“The Mercedes dealership is sending someone to collect my car so they can give it a service. It won’t be returned until later this afternoon, but just in case I’m late don’t hold dinner,” JM said to Barbara, as they ate breakfast on Friday morning.
“If they can’t return the car to the surgery in time I’ll pick you up, and I’ll take you to the dealership. I’ll follow you home. Can they deliver it here?”
“Hopefully they’ll return it before I’m finished. I only mentioned it so you wouldn’t worry if I’m late.”
“Ring me, and let me know if things aren’t going to plan.”
Dusk was falling and JM hadn’t rung. As Barbara helped with preparing the evening meal, Sophia asked, “Did JM call to say he was going to be here for dinner?”
“Not yet. He’s probably with a patient. He said he’d ring if he was running late.”
“Why don’t you give him a call?”
“Good idea.” His mobile crossed directly to his message service. “Hi, darling, just cooked some pasta. Don’t be too late.” Barbara was trying to tantalize him.
“I’ll wash the dishes,” Barbara said, as she rose from her chair
“If we help it’ll be quicker. Many hands make light work. Isn’t that the old expression?” Sophia replied.
“I’ll take care of it. Why don’t you take Katherine into her bedroom? I might listen to some music when I am finished. JM should be home soon.”
“Are you sure you don’t want any help?”
“I’m fine. It won’t take long.”
The extended buzzing of the intercom startled Barbara.
Whoever’s finger is on the button is certainly persistent. “Who is it?”
“Police. We’d like to speak to Mrs. Harris.”
“I’m Mrs. Harris. What’s it about?”
“We’d rather talk to you in private if that’s okay.”
“Just a minute,” she said, before striding into the living room, to partially separate the heavy drapes. Two uniformed police officers were standing on the stoop, while their police car, with its flashing red and blue lights, was double-parked in front.
This must be about Katherine’s case, she thought, as she returned to the intercom to deactivate the alarm. With the unlocking of the front door, she said, “Come up the stairs.”
As they approached the landing, a feeling of trepidation caused her some concern. I thought they were here to discuss Katherine’s case, but it should be detectives, not uniformed police. Her stomach contracted, and she forcefully gripped the landing’s rail.
“Can we talk inside?” one officer asked.
Although unsteady on her feet, Barbara did not budge. “What’s this about?”
“I think we should talk inside if you don’t mind.” Although the officer was candid, once inside his demeanour changed. In a more sympathetic tone, he said, “I’m sorry I have to tell you this, but Doctor Harris was involved in a car accident. He was in his car when it was hit by a truck.” The officer paused. “He didn’t survive.”
Barbara screamed just as the pain hit her heart.
She woke to find herself lying on the couch. Even with a slightly blurred vision she could still see, and hear, a wailing Katherine, as she stood at the couch’s end, near her feet. She could also see Sophia’s left arm around her daughter’s waist. As Barbara’s head flopped to its left two male paramedics came into view. One was kneeling close to where her head lay, while the other stood at his side.
JM is dead!
The words flooded back as she tried to sit upright, but the kneeling paramedic had placed a gentle restraining hand on her shoulder. “You have to stay lying down. We’re going to take you to MGH by ambulance.”
“I’m not going to hospital. I’m staying here with my daughter.” Her tone should have been ample warning.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Harris, but you need to be under medical supervision.”
Barbara again tried to push herself up from the couch, but the paramedic’s suppression persisted.
“Get your hands off me! I need to be with my daughter!”
Because her agitation was obvious, the senior police officer decided to intervene. “Mrs. Harris, it’d be better if you did what the medic asks.”
I know what’s best, but I need to know more about JM dying. As she again looked at Katherine, she thought, I don’t want her to hear the details of father’s death.
“Sophia? Could you take Katherine to her room while I talk to the police? I’ll be with you shortly.”
After managing a sitting position, with a medic’s assistance, she asked the officer in charge, “Tell me exactly how my husband died.” The mere thought of him not being with them again was almost unbearable, so the tears appeared.
“He was driving his car through an intersection, and, unfortunately, a large truck ran a red light. He died instantly. The truck driver was speeding and drunk. Doctor Harris was taken directly to the morgue. Someone from the coroner’s office will call and request an official identification. We’re sorry for your loss. If we can help in any way, just ask.”
Barbara shook her head. “I need to be by myself.”
To grant her wish the police and paramedics vacated the apartment, and the building. It was only on hearing the closing of the front door did reality strike. Even with Katherine and Sophia in the same apartment, she felt alone.
Before she had time to dwell on her husband’s death, the image of a loudly crying Katherine flashed into her mind. Almost in a rush, she pushed herself from the couch and scrambled to her daughter’s bedroom.
“Katherine, you can speak!” Barbara said, with a raised voice. “Say something . . . anything?” If the circumstances were different, I would be jumping for joy.
“Why is daddy dead?” The painful words passing Katherine’s lips caused her crying to intensify.
Barbara had asked herself the same question, but could only answer, “I don’t know.”
While huddled together in enveloping arms, their crying soon reached a crescendo.
Accentuating Katherine’s grief, for her father, was the realization she had remained obstinately silent for too long.
Over the next few days, multitudes of relatives, friends and acquaintances came to offer their support and condolences. To support their grief-stricken granddaughter and daughter, Barbara’s parents had flown in.
With the funeral arrangements in need of organizing, and the burial plot to be finalized, Barbara was discovering just how daunting a task it was to bury a loved one. Adding to it was her non-acceptance of her husband’s death. Denial can be an insurmountable wall! Sophia thought.
She was finding some solace in Sahra and Lucy’s companionship though. They encouraged her to endure, but at every opening of her apartment door, she expected her beloved husband to enter. Lucy, being Barbara’s unofficial chaperone, came to the fore when it was necessary for Barbara to make the unenviable trip to the morgue for the reluctant viewing of JM’s body. It was a required duty, but a haunting one.