It was the middle of June, the sun was blazing. It wasn’t a comfortable day to wear black. The heat was unfair on the black clothing everybody dreaded wearing, it was even more unfair that it was such a nice day, for such a bad occasion. It wasn’t easy for anyone stood around the grave. Jay stood at the back, his full black three piece suit was almost unbearably hot, but he was more shaded than most. His aviator sunglasses shaded his eyes from the direct sunlight that came down over the grave. He tried his hardest to hold it together, but his eyes kept welling up. It was the hardest moment of his life, watching as they lowered her body into her eternal resting place, his chest tightened. He felt his heart break once more.
Jay looked around as he tried to compose himself. He noticed Abigail stood alone balling her eyes out just across from him in the grave yard. He could see her trying to compose herself much like he had been doing, but she wasn’t okay, not in the slightest.
He pulled himself together, dried his eyes and walked over to her.
“Abigail...” He started softly.
“Oh god,” she let out an embarrassed laugh as she dried her eyes, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Jay took her hand in his, “listen, I um... I know that we’ve never really been friends so to speak, but she was our best friend. It feels wrong that we never really hung out as a group properly. I know how much she meant to you, so please, if you need anything and I mean anything, just call. I’ll come running. We all need someone to get through this.”
Abigail looked at Jay with pain and relief in her eyes. She wrapped her arms straight around his shoulders, it took him by surprise but he held her tightly and kept her close. He gently rubbed her back as she cried on his shoulder.
“I promise you, it will get easier.” Jay spoke softly.
She held him tightly still for a few moments before dropping back to her feet from her toes.
“Thank you.” Her blue eyes sparkled from the tears she held back.
Abigail watched for Jay as she drove away after the service, she saw him walking down the road with his hands in his pockets and his head hung. She felt sorry for him, he clearly felt like he had to be strong for everyone else with nobody to return the favour. She considered pulling over to offer him a lift when she saw him stop and speak to Richard, Elizabeth’s father, a man that left the house on few occasions. She saw Jay go to greet him with a handshake but get bundled with a hug from his late friend’s father. She smiled to herself and drove home.
“I am so sorry for your loss, Sir.” Jay said as tears rolled down his cheeks.
“No, Jay, I am sorry for your loss.” He replied.
“Sir?” Jay questioned.
“I may have lost my daughter, but you lost your other half. There’s not a time I remember about her that wasn’t inspired by or involving you.” His words somehow warmed and broke Jay’s heart at the same time.
Richard hugged Jay again as he began to see him choke up.
“You don’t have to be strong around me son, you are family. If you need anything, you shouldn’t hesitate to turn to us.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Jay smiled through the tears, “I honestly am truly grateful.”
He signaled for Jay to walk with him.
“You know, my favourite memory of you two is the night of Elizabeth’s 20th birthday.” He began.
“Ah, yes. The night we thought we could sneak into the house at 4am.” Jay smiled.
“After talking outside of the house for 4 hours might I add.” Her father laughed.
“You knew about that?” Jay asked.
“Every Friday and Sunday night if you two had been out on an adventure together you would always be home early but just sit on the front porch talking for hours about everything and anything.” The look he gave Jay was comforting.
“I never knew you knew. It was the best thing though, it was just pure innocent freedom to talk about life. All the years we’d known each other and we were still forever learning new things and never seemed to run out of things to say.” Jay smiled to himself.
Richard put his hand on Jays shoulder and nodded. He offered Jay a ride home but he politely declined. He found the walk somewhat therapeutic.
The next few days were the hardest. Jay kept finding himself wanting to call Elizabeth, occasionally he did just to hear the voicemail. His pain was channeled into a punch bag most nights for a few hours. He began skipping meals, sleeping at random hours, taking time off of work, having random outbursts, and frequently breaking down. He was lost, like tears in the rain. He couldn’t bring himself to face certain people, or go to certain places for a while. He knew it would destroy him even more than her passing already had.
