Sheila’s husband had left her.
‘I just can’t cope any more. I’ve got no choice. You can get on with it now and I won’t be around to witness it. I’m sorry but I’ve got to think about myself and if I stay here, there will be nothing left of me.’
And so he had gone. He was right about one thing, at least. She could get on with it now and she wouldn’t have to put up with his criticisms, his nagging at her or the hundreds of ways he’d tried to change her. So this was it for Sheila, alone. Derek’s departure left more than a space in her heart; it left a space in the house. She would exchange their double bed for a single. There would be wardrobe space. She would only need one chair and so she could throw out the rest of the three piece suite. There was no need for a dining table, a tray on her lap would do. There would be space in the fridge that hadn’t been there previously and in the freezer too. Ah, the freezer had a particular sentimental value for Sheila because that was where it had all begun.
It was so infrequent that snow fell in their part of the country, much less snow deep enough to actually stick together to make snowmen. Obviously, the snowman she made was too large to put in the freezer but keeping snowballs in the freezer seemed like a practical alternative. After the snowballs, her collection really got underway: the first April shower captured in a bucket, grass cuttings from the first time that Derek mowed the lawn that year pressed into a jam jar, the dirty tissue from his first hayfever sneeze displayed under a layer of film in a photograph album and a layer of skin that peeled off her chest in Majorca which she kept in a matchbox to name but a few.
Now, she would have much more scope for storing her precious memories.
A year passed and one morning, she was sitting on a wooden chair with her back squashed into the corner and the phone rang. Luckily, it was within reach and there was no need to climb over the stacks of boxes to answer it.
‘Hi Sheila, it’s Derek.’
‘It’s Derek. I just wanted to see how you’re doing...and um...I wanted to let you know that you’re going to be getting some papers through the post.’
‘Papers? I haven’t ordered any.’
‘Sheila, you don’t understand. My solicitor is going to be sending you some papers to sign and I just wanted to warn you that they’re coming. And to say hello too. It’s been a long time.’
Silence. Who was this nutter anyway?
‘I think you’ve got the wrong number.’
‘I haven’t! Sheila! It’s me, Derek!’
‘But I’m on my own.’
‘I know you are now but we used to be together. Don’t you remember?’
‘There’s nothing to remember. I never forget anything important. Goodbye.’