May – Evie

*Features adult language and themes.*


The small airways, called bronchioles, carry air in and out of your lungs. When they get irritated by something, it could be a whole range of things, these airways get inflamed. They swell up and constrict the passage making it harder for the air to travel through, and your body produces a load of excess mucus to try and deal with it. This in turn makes it even harder for the air to get where it needs to be.

That’s asthma.

And those are the words, near enough, that the doctor used to explain what happened to Robbie. He was out of danger by the time I got to the hospital, but nobody had told us anything up to that point.

The doctor said they treated him with a nebuliser. I’d never heard that word before, it sounded like some sci- fi torture instrument. Apparently it’s a piece of special breathing equipment, a way of getting a drug into the lungs to make the airways relax and open up.

We didn’t stay at the hospital long. The doctors said Robbie was never in any real danger, once the paramedics were there he was perfectly safe, but I find that very difficult to believe. In my opinion any time your child has difficulty breathing is pretty dangerous. They sent us home with an emergency inhaler, in case the same thing happened again, and we were told to follow up with the GP to discuss a course of action on how to handle his treatment in the future.

The whole thing has left everyone a little shellshocked. Everyone apart from Robbie who seems to be back to normal, as though nothing happened. It amazes me how kids adapt to anything, I guess they’re comforted by the fact that they have no real idea what’s going on. Or they’re a lot smarter than adults.

Jon and I have been playing the blame game. Not against one another. We both believe it’s our own fault that this happened. We keep raising the stakes in blaming ourselves. The doctors couldn’t give us a definitive reason for Robbie’s attack, but we’ve taken a good guess that the mouldy flat didn’t help matters. I blame myself for not keeping on top of the cleaning and disinfecting while Jon blames himself for not being more aggressive with the letting agent to get it sorted and for not moving us out of the place sooner.

Hindsight is total crap isn’t it.

I don’t know why we force ourselves to look back at our actions and wonder how we could have done things differently. It’s the most unrealistic hope in the world. There’s nothing you can do to change the past, yet we fill ourselves with regrets. Torture ourselves with ‘what-ifs.’ Things happen and they happen that way because we make decisions in the moment based on the facts we have at our disposal. Just because events then unfold to make that decision look foolish, it doesn’t change the situation in which it was made.

I like to believe everything happens for a reason. Good and bad. We don’t have total control of everything that happens to us. I don’t like the idea that all our lives are planned out for us, but I think it’s exciting that things will happen I didn’t expect.

So what possible reason could there be for my son almost dying?

The first thing that springs to my mind makes me very sad. I never thought that I took Robbie for granted. I always loved him as I thought I should, I always did my best to care for him and protect him. Then something happens that I couldn’t possibly guard against. Suddenly I have a new appreciation for my son. I think that’s a terrible thing to have to admit. Why do I have to almost lose him before I realise how much he means to me? Why did he have to face danger and death to give me some perspective on my life?

Like I said, everyone has been affected by what happened. Jon’s in a state of nervous fear and self-judgement, he’s been working harder than ever. He’s even talking about getting a second job. He’s determined to use the time we’re staying at his parents place to make as much money as possible. His hunter-gather instinct is taking over a bit. He wants to give us a new home.

Daniel has been very quiet, he’s become quite shy around Robbie. He sees him as fragile and breakable. It’s really very sweet. I keep sitting Robbie on his lap and leaving him to it. He’ll get his confidence back soon enough. On the other hand he seems to have a new found strength at home. I think the way he took control and managed the emergency showed him something he forgot he had. Jane got a glimpse of it too.

She’s changed, almost beyond recognition. She’s a completely different woman. She was never particularly unfriendly to me or Robbie, but I always felt a distance. For one thing she’s actually calling her grandson ‘Robbie,’ which was quite a revelation that nobody dares to comment on. She’s also taken a keen interest in my art. She even cleared a corner of her study and set up a miniature studio for me. She also pulled a load of art books out of her collection for me to look through. I was speechless. It was one of the few times in our relationship when Jane hugged me and it wasn’t awkward.

So maybe there are multiple reasons for a bad thing happening or perhaps I’m putting a positive spin on the after-effects of a near disaster? Could it be that I’ve become an optimist?