Elizabeth and Jay had spent almost every day talking constantly since she was 16 and he was 18. Eight years later he never expected to be struggling to function because he wasn’t speaking to her. He felt so alone. It’s crazy how attached to someone somebody can get without realising and how much of an impact it makes on their life when they leave. Around Jay’s 20th birthday he had struggled with a morphine addiction that Elizabeth had helped him through. He feared that he would turn to it to once again just to numb the pain a little.
Abigail dealt with things a little different, she took on extra time at work to keep herself busy, if she wasn’t working she made sure she had a project to focus on in her spare time so she didn’t think about the recent loss of her best friend. They had met in college and been the closest of friends since. They met a year after Jay met Elizabeth. Abigail was a shy but creative person, she was often brought out of her shell by Elizabeth. It was a trait that few had seen before their friendship began. Abigail found herself constantly painting or drawing in her free time, often without thinking she would draw Elizabeth. Some nights she would retrace some of her favourite memories and remember their time spent together.
Jay’s phone rang one night, it was about 3am, the number wasn’t saved in his phone. He hesitated but he answered it.
“Hello?” He spoke.
“Jay... I didn’t think you would answer. I’m sorry it’s late...” A soft voice began.
“Abigail?” He questioned.
“I didn’t know who else to call... And you said...” Her voice began to crack.
“I know, I’m glad you called.” Jay put down his pencil and sat back on the chair at his desk, “what’s going on?”
“I don’t really know. I’m just... Lost.” Her words echoed and broke Jay’s heart.
“I hear ya. It’s going to be like that for a little while. It’s just a case of keeping yourself occupied I guess.” Jay tried to comfort her.
“You know, whenever I would talk to her about her problems or my problems, she would always tell me that you were always the best person at lifting her up again.” Abigail smiled to herself reminiscing.
“I was just always talking absolute rubbish to her most of the time. We would always think of the strangest questions or really difficult ones and use them to make each other laugh and forget about everything.” Jay explained.
“Like what?” She sat down on the floor against her bed frame with nothing but her lamp to light the room.
“Well... Okay... would you rather be fingerless or thumbless?” Jay questioned.
“...I don’t really know.” Abigail had to think a moment before answering. “If I have no thumbs I can still do a lot of day to day things like type on a computer at work, or pick up a cup of tea by the handle. I’ve actually tried to do it without using my thumbs because I thought about it before.”
“I would have said pretty much exactly that. If you have only thumbs there’s literally nothing you can really do. You could maybe text someone and play video games still.” Jay joked.
Jay and Abigail sat there in their dully lit rooms talking on the phone for hours, the sun soon began to rise and the birds began to sing. Abigail began to start falling asleep on the phone when Jay told her to go to bed. As she hung up the phone and crawled into bed she smiled to herself. She felt relaxed and relieved that she could forget herself for a while. Jay turned back to his desk and picked up his pencil and carried on drawing. His eyes began to well up and he sighed. He stopped and leant back in his chair again and held his hands behind his head. It was difficult for him to wrap his mind around how she could be gone. The late through the night conversation only reminded him of Elizabeth.
When he finally awoke from his delayed rest he plucked up the courage to visit her grave. He knew it would be difficult but if he didn’t do it now he never would. The day was a little gloomier than the past few weeks, it seemed more suitable. One thing Jay hated was pathetic fallacy didn’t occur in real life, it was a thing of novels, merely an author’s way of making the world seem fair. It didn’t rain on the day of his best friends funeral, it would have been a cliche he could have dealt with, but it seems like irony that the worst day of his life would seem like the nicest. At least today it seemed more forgiving. He sat down in front of her resting place, ran his hand over the words of her gravestone and placed some beautiful roses in front of him for her. He began to talk to the gravestone, he told her he missed her and that he was doing okay. He felt himself start to cry.
“But even though I know I’ll never see you again, I know that I’ll always love you.” He dried his eyes, “I spoke to Abigail. She’s not okay, but she’s trying. She misses you too. I promise you I’ll take care of her for you, I know that you would have wanted me to.”
