devour me, like now, I drag my thoughts back to Neil, to what we had, what we shared before it was all narrowed down to one infamous act. The good old bad old days.
I wish he were here with me. He could still me with a look. In his gaze I would find strength and love and an edge of amusement. No matter how dark things got, he always had that sardonic half-smile in him. And things got dark; they are dark. It’s an illogical wish – if Neil were here, I wouldn’t be. He’s the reason I’m here.