I keep looking at the penultimate HTBH article and I don’t seem to be able to relate to it. I understand all of the words, but they aren’t going any further than my eyes.

I read about the importance of money in a persons life and realise I can never assign a monetary value to the lives and health of my family, or their happiness.

I read about the importance of having dreams and goals, only to think that the things I wanted a month ago seem less important, and the things I want a month from now may be completely different. I’m not sure if I want anything for myself anymore. I want things for my son. I want things for Jon.

I’ve been a selfish bitch. We’ve all been selfish in our own ways.

I’ve been thinking about myself before anyone else. I always have. It’s always been about what I want, what I need to make me happy. I don’t put my dreams or goals aside to help others achieve theirs.

I’m not Jon.

I’ve been very ungrateful for a long time. I haven’t struggled to find happiness in my life, I’ve been ignoring the happiness that was all around me.

This is all starting to sound a bit like the end of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ I know. I’m not going to give away everything I own (which isn’t a lot) and go become a missionary in Africa. I’m not going to become some crazy philanthropist, more willing to help strangers than the people close to me. But I am going to try and be more like my husband.

It strikes me now that human beings have terrible memories. It’s probably an evolutionary thing. When something bad happens to us the shock and pain of it is staggeringly raw. Then over time we forget. The pain fades. We still remember it as a bad time, but we never experience the pain it caused us again. I don’t know why that is. I’m afraid of forgetting how I feel right now. I’m afraid that in a few weeks or months I will lapse back into the person I was.

This might be the last thing I write in a diary for a very long time. It’s developed into a selfish habit, documenting my every thought as though it’s important. In case years from now somebody discovers it and wants to get an insight into a past culture. Total bollocks.

I will make myself read this last entry. I will re-read it a lot, to keep the memory fresh and the pain present.

 

* * *

 

She heard the door open behind her but didn’t bother turning around, she was getting to a critical point. She had a brush clamped between her teeth as she used a palate knife to mix a new colour.

Foot steps padded across the wooden floor. “That’s coming on nicely,” said Jon, looking over her shoulder before placing two cups of tea on the table and nuzzling into her neck.

His stubble ticked her and she couldn’t help but giggle. The brush fell from her mouth. Jon picked it up for her.

“I don’t mean to disturb you, but I want to,” said Jon. Evie turned to face him and he hugged her close, squeezing her with his big arms. As the pressure eventually abated Evie felt a little breathless and light-headed as they kissed.

“I can take a short break I guess,” said Evie kissing him back.

“Well, I have a bit of news and I’m interested to see how you’ll take it.”

“Sounds intriguing.” They sat down on a couple of stools and Jon handed Evie a newspaper. “What on earth is this doing here. Your parents hate the tabloids.”

“I know, but they always scoop the best dirt. I saw it at the store and got a copy for you.” Jon tried his best to look serious for a moment. “Now I hope you won’t be upset, and I promise to do my best not to revel in this too much.” He drew a cross on his chest with his finger as a smile sprung out over his face.

Evie unfolded the newspaper.

This can’t be good.

 

* * *

 

SELF-HELP GURU CAN”T HELP HIMSELF.
American life coach Kurt Sampson (52) is in hiding today after his long time wife Martha Sampson (39) lifted the lid on his secret double life.

While peddling his advice on how to find happiness, Sampson has been battling a secret alcohol addiction, employing a £5,000 a night call girl and wracking up gambling debts thought to be in the region of half a million quid.

It was the last straw for Martha when she confronted her husband and he became abusive. Mrs. Sampson sought medical help and contacted the police shortly afterwards.

Continues on page 15.

 

* * *

 

“Bloody hell.”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I had a rather lengthy monologue prepared about how much of a shit the guy is. How much of a hypocrite he turned out to be but I’m not going to use it,” said Jon.
Evie looked up at him. “Really? You’re not going to gloat?”

“Nope.”

“Why? You usually don’t have this much evidence to set you on one of your fun little rants.”

Jon stood up went over to Evie and lifted her to her feet. He placed his hands on her shoulders lightly. “The guy may be a fraud. He may be a complete prick, but the advice you’ve taken from him has helped you in some way. I can tell. I don’t want you to think it’s all false. I don’t want you to doubt yourself.