“Jay?” A voice asked from behind him.
He stood up and turned around to face the visitor.
“Richard, sir. It’s good to see you.” Jay shook his hand.
“What are you doing here, son? You better not be putting to much stress on yourself.” Richard interrogated.
“Not at all sir. I wanted to just keep her up to date with what’s been going on.” Jay pursed his lips trying to keep it together.
“You really are struggling without her aren’t you.” Richard observed. “Come, I’ll take you home. I’ve got something at home you might be interested in.”
Richard drove back to his house and lead Jay into Elizabeth’s room. He picked up a beautiful scrapbook that Elizabeth had been working on.
“She worked on it every time you came back from one of your adventures. I dug it out a couple of days after the funeral, I thought you should have it.” Richard handed Jay the book. “I’ll leave you to look through it.”
As Richard left the room Jay took a seat on Elizabeth’s bed and picked up her favourite old cuddly toy, one he had won her years ago at a fair. He opened the book. Inside was a beautifully pieced together photo album with all kinds of quotes and cut outs mixed into it. Everything was in chronological order and had some kind of memory attached to it. It gave him butterflies. It wasn’t just a scrapbook of good times, it was a photographic story of their entire friendship. He smiled like an idiot at the first page, the mistake of fashion choice they had both made entertained him. He closed the book and began to look around the room a little.
“She was quite fond of you, you know.” A woman stated.
“Mrs Sterling, sorry I...” Jay started.
“Don’t worry pet, she would want you to have something to hold onto her by. I bet there’s a lot in here that hold some memories for you.” She interrupted.
“Actually there is. It’s all got something attached to it, I never knew she kept half of this.” Jay explained.
“Like I said pet, she was rather fond of you. She used to talk about you all the time, much more than that boyfriend of hers. She kept every little thing that held some kind of memory with you, from train and bus tickets, to hotel key cards from your holidays, to little doodles you did years ago, even some old songs you wrote together.” Elizabeth’s mother explained.
“I never knew she thought it was all worth saving, Mrs Sterling.” Jay was shocked.
“Call me Patricia, pet. She was in love with you. In more ways than one. You were her best friend, her partner, her rock, her guide, her protector and her inspiration. Without knowing it you made her the woman she was.” Patricia informed.
Jay opened the scrapbook and saw a picture of her kissing him on the cheek at a Halloween party a few years back, he touched the picture and began to well up.
“We always said we were Bonnie & Clyde...” Jay started.
“Together until we die.” Patricia finished.
“Yeah, that was what we would say if anything was going wrong. If one of us lost faith in anything we’d remind each other that we’ve always got each other to fall back onto.” Jay smiled.
“I know pet. I used to hear her talking about you to that Abigail friend of hers, lovely young lass, quite petite, and ginger.” Patricia explained.
“Yeah, we’ve met briefly. We’ve spoken on the phone a couple of times since Elizabeth’s...” Jay began to choke up.
“Bless ya heart, come on. Let’s get you home.” Patricia walked Jay back out to Richards car.
Jay unlocked his front door and entered his dark one bedroom flat. It was warm, but not comforting. He walked through to his bedroom and laid on his bed. His hands rest behind his head as he got comfortable. His phone buzzed from under the pillow twice. As he checked the screen he saw a message from Abigail asking if he was busy, he replied immediately saying he always had time for her and asked what was wrong. Suddenly there was a knock at his door. Jay made his way to the front door and opened it slowly. She stood in front of him, her beautiful ginger hair drenched from the rain, her coat pulled over her head. He moved out of the way and offered her his hospitality.
“Is everything okay?” Jay asked.
Abigail didn’t say anything, she dropped her coat and threw herself at Jay, her arms wrapped around his shoulders and she held on tight. He wrapped his arms around her and felt her entire body begin to relax.
“I didn’t know what to do.” Abigail stated.
“What’s happened?” Jay asked.
“I just felt myself breaking in public and I knew you lived nearby. I just needed you." Abigail explained.
