The inflatable Darth Vader in the hallway keeps making me jump. It catches me unawares as I nip to the downstairs toilet, go to answer the front door or pick up the post. It is a dark shadow lurking in my peripheral vision, about the same height as you were; three foot or thereabouts. In that instant when my brain forgets, I wonder if there is somebody standing there, if it is you come back somehow.
Your Mum wouldn’t have it in your house. I remember her bringing it over, saying ‘you’ve got more room for things like this here,’ and setting it down with a smirk. I hadn’t the heart to say we wouldn’t have it either. When you turned it on, it started making those heavy breathing noises and then you took out the controller and started moving it up and down the parquet and I realised the full extent of its robotic capabilities. I’ll admit, I did wonder if after a while I might be able to accidentally puncture it whilst hoovering whilst you were at nursery.
I tried putting it in the garage, but every time you came over it was the first thing you asked for. You loved chasing the cat with it, dressing it in different hats and scarves, pinning me into corners in the kitchen with it as I made your lunches, and so in the end it stayed in the hallway like a quirky piece of furniture, waiting for your next visit.
That afternoon, I came home with Fred in my black pencil skirt, hung up my jacket and slipped off my court shoes by the front door. It was there waiting, holding its light sabre aloft. It seemed to have an indignant look on its face, as if it had been denied the one thing it wanted, its sole reason for being. I know how you feel I thought. Keep busy, I told myself. Don’t stop or you’ll never get going again. I went upstairs to strip the beds, open the windows, let in some air.
As I was loading the washer I felt the first pain. It was sharp and unrelenting, like somebody squeezing my heart in a tight fist, trying to wring out every last drop of blood. I leaned on the counter, knowing it wasn’t right, but thinking that maybe it was a manifestation of grief and might pass soon. I went back through the hallway to the lounge, to the safety of soft furnishings and carpets. I saw it again in the corner as I passed and I thought that if this was my time to go then that wouldn’t be so bad.
I leaned back on the sofa cushions and called to Fred, only half-hoping he’d hear me. He called the ambulance and that’s how I ended up in the hospital with a cardiologist telling me it wasn’t really a heart attack; it was this thing called Takotsubo that had made my heart stretch out of shape. He said it was the shock of your death that did it, but I’d probably make a full recovery. I decided right then that he knew nothing about bereavement. Fred asked why it had such a strange name and the doctor said it was from the Japanese, something about the clay pots fishermen use to catch octopuses, and how they looked like the shape of my left ventricle. He drew a diagram on some paper and I wondered how an animal as intelligent as an octopus could get trapped so easily in an open necked clay pot. Maybe they were too trusting I thought, thinking they had found somewhere nice to rest, then finding themselves ripped out of the water before they realised what was going on. I don’t remember the rest of what he said but I stayed on that ward for several days, thinking that my heart was still broken whatever the monitors were saying.
When Fred brought me home, Darth Vader was still in the hallway where you’d left him. His face was expressionless, like the way I felt. I didn’t think you’d want me to put him in the garage just yet, Fred said. No, I said. I quite like him there after all.
REBECCA FIELD lives and writes in Derbyshire. She has been published online by Riggwelter Press, Spelk fiction, The Cabinet of Heed and Ellipsis Zine among others. Rebecca was highly commended in the 2018 NFFD microfiction competition and tweets at @RebeccaFwrites