She talks, and it's like listening to my own thoughts.
We have known each other since we were eleven, and I want to hear, yet can hardly bear to hear, what she has to say. I know that her clear-sighted pragmatism, softened at the edges by her love, will be far too like the words I don't want to bring to the forefront of my brain.
We are in Suffolk on a short break, our two girls asleep upstairs. Each of us is curled up at one end of the sofa, clutching wine glasses and discussing the awfulnesses of the past week in quiet tones. The cottage is like an old friend, too, and I know that I can just about live these moments within its warm, containing walls. When I speak my stomach lurches as I let the words out into the air, but they need to be tested in this kindest of environments, with this kindest of arbiters: I give her a glance and understand what it means that she is allowing them to pass.
Earlier today I swam in the sea. A seagull wheeled above me and a long, long way down the shore one other lone swimmer bobbed. It was not a sunny seaside day. It was grey and blowy. Strangers stopped to applaud my water entry, for God's sake, on hearing my cold water screams.
I thought it might be cathartic, and it was. For the first time since the Bim said those words last week, I felt free. I was not on dry land anymore, where he was. I was somewhere else, separate, swimming, gasping with cold.
Afterwards my hair was matted. My arms were tight with salt. But it was worth it, for those few, short moments of respite.