Harriet’s Beloved

Patricia Vergeylen Tassinari

“Here, take this shirt and this nice grey sweater. Oh, wait, I have a nice pair of trousers to go with them, they’re here somewhere.”

Harriet was going through the drawers and cupboards of her bedroom. She was giving John clothes away. The woman from Salvation Army shoved the clothes into green garbage bags. Harriet’s mouth would quiver slightly as she saw John’s clothes turn into little balls before disappearing. She had always  looked after his clothes so well. Only her dresses now were hanging in the cupboard and a few of John’s hand- kerchiefs  had been left in the drawer with Harriet’s underwear. Harriet accompanied the woman to the door, wished her well and fondled the bags gently. Somehow this was the last of John. She closed the door and turned to examine the living room. John’s pipes, his collection of magazines, tennis trophies, favourite chair had all been giving away.  Only John had smoked so she had gotten rid  of all ashtrays in the house. The only photographs left on the wall were those of the boys, now grown up and gone. Harriet had done the same in the bathroom and kitchen: all traces of John were gone.

Harriet went into the bedroom, the only room which remained unchanged, closed the door and began to undress slowly. John had loved black underwear and Harriet, standing in her black panties and bra, examined her fifty year old body. She thought she was sagging fast since John’s death two weeks ago.

Harriet sat down on her side of the bed and tried to remember the night John died. She knew he had died in a car accident because she could remember arriving at the site of the accident. In the past two weeks whenever she closed her eyes she would keep on seeing those red lights flashing and men ushering her to a stretcher by the side of the road. They had told her it was John but even now she still couldn’t recognize the face she saw. One thing she knew though was that she would never see John again and she wondered whether pain could kill. She lied down on the bed and stiffened her body so as to keep the pain from spreading. It was dark outside when the phone rang. Harriet slowly picked up the receiver without changing her position.

“ Mom, it’s me Tom, how are you?”

“Oh Tom “ Harriet answered after a few seconds “I’m exhausted but I guess I’ll survive.”

“Listen Mom why don’t you come and stay with Mary and I? I don’t think you should be staying in the house by yourself now without Dad. It must be so painful for you.”

Harriet this time answered without any hesitations

“ No, listen Tom, you’re right but I’ve decided to go and stay at that cottage we used to rent by the lake, remember?”

Harriet was surprised at the ease with which she had lied to Tom. She had been dreading this lie.

Harriet went on: “Tel your brother too and Il’d call you both when I come back.”

“ Mom, I miss Dad so much” Tom whispered slowly.

“Me too” Harriet answered.

She hung up fast. Harriet didn’t want to hear about Tom’s pain now. She couldn’t help him anyhow. She felt slightly relieved as now she could go ahead with her plan.

Tom and Mark had been the last persons to call. Harriet had told her neighbours  and friends at work the same lie. It had been easy, everyone had been so sympathetic.

She would finally be left alone. And Harriet for one week didn’t want to be reminded of the John everyone else knew: the man who had been a father, a fine neighbour  and friend.

She wanted to be alone to mourn John, her lover, her marvellous lover.

Harriet slowly edged her body towards the middle of the bed, outstretched  her left arm and began to draw John’s body beside her. She closed the light on the night table, turned to John and wrapped her arms around him.