“Remember that GP I used to visit. Dr. Brown?” Evie nodded. “It didn’t matter what I went to see him about he’d always find some way to bring it back to me being overweight. I had to change doctors in the end because he pissed me off so much.

“I know his advice was correct. I was and am overweight but Dr. Brown was fatter than I’ve ever been. He was a smoker too. I always noticed the nicotine stains on his fingers and you know the guy used to give people a hard time about smoking.

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that just because someone can’t live by the advice they give out, it doesn’t invalidate what they say.” Jon leaned in and kissed her lightly on the cheek. “Now, break over. Get back to work.”

Jon was about to leave the room before Evie stopped him. “Hold on, Jon. There’s something I want to give you.”

Jon turned around, spinning theatrically on his heel. “Oh? Now I’m intrigued.”

Evie rummaged amongst the pile of books on the table next to her easel, finally turning once she had hold of what she was looking for. She held it out in front of her towards Jon. “It’s my diary. I’ve kept a diary for a long time, since my teens. I’m not sure if you ever knew that I wrote one.

“Anyway, I’ve decided to stop doing it for the time being but I want you to read what I wrote this year.” Jon was about to grasp the leather cover when Evie jerked it back out of his reach. “Now, I won’t lie to you. There’s some stuff in there you aren’t going to like, stuff I’m not particularly proud of writing, but I want you to read it anyway.” Slowly she offered the book back to him.

Jon took it and looked at the cover for a moment. Evie thought she saw a glint of recognition in his eyes.

“Thank you, Sweetheart. I promise I’ll read it.” He didn’t say anything more as he left the room.

Evie turned back to her canvas to study what she’d done. A few nagging doubts began to enter her mind.

Are the colours too strong? Maybe the composition is too spread out? Should I have used acrylics?

She gently shook her head, picked the brush up and loaded it with paint. With one swift and confident stroke she applied it to the canvas.

 

* * *

 

“The usual Mrs. Higgins?”

“Yes please, dear. I think I’ll have a bit of that carrot cake too.”

“Yes, why not. Treat yourself. That’s my favourite.” Evie took the money and passed the order over to Zoe to make the pot of tea. “Thank you very much. Take a seat and I’ll bring it over to you.”

“Thank you, dear.” Mrs. Higgins turned around and headed towards her usual table.

Evie sliced a piece of carrot cake and lifted it onto a plate. She put that on a tray and waited for Zoe to finish with the tea things. Once everything had been assembled Evie lifted the tray and made her way to Mrs. Higgins’ table. Evie always looked down at the tray when she walked through the cafe, being nervous about dropping things and little confidence in her skinny arms. When she got to the table she realised Mrs. Higgins wasn’t there.

Evie looked up and spotted her standing on the other side of the cafe looking at one of the paintings. “Here you go Mrs. Higgins. I’ll leave it here for you.”

The old lady turned around. “Actually, dear. If you don’t mind I think I’ll sit at this table today. I want to look at this a bit longer.”

“OK. Evie picked up the tray again and ushered it across.

Mrs. Higgins was busy taking off her coat and settling herself onto the chair. “This is a new one isn’t it?” She said pointing to the painting on the wall.

“Yes it is. It only went up yesterday.”

“Hmmm. It’s lovely.” She looked down at the tea and cake. “Thank you, dear. I’m quite settled now.”

The cafe got a little busier and Evie had forgotten about Mrs. Higgins until she came back up to the counter with her coat on ready to leave. “Excuse me, young lady. I wonder if you could keep an eye out to see if anyone takes an interest in that new painting. I don’t want to reserve it, but I want to have a think. Will you do that for me?”

Zoe was stood next to Evie and gave her a little nudge before answering. “I’m sure Evie will keep a close eye on any interest in that one.” Zoe leaned across the counter conspiratorially. “Between you and me you better not think about buying it for too long. I’ve got my eye on it.” Then she winked.

The old lady gave a little chuckle and headed out into a bright day.


Many thanks for reading. If you have any feedback or thoughts, feel free to comment below.

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