Today was the day.
The sick twist of nerves pushed through her stomach and up to her throat each and every time she thought of it. It was a feeling not unlike the nausea experienced before an important exam. Or a driving test. She would be all right for a few moments, moving around the flat, finding shoes and opening yesterdays post. A mobile phone bill, and a post card from her sister. The phone bill she tossed onto the kitchen table. The post card was a welcome distraction. Her eldest sister had taken her three children to Euro Disney. She read the card, smiling. For a moment, the sick feeling had gone. But then she realised the kettle had boiled, and she was about to have a coffee, and then it would be nearly time to leave, and the sick feeling whooshed back in a hurry. Because today was the day.
There was no room in her stomach for breakfast, she realised. She made her coffee and drank it standing up, leaning against the kitchen worktop. She stared at the floor, blowing the steam gently from the top of the mug. She felt herself slide into a trance, her eyes fixated on the laminated floorboards. Her mind jumped around from subject to subject; trying to avoid the unavoidable; when the coffee was gone, it would be time to go. She thought of the laminate as she stared at it. She remembered how long it had taken her to save up for it. How ridiculously proud of it she had been. Now it was just a floor. She realised, at the back of her mind that she was trying not to think about it. About today. She thought of her sister, and her three little nieces, and pictured their smiling faces, meeting Mickey Mouse. A song came on the radio and her heart fluttered; her hand went to her mouth. It was just a song. Like so many songs. So many songs that stopped her in her tracks. So many songs that brought it all back.
She drained the last of her coffee, shook herself out of her daydream and placed the mug on the draining board behind her. She took a deep breath and picked her mobile up from the table, where she had placed it next to her car keys. She checked it for messages and there were two. One from her mother, which read simply; ‘good luck honey let me know how you get on.’ Her mother refused to use text speak, spelling each and every word out correctly every time. She typed out; ‘ok thanks, will do’ and pressed send. The other message said simply; ‘u ok? Ready when u r. C u soon.’ She felt the need to take some deep breaths and typed in; ‘just leaving. C u in ten mins.’ Send. Time to go.
She shoved her mobile into her pocket, grabbed her keys and walked through to the hallway. She took her duffel coat down from the hook next to the door and shrugged it on, feeling a nervous shake work its way down her body as she did. She shook out her limbs, took a deep, soothing breath. She watched herself in the mirror there, as she did. She buttoned up her coat, pulled down her scarf and wrapped it around her neck. More deep breaths. She realised her mind had gone strangely blank. Like no one was home. Her body was moving in the right direction, doing the right things, but her mind had emptied. She felt oddly dreamlike, like she was still in a trance, just going through the motions of leaving the flat, as if she were simply off to work. Maybe that was better, she reasoned. Better not to think, not yet. Better just to leave, just get into the car and drive. Better not to think about what lay ahead, how hard it might be, how wonderful it could be.
She nodded to her reflection in the mirror and used her hands to smooth her hair down around her face. She checked her make up, as she always did before she left the house. She opened the door and greeted the day, the day. She inhaled the crisp autumn air and pulled the door shut behind her. Well this is it, she thought then, listening to the sound her trainers made as they patted down the three stone steps from her front door. This is it, this is the day, the day is here.
She unlocked her battered old Mini, and got in. Just before she could close the door and start heating the little car up, her upstairs neighbour came jogging along the pavement. Carl was a few years older than her, a fitness fanatic, and a pretty good neighbour to live below. He slowed down when he saw her; red-faced and sweating in his grey running trousers and black hooded top.
“Good run?” she asked him. He grinned.
“Yeah! You off then? The big day is it?”
She nodded. “Yep. I’m off.”
He patted the roof of the car and turned towards their building. “Speak to you later then,” he said. “Good luck!”
“Thanks Carl.” She pulled the door shut and turned the engine on. Music roared instantly, making her jump. She reached for the volume quickly to turn it down, shaking her head, wondering why she did that every time. Oh Christ, it was another song, another one of those songs. Memories came flooding back and she covered her mouth for a horrible moment, thinking she was going to cry. It’s okay, it’s okay to cry, she told herself as she checked the mirrors, and it’s going to be an emotional day, one way or another. But she didn’t cry. She nodded along to the song for a moment while the car heated up. She found herself smiling, tapping her hands against the steering wheel, singing along, embracing it, letting the pain and the joy sear through her; “and if a double decker bus, crashes into us, to die by your side, such a heavenly way to die…”
Okay, she thought then, finally pulling aggressively away from the kerb and driving off at a speed just slightly over the limit. Okay, here we go. Today is the day. Today is the day you have waited so long for. Let’s do it.