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The Good Stuff
Short Story
by Christine Tothill
Length: 681 words

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Voice: Barbara Llewellyn

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Do you remember getting dressed in front of an electric fire; when your legs burned and your skin went red and blotchy?

Do you remember waking in the morning, the windows frosted over Ė you blew on them and the frost would melt and you wrote my name in the mist?

Do remember when I toasted crumpets on a fork from the heat of the fire, spread marge over them and yours dripped over your school shirt and I had to rinse it? Do you remember? It was the first meal I made. My first time cooking for you.

What about the time we took our collars off our school shirts and turned them round like they used to do in the war. Nobody noticed, not even our parents.

What about the time we stayed out all night, you told my parents we were staying with friends and we slept at The Station Hotel. You must remember? In the morning we went down to breakfast and the lady asked us how we liked our eggs Ė boiled, poached, or fried and we burst into laughter. You had to pay the bill with coins from your piggy-bank. The next day you had little red spots everywhere and had to ask your mum to put calamine lotion all over your body and she found my love bites.

What about that?

And the time we baby-sat for your sister and she came home early, found us in her bed and I pretended to have a headache and you were filling a hot water bottle to make it look good. She pulled the covers back and found me there with just my knickers on; she went mad until she saw the red marks on my chest. She called the doctor and he came out and laughed at me, told me I was fine, nothing wrong. The marks were gone then and she never found out, remember?

This is my first time alone and I donít like it. You know that. You must remember? When you went away the first week after our honeymoon, you phoned every night from a phone box on the corner, I cried and you tried to placate me. You always ran out of money and I ran out of hankies.

Last week we decorated the bedroom, I wanted dark colours, you wanted pale. You won. It became a pale yellow heaven, white covers for the bed, no drapes. Cushions piled up on pillows to rest against, watch television, talk. You were right; it cleared the air, easy to breathe through the bright light of the bedroom. You slept better, deeper. I read into the early hours listening to your even breathing, stroking the cat asleep at my elbow.

Last year we did so much, visited Australia, met your family. You were shocked by yours and what I didnít tell you was, they were shocked by you Ė but then after a couple of hours everything rolled back and you were young again, remembering picnics, Christmases and birthdays. You were laughing with them and they came back, the memories, as you knew them once. 

We left Sydney and travelled back quietly. You didnít write to them, phone them, email either. You didnít know why. You said, Ďdone that, letís get on with our livesí.

Do you remember the blue bedroom, the one I mustnít talk about? The door closed for years, the whole episode gone. Our baby. Stillborn. Youíve never mentioned it. Enough of that.

While I talk to you the nurses go on about their work. They smile as I remember things, ask you if you have. They nod in approval, laugh out loud about the stuff I say. I sometimes get carried away with my memories and hope you do too.

They say, you will hear me. I do hope so. They say there is a chance you will come back from where ever you are; but until then I will just keep on about us, our memories and if you agree you can just squeeze my hand like you used to Ė remember?

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