Searching around on the table next to me I manage to switch on the lamp but the blinding light that now fills the room forces my eyes back to their closed state while I adjust.
Looking around I see the pile of laundry from the bottom step has now disappeared and a still semi-warm grilled cheese sits on the table in front of me, along with a glass of water and an energy drink. I know it’s the only thing Josh can cook so my guess is he was the one they made come to check on me.
I have to get the locks changed.
I’m grateful at least when it appears he didn’t stay here against my wishes, the house completely empty.
Reaching over I take a bite of the sandwich, it’s easier to eat now than before but I still have to swallow almost the whole glass of water just to force it down.
My hair is still damp, most of my curls have sprung back into place after Aleah combed out the knots in the bath but I can still feel the thin layer of water coating every strand. I honestly don’t care enough to fix it.
I just sit for a while, embracing the quiet as the food reenergises my body. It’s still cold in here but I don’t care as I pull the blanket further around me. Turning on the heat is for suckers.
Resting my head on my hands I nestle in further to the fabric and breathe in the scent. Fuck, it still smells like her. That unmistakable aroma of honey and vanilla mixed with her drugstore perfume and the subtle hint of coco powder.
I pull back, glancing at the heavy knitted fabric, my eyes attempting to leak again but I won’t let them. I don’t deserve to cry, I don’t even deserve this blanket.
Discarding the warmth of having her wrapped around me to the floor, I let the chill in the air smash against my naked skin. Dumping the towel on the table and pulling on the tank top Al brought down saps most of my energy, so much so that I don’t even bother with attempting to put on the shorts.
Walking my plate to the kitchen I turn on the tap ready to rinse it, only to realise there’s no one here anymore to shout at me for leaving it the way it fucking is. Granny hated dishes piling up, said it was the sign of a house people didn’t respect. She’d say if you were lucky enough to be granted food, then you should be grateful enough to wash up after it.
Guess I didn’t have to worry about that shit now.
Dumping the plate in the sink, I grasp the counter to keep me upright, shuffling along until I get back to the door. I almost knock something off as I let go and turn just in time to stop a bottle of wine from rolling off and smashing against the tiles.
We never have wine in the house, I felt completely confused until I remembered it was the one I had for Christmas with my bouquet from Connor. Granny had said she was going to make a nice bolognaise so she wouldn’t let me drink it.
Stroking over the label I realise how expensive something like this must have been. It’s not a bottle you’d pick up at a supermarket with a printed sticker on the front, it’s been hand painted, areas on it raised where wax seals sit marking the bottle number. It must have come direct from a fucking vineyard or something.
How did Connor afford something like this?
Not that it matters now. Digging through the drawer I find the corkscrew, pulling out the cork with shaky hands and taking a mouthful straight from the bottle.
Fuck, maybe it’s that I haven’t drank anything in so long, but this tastes incredible.
I take another swig, then another. It doesn’t take long for it to cloud my mind and the pain that was threatening to show itself to cease.
That’s fucking better.
Even the chill disappears as I stumble back to the chair and sink into the worn out cushions. You don’t feel the cold when you’re drunk, in fact, you don’t feel anything when you’re drunk. This is just the way I like it. Why didn’t I think of this before?
I turn my phone on hesitantly as I continue to drain the bottle, finding a confidence I didn’t have before. My eyes scan over the mix of letters as the phone opens up from its shut down but my heart becomes heavy again as my background image comes into view.
It’s one of the pictures from New Years Eve. Al took like a hundred that night, it felt a bit much to put the one of me and Steve I loved so much on here but then I saw this one, one Drew took of the rest of us. I loved everyone was in it, but mostly I loved the way all the rest of them were staring into the camera but me and Steve, we were just staring at each other.
The cage around my heart threatens to give way as I look at those sapphire blue eyes of his searching my soul for the piece of me he could keep. I start to glug the extra happy grape juice until that cage locks it’s self tight and the river that should be my tears washes away the key.
I can hardly see as the screen begins to blare with multiple messages. Most of them from people at the church sending their condolences that I don’t even want to respond to. I see the many Helena, Denise and Valarie have sent me but I can’t be bothered to read them.
Then I see the one name I can’t ignore. I hesitate for a second, before biting the bullet and letting them open.
‘Steve – Brie, we need to talk. I’m so sorry it happened that way. Call me when you’re ready, please.’
‘Steve – I’ve been trying to call you, Josh just told me about Granny. Babe, I’m so sorry. I want to be with you but Josh said you’re not ready. I’m so sorry Brie, for all of it.’
‘Steve – Josh said you won’t come out of your room. Please don’t shut everyone out, please Brie. I don’t know if you’re getting these messages, and you don’t have to respond if you are, but just know I’m thinking about you.’
‘Steve – Please Brie. Please fucking eat something. You’re scaring the shit out of everyone.’
‘Steve – I’m outside’
‘Steve – Fuck Brie, I fucking hate this, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Please talk to me.’
‘Steve – I know this isn’t what you want, I’m so fucking sorry.’
‘Steve – I miss you.’
That last message was four days ago. I guess he didn’t miss me that fucking much.
It’s a sad truth of life that we all try to pretend isn’t there, but we all know it is – We all will find ourselves picking the people who don’t pick us.
He didn’t pick me.
The almost empty bottle slips from my hand to the floor, I can hear the contents splashing out onto the rug. Reaching down to try pick it up again I fall from the chair, hitting my shoulder on the corner of the coffee table on my way down. It hurts like a bitch, again.
Holding onto the couch I pull myself back up until I’m sitting on the edge. I remember overhearing Cole and Jayce talking about getting rid of it but Aleah said that wasn’t their decision to make. I didn’t think I cared at the time...
Stroking over the seat where I last saw her lay her head it almost feels warm, like she was just there a minute ago, a total contradiction to the rest of the freezing room around me. Is she here right now? Granny?
Clutching my phone to my chest it continues to vibrate with alerts, people trying to express their pain in a way I just can’t accept with the state I’m in right now.
I just want to be close to her again. Lowering myself into the space where she left this world, I curl up, pulling my legs to my chest as I cocoon my body in the air of her final moments.
Do you think it hurt? Did she know what was happening? Did she ask for me?
The paramedics told me it looked peaceful, that it was likely a result of her ongoing illness just taking its course during her sleep.
But they don’t know that, right? She could’ve called out for me, if I’d been here I would’ve heard it, I could’ve got her help.
I could’ve saved her.
My eyes close as my phone pings for the final time, my fingers stroking at the picture on the screen as I feel the chill hit me once more.
I don’t allow myself a blanket. I don’t allow myself anything. I just lay here, fetal posed with skin covered in bumps from the growing coldness.
There’s no work for me to do tomorrow, no school for me to attend, no sister for me to raise. I have no real reason to get up again.
So I just lay here, a photo of a past that doesn’t seem my own in my hand and my head filled with the possibilities of a future I’ll now never have.
The one person who could fix it now left me behind with nothing but the imaginary warmth where her body once sat to protect me.