Mark stood at the door way for a long while. He reminded me of an orphan; stood with his hands crossed just bellow his waist, looking down at the floor mournfully. It was as though he had been starved for months on end and I had offered him a morsel of bread to eat before my fire. I wondered for a second whether I ought to offer him a drink but Dave spoke before I had the chance.
"Tea mate?" Said Dave.
Mark made no attempt to look up but instead grunted in reply. Dave and I stood at the bottom of my stairs and he looked to me for help, to make sense of Mark's reply. I responded merely with: "Make us all a coffee."
"But, how does he have his?" Dave asked.
Then all at once Mark looked up, uncrossed his arms and said in his usual well-spoken way: "I'll have a tea, milk, two sugars."
Dave nodded his head in response as I attempted to hold back the laughter. As he passed me and went into the kitchen, Mark peeled the heals of his shoes of with his fingers. It took him a little while and I noticed that it was because he was delayed by his trembling hands. Once he had finally succeeded in taking them off, he approached me. He took my left arm and dragged me into the living room. When he finally released me, my arm hurt from the grip.
"Sit down. Now." He commanded.
I did as he said. But only because at the time I felt there would be no compromising with him in such a state.
"Mark. What's going on?" I asked.
He paced the room. Just as Henry had, the time, when he and Dave had met a few weeks ago. My heart stopped at the thought and it caused my chest to ache a little.
"He's dead! My best friend died-" He paused, his voice had cracked and he was crying violently.
"What? Sorry? Who died?"
Then he looked at me dead in the eye, tears streaming down his face and squeaked the last word out: "Henry."
My heart stopped beating and the breath seeped out of my lungs. Suddenly I felt cold and began to shake, all I could utter was: "You've made a mistake."
Mark sat beside me on the sofa and rested an arm on my shoulder. It was the best he could do, any more physical contact would have overstepped the boundaries that had always stood between us; The boundaries I had overstepped with Henry.
"It was him. He was walking in the street but we couldn't see him..." He paused, as the tears left his eyes. "...then all of a sudden...BAM...we hit something...and it, it...well it was him."
My heart stopped once again and it felt as though the blood drained from my body.
"You killed him?" I said accusingly, staring at Mark.
"It was an accident. We couldn't see him, we thought we had gone the wrong way and there was traffic behind us. We had to drive on."
"I told you he was in the road!"
"I know. And I should have taken more care. I'm sorry."
I looked at his grey eyes through his glasses and at once felt the hate rush out of me. Mark would have no sooner inflicted harm on Henry intentionally then kill himself. They were practically brothers. I was hurt though. Deeply hurt.
"I loved him." I announced.
I had not intended to make this announcement. Under different circumstances I would never have said it aloud, not to myself and most definitely not to Mark. He had worked with Henry and had even taught me several mathematics classes. He too had been my teacher. But the idea of telling him was less humiliating now, after all that had happened.
"I know." Mark uttered with a sigh.
"I've known it a long time Elizabeth."
"I could see it by the way you used to look at him."
"Was it that obvious?"
"Only to me and him. We were looking for it."
As always Mark spoke cryptically. The conversation ended. I rested my head back on the sofa, allowing the pain to shift through me. It was as though my heart were a glass vase, smashed into a million pieces and the shards of glass were moving through my body. I felt ill. And my head ached. Sickness was creeping in.
Mark took my hand in his and smoothed it over with his thumb. I was not bothered that he had broken boundaries, I was too distraught. The tender touch caused the tears to fall so fast. It made me long for Henry.
I heard a deep voice and recognised it as Dave's but I could see nothing but the poorly painted ceiling.
"What is it with you people?" Dave said.
"Sorry?" Mark answered.
"You and that bastard, Henry, or whatever his name is. You've both upset her today!"
In that instant a rush of hot, fiery blood ran through me. My head sprang up and I glared right at Dave.
"Do not call Henry a bastard!" I shouted.
"Hey, I'm sorry babe but-"
"He's dead! Show some bloody respect!"
I left the room, pushing past Dave. My heart raced and as I stormed up the stairs the realisation hit. Not only had I lost Henry but now Dave would hate me too. I leapt onto my bed, stomach first and wept endless tears.
Around ten minutes later, I heard footsteps coming up the stairs and felt a presence in the room. A few seconds later and a voice came from the door: "I am so sorry babe." It was Dave.
With my head buried in the pillow, I found the strength to look up. He stood leaning on the door frame, staring in at me.
"Hold me. Please. I need to be held." I whimpered.
"Of course babe."
He approached me and sat on the side of the bed. He dragged my limp body towards him and rested my face on his lap, stroking my hair.
