Bars at the window and locks at the door, but even if they weren’t there, Martha had no urge to flee. The officers had been kindness itself. She had been offered another cell. However, she didn’t want to run away. Her voices would only follow her back.
From a little gap in the mattress, Martha pulled out Chris’s treasured belongings. A bag of tobacco – or that’s what she told herself, a tiny ring box and a letter. It had been screwed up many times, and there were lines covering the envelope like crazy paving. There was nothing else to show for her life. Nothing but regrets.
‘You’ve your session this morning,’ Miss Prentice said.
She had always been around since Chris had died. In the morning while she pushed her breakfast around the plate. The first person she saw in the yard, and at night to lock the cell door. It was like they expected her to end her own life. Martha thought about it, slept in the top bunk. She hoped for death. But like life, what was the point. If she failed then it was just another warped string to her bow.
‘Come on you’ve got your session with Doctor Stapleton.’
Martha turned on her side and stared at the wall in front of her.
‘You can come straight back to the cell if you want, but won’t it help to talk about . . . I mean you can’t carry on like this.’
‘Okay, I’m getting up, is that what you want Miss!’
Covers flung across the bed, and Martha jumped to the floor. ‘I don’t want to go, but then let her speak, do her psychobabble on me. Chris will still be dead. Laura will still blank me in the street. My granddaughter won’t even know me. When I leave here, I’ll be alone and that’s just how I like it!’
The balcony shook as Martha stomped across the metal and down the stairs. Miss Prentice wasn’t far behind. As each door was unlocked, she remained vigil in her anger. By the time she plonked down in the chair her words tumbled out like lava.
‘Say something then. Tell me it’s all going to be okay. Go on!’ The hairs on her arms were rigid. as if they were pushed, wouldn’t sway in either direction but up.
Miss Prentice hovered in the doorway, but with a nod from the psychiatrist, waited outside instead.
‘Good morning to you Martha.’
Doctor Helen Stapleton half smiled. All her attention was on Martha. A heartbeat rose to her cheeks and crashed to her empty stomach. Why was this woman sitting there like nothing had happened?
‘You’re not talking to me, then I’ll just go!’ Martha pushed her arms out of the chair, hovered in between anger and hopelessness.
‘Martha, stay please.’
So calm – that watered down voice you use when children are upset. She wouldn’t be any good on the Titanic. Or perhaps she played the violin while everyone died a horrific death.
‘Why! So you can tell me I’ll be fine, because as you can see, I’m not fine!’
‘You’re angry and that’s good.’
‘How can being angry be a good thing?’
‘Because you are showing something other than blind faith.’
Martha forced herself out of the seat and to the window. There were no bars here, but toughened glass meant nobody could smash their way out. Which was a pity because she wanted nothing more than to escape this room. She didn’t want to talk about feelings. Not now – not ever. If she died tomorrow then nobody would miss her or cry at her grave.
Helen fell in behind her and without pushing her to the ground, Martha couldn’t move.
‘Are you admiring the garden, well what’s left of it. In the summer there is a little rose bush just outside my window. It’s beautiful then, but now it’s just a few dead twigs. But that’s the beauty in winter – it is soon followed by spring.’
It started to snow, little white flakes all different to each other. Just like fingerprints, you never came across the same one twice. Chris told her that and she pretended it was the first time she heard it – truth be told it was her dad informed her of the very same thing when she was four.
‘How am I meant to deal with this. She died. Nothing will bring her back.’
‘The aneurism wasn’t your fault Martha.’
‘Wasn’t it? The headaches, memory lapses and the way she kept dropping things. They were all signs and I missed them.’
‘We all did, and most of all Chris did.’
Martha kept her focus on the small layer of snow now forming. It fell without a sound, but there was something about the way the flakes drifted to the ground and settled in with the others. They lost their shape, but not their beauty.
‘That doesn’t help.’
‘I know that nothing I can say or do will. But what would Chris think of what you’re doing now?’
‘I don’t know, she’s bloody died!’
Helen didn’t flinch but laid a hand on Martha’s shoulder. It wouldn’t take much to push her hand away, but she didn’t, kept her eyes on the falling snowflakes.
‘What would she say?’
‘To stop beating myself up, that it wasn’t my fault.’
Guided to her chair, Martha sat back down again.
‘But if I hadn’t of met her, she would still be alive.’
‘No, it still would have killed Chris, but she wouldn’t have found a friend like you.’
‘How can you possibly know that?’
‘Our sessions are private, but she considered you as her friend, more than that – she considered you as family.’
‘How can I be anyone’s friend? I’m a lost cause. Death follows me around and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.’
‘She didn’t think so Martha, for the first time was making real progress. That was because of you.’
‘It doesn’t matter how much progress she made, she’s dead.’
‘It hurts, and you’re allowed to grieve. Be upset. She was your family in here. We both know that. But it’s how we heal Martha. We have to allow ourselves to be angry in order to move on.’
A speck of dust on the chair, and Martha wanted to wipe it clean like it was never there. ‘Laura was angry with me the last time we met. I wouldn’t take Buddy, my granddaughters teddy bear. Laura’s too when she was young.’
‘Have you seen her since?’
‘No. she told me some harsh truths.’
‘Would you want to see her?’