As she let go from hugging him she looked at his eyes, she could see he was concerned.
“Well, make yourself at home. It’s not much but if you ever need to escape, my door is always open to you.” Jay walked her further into his home.
“How do you do it?” She asked him.
“Do what?” Jay asked confused.
“Stay so positive and strong?” Abigail clarified.
“I don’t. I’m a wreck. In all honesty I wish it was me instead. I constantly have breakdowns, I constantly want her to walk through the door and come back. It’s just a case of when I know someone else, like yourself, needs me then I learn to lock it up for a while and focus on those I care about.” Jay explained to her.
“That can’t be healthy...” Abigail said quietly to herself.
“It’s not. Not in the slightest.” Jay responded as he put the kettle on and fetched some dry clothes for her to change into.
As she got changed she noticed the scrap book on the side in Jay’s room. She opened the first page and smiled to herself, she flicked past a few more and was intrigued. It gave her an idea.
“Okay, so let’s see if I can help you.” Abigail walked out in all of Jay’s clothes with her hair in a messy bun holding the scrapbook.
Jay smiled to himself and handed her a cup of hot chocolate.
“What is your plan? How do you intend on doing that?” Jay asked as he offered her to sit on the sofas.
“This!” She raised the scrapbook. “I wanna sit with you and hear about some of the adventures you guys had. I want you to remember the good that she was in your life.”
“I already remember the good she was in my life, she was my entire life.” Jay replied.
“That’s why you need to look back and remember. It will help with the grieving.” Abigail insisted. “It’ll also help with mine.”
Jay took the scrapbook and sat down next to Abigail closely, she cuddled up onto his side and he opened the scrapbook. She would point at a picture and he would explain what was going on in it. They looked through it until the late hours of the night, both entertained by the stupid things Jay and Elizabeth used to get up to.
“What about this one? This is a really nice photo!” Abigail pointed out.
The photograph was of Jay and Elizabeth stood together on a balcony watching the sunset clearly mid joke as Elizabeth was creased up laughing. Jay smiled to himself.
It was Jay’s 23rd birthday, Elizabeth and Brad had planned a surprise birthday party in Brad’s penthouse suite. Jay was on his way over, for all he knew he was just coming over for a couple of drinks before they went out to town to celebrate together, Elizabeth had told him she was working and wouldn’t be able to join them on their night out. The suite was filled with Jay’s closest friends and their partners. Brad stood on the balcony waiting to see him pull up.
As Jay got out of the Taxi, Brad signaled for everyone to take their places. A few moments later there was a knock on the apartment door.
As Brad opened it and Jay walked in everybody jumped out and shouted surprise. Jay’s face was picture perfect, he was so happy and taken back by the fact everyone had turned up and surprised him for his birthday.
“Happy Birthday buddy. We’re not really just gonna go get a drink if you hadn’t noticed!” Brad put his arm around Jay.
“Dude this is awesome. How did you get everyone here? And everyone is dressed up so nicely too! Good job I didn’t just put on a band tshirt tonight then ey?” He queried.
“I couldn’t have done it alone. I had a little help.” Brad pointed to the balcony.
There she was. In a beautiful dark purple dress, one he’d never seen before. Her long brown hair was wavy and her full fringe barely covered her eyebrows. She looked amazing.
“Go get her buddy.” Brad pushed him towards the balcony.
He walked over and was greeted by a huge hug. It had been quite a while since they had seen each other. She was busy working and he worked whenever he was home and any time off he had was spent travelling with his band.
“It’s so good to see you!” He said softly with a croak in his voice.
“It’s been far too long.” Elizabeth replied as she gripped him tighter.
They stood talking for ages, occasionally interrupted by people coming over and wishing him a happy birthday.
“So when do you start travelling about again?” Elizabeth asked.
“I don’t know. Not for a while now. We came back for good last Thursday. It’s good to be home.” Jay explained.
“I’ve really missed you...” Elizabeth spoke softly.