"I want to die. I have to die." I mumbled.
"No. He's not worth this...you shouldn't cry for him."
In that instant it occurred to me that all this crying was pointless and not only that but a great sense of shame came over me. I got up from the bed and left the room, heading across the landing to the bathroom. To ensure Dave could not intrude on my moment of solitude, I locked the door behind me.
I stood staring at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. The Mascara was seeping from my eyes, onto my cheeks. I wiped away the tears with the back of my hand and said to myself: "It's time to let go." I then knelt on the lino and preyed, preyed with all my heart.
"God if you can hear me up there. I need you to take good care of Henry for me, and I need you to give me the strength to get through...for Dave, I have to get through."
There was a long silence which stung, like a flame over my heart. I had always had this issue with my faith. I knew God would come into my life and help me but also knew that he could make no response and could not comfort me, now, while I needed him most. I was reassured by the thought that he might at least be listening to me without judgement.
I stood from the floor, opened up the cabinet, which also served as a mirror, and pulled out my silver make-up bag. I closed the door in order that I could see my reflection in the mirror and fixed my make-up on my face, pulling the mascara through my eyelashes, pasting foundation on my face and soaking up the parts that had been mixed with tears. Once the make-up was packed away in the cabinet, I pulled out a comb, pulled it through my blonde shoulder-length hair and placed it back. When at last I was satisfied that I no longer looked a wreck, I approached the bathroom door and unlocked it slowly. As I came out of the bathroom, I saw Dave, hands in his pockets at the top of the stairs. He stood diagonal to me on the left hand side, around two feet away. He had removed his shirt and now stood in a white vest and jeans. I noticed that his biceps had increased in size since I saw him last and he looked handsome standing there. His blonde, curly hair glimmering in the light.
"Dave, I am so sorry. I honestly didn't mean to-"
Dave smiled warmly. "Babe, don't worry, you've got nothing to concern yourself over. The guy meant a lot to you, I know that."
My heart ached. I hoped Dave knew that I loved him equally to Henry. But in a different way. It was sort of like the love for your Father and Brother, you love them equally but in different ways. It was complicated but I couldn't bare to think of it any more.
"I'll always love you." I said.
Dave smiled. "I know. I just hope you get that upset over me when I die-" He paused. "Shit, sorry."
I couldn't smile but I wanted to.
"If you died, I would have killed myself."
I laugh, and it hurts so I stop.
"Well, you're a companion as well as a lover. Henry was just someone I used to love, that I had a curious attachment too." I considered. "Can we forget about this now?"
The next morning, I came down in Dave's shirt, hair tussled and make-up smudged. I stepped into the living room and found him sat on the sofa, with my laptop on his lap. He turned and smiled at me. I sat beside him and he placed the laptop on the coffee table. He put his right arm around my shoulders.
"I have it all planned." He said.
"Oh?" I said.
"We're going to Italy. We'll set off tonight and catch a plane. It's all organised."
"But wait, I've already had time off work this week." I said, trying to recall when I was last at work.
"It's fine. You can leave that place and work in Italy-"
"It's a holiday! We're not moving..." I paused and looked at Dave. "Wait...We're moving there?"
"Well I thought we could get a place out there. Stay there this week and look for a home. I even got into contact with Fred and he said he will pay us rent to live here, that way we'll have a bit of money coming in and we both have some saved up as well, so we can start a new life."
A sudden warmth overwhelmed me. The idea of moving to Italy, seemed a little extreme but it was what I needed to do, to escape.
All afternoon was spent packing and getting overly excited at the prospect of moving to Italy. I asked Dave how he expected to get us and our luggage to the airport but he said he had organised for a bus and train to take us.
At around three in the afternoon, Dave mentioned that he had to go back home to get his clothes and I insisted that I join him. We hopped onto the motorbike and despite the debate, Dave eventually and reluctantly wore the helmet. We sped off along the road. I had no idea where he lived. As a teenager he had lived around 15 miles from the little cottage that I lived in now but where he had gone since, I had no idea.
There was a little trouble on the road. A police car sped past us with flashing lights and that eerie siren that moves right through your body. Then suddenly, as Dave drove at the 40mph speed limit, a car came racing towards us on the wrong side of the road. It was a red Mustang and judging by the way it was swerving, the driver was either drunk or stealing the car. Either way it caused my heart to race. Dave attempted to steer the bike away but all too soon the car collided with the front of the bike, causing me and Dave to fly through the air. I recall nothing after. I have only a vague memory of hitting the concrete and feeling as though my skull had been crushed like a jam jar and I had the feeling that my brains were pouring out, like jam, everywhere. I preyed Dave was safe as I fell into a suffocating darkness.