“Yeah... I’ve missed you too sweetheart.” He replied as she rested her head on his shoulder as they looked at the sunset.
Elizabeth lent on the balcony in thought, Jay moved in next to her.
“What is it?” Jay asked.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate. It’s your night, I don’t wanna make this about me.” Elizabeth tried to divert the conversation.
Jay put his arm around her back and placed his hand on her hip.
“So what are the chances of us pulling an Irish exit on my own party?” Jay joked.
Brad watched them from the party, he watched the way Jay looked at her and the way she looked at him. He saw her nudge him and laugh. Brad took out his camera and waited for the perfect moment. Jay said something and that was it, Elizabeth just started laughing hysterically. Brad took the picture, when he looked at it he smiled. It captured their friendship perfectly.
“It sounds like a beautiful evening.” Abigail stated as Jay finished his story.
“It was... There’s so many memories in here, I’m still so shocked she has them all.” Jay stopped and stared at the book.
“Did you love her?” Abigail asked.
“...yeah. In more ways than one.” He felt a tear fall from his right eye.
Abigail sat up and wiped the tear away from his cheek and kissed him on the cheek. She put her hand on his cheek and smiled with a heavy heart.
“I wish we had a chance to hang out as a trio properly. It seemed to only ever be in passing.” Abigail said.
“She was scared we’d become friends and push her out. I don’t think she realised how much of a part of my life she is... Was.” Jay replied.
“Well, I’m glad that I have you in my life now.” She smiled.
Jay hugged her tightly and held the back of her head stroking her hair with his thumb.
“Thank you...” He whispered.
The hours of conversation passed and soon Abigail fell asleep on the sofa. Jay scooped her up gently in his arms and carried her to the bedroom and tucked her in, kissing her forehead before going to lay down on the sofa. Just as he was falling asleep he heard her quietly walk into the living room, she sat in the space in front of him on the sofa and laid beside him. As she joined him he pulled her in close and wrapped his arms around her. She felt safe in his company. His body warmth was relaxing. He kissed her head and went to sleep, she smiled to herself and nuzzled in closer.
By the time the sun had risen through the clouds and peacefully rest upon the sofa Abigail was sleeping on, Jay was awake and on a mission. He had quietly tidied their mess from the night before and begun preparing breakfast for her. She woke to the smell of coffee and Gypsy Toast.
“Hey sweetheart.” He greeted quietly as he placed her breakfast on the coffee table in front of the sofa.
Abigail sat up and stretched, her hair was messy and her eyes were heavy but she smiled at Jay and mouthed the words thank you to him. Her voice wasn’t ready to make a sound this early in the morning. Jay pottered about and left Abigail to wake up in her own time. She was curled up on the sofa under a blanket struggling to keep her eyes open.
Jay went and took a shower and got himself dressed. As he came back into the living room he noticed Abigail had gone. He walked into the kitchen and found her washing up the mess he had made while cooking her breakfast.
“What are you doing?” He asked as he leant on the door frame.
“Well, you cooked me breakfast so the least I could do was clear up.” Abigail smiled at him.
“You don’t have to do that. It’s my mess, I’ll clear it up.” Jay walked over to her and put his hands on her hips and picked her up and moved her away from the sink.
As she was lifted Abigail let out a little squeal and giggled. She wasn’t expecting him to be able to move her so easily.
“Go get dressed.” He almost ordered.
Abigail pulled a sarcastic face and went to get ready. As she took her clothes off of the drying rack in the bedroom she noticed a little drawing on Jay’s desk. She smiled to herself and carried on getting ready.
“I didn’t know you were an artist.” She stated as she came out of the bedroom.
“I can safely say I dabble in it here and there occasionally.” He confirmed for her.
Jay and Abigail left Jay’s home and headed to the nearest train station.
“Where are you taking me?” She questioned as she followed him blindly.
“Well I thought I’d try to cheer you up by taking you on a day out where you can just forget about all the shit, and just be free.” Jay smiled.