Most Things Can’t Hurt Us By D.I Jolly

“I always thought,” Started Brenda but she stopped to consider her words, her surroundings and her truth. “I always knew… That we were solid. That whatever shit came our way we’d take it on together. That even on days when we hated each other we would take each other’s hands and get through it, together.”

She paused again to look down at the notes she’d written. Stay calm, breathe, don’t forget to thank people for coming, and for their support. Breathe.

“I thought the hardest day of my life was the day he was diagnosed. As we sat there listening to the doctor, I was putting up every mental framework I could think of. I was going to stay strong for him, I was going to be the driving force that got us through this. I was wrong. He did it all with such grace, much ease… and every time I crumbled, he was there to catch me. To tell me it was alright before making some tasteless joke that would make me laugh and cry at the same moment. And when it was clear it was the end, he again took my hand and told me that we’d get through it and that he was ok, because he knew that I’d be alright, that I was strong enough to handle it. He never once apologised. Not once offered me or himself pity, not once through the whole thing. We were solid, no matter what. We could do anything.”

She turned the page of her notes to read the words she knew she’d need. Breathe, it’s ok to cry, you can do this, breathe.

“My heart shattered the day he died… The day I saw the light in my life go out, and every day since has been a bit darker, bit harder, but I know I can keep going because I know that he believed… Believes in me.”

Grant picked up the remote control and pressed paused, stopping the old videotape to look at the determination on his mother’s face. He liked stopping it there, he liked remembering her that way, and how proud he was of her in that moment. The week between his dad’s death and the funeral had been the hardest time in his life, but that speech gave him hope. Hope that his family could pull through. He stared at the flickering image a few second longer, then let out a tired sigh and raised his glass to the picture of his dad sitting across the kitchen table.

“To the nieve hopes of a child, hey dad?”

Then he downed the drink.

“I know, I know I shouldn’t talk that way about my mother.” His words felt wet and he was beginning to feel drunk but didn’t care, so poured himself another. “But this isn’t about me, happy birthday old man.”

And he downed his glass again, and again lifted the bottle to fill it, only to realise it was empty. So, he reached across for his father’s glass.

“I’ll sip this one.” He said with a wink to the photo, then turned a cheers to the flickering screen.

“And to you mom, I hope you found whatever it was you were looking for, wherever you are.”

He put the glass to his lips and then stopped, remembering the promise he’d just made and took a gentle sip instead.

In the morning he woke up on the couch with a hangover and a vague urge to murder whoever was ringing the doorbell. The postman sensing the danger and the pungent smell, smiled as he took an unconscious step back.

“Registered mail, signature please.”

Grant looked down at the clipboard, sighed and signed his name, then took the letter with a shaking hand.

“Have a nice day.”

Go fuck yourself rang through Grant’s mind but what came out of his mouth was.

“Thanks.”

With the door firmly closed he looked at the letter as he turned over a few times. Then as the doorbell rang again, he felt his pleasant demeanour slip, yelling,

“What!”

At the two policemen who now stood where the postman had been a few moments before. They looked at each other, then back at Grant who cleared his throat, thought happy thoughts, and said dryly.

“I mean, good morning officers.”

“Are you Grant Michaels?”

“Yes.”

The officers looked at each other again and Grant got a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach, suddenly wondering why they’d just let the outburst go. One officer grimaced and the more senior of the two took off his hat.

“Mr Michaels, with your consent I’d like you to take a look at a couple photographs of a woman and see if you can help us identify her.”

“What, why me, what is this for?”

“This is part of an ongoing murder investigation and we have evidence to show that you might know or be connected to the victim.”

The cold feeling began to grow into an uncomfortable numb, but he nodded his consent. Looking down at the photos he saw a shade of the women he’d once known, and he thought that even in death she still had that look of strength, of determination she had had while giving her speech. She was older, not just in years, life had also taken a toll. But he knew who she was. Through the mist of regret, sorrow, nostalgia and whiskey he found the question. What could she have been doing to get herself murdered? Then looking up at the police he said.

“Never seen her before in my life. May I ask what got you from her to me?”

The police looked at each other sceptically.

“You sure?”

He made a play of looking down again and really scrutinising the image.

“Nope, sorry.”

The senior officer’s face turned hard and his voice came out sharp.

“Thank you for your time then Mr Michaels, if you happened to change your mind please give us a call.” He held out a card which Grant took. “And do me a favour son, don’t do anything stupid over the next few days like, leave town or find yourself somewhere you’re not supposed to be.”

Grant smiled but didn’t reply. partly to not poke an already angry bear, and partly because he had nothing more to say. Closing the door again his mind went to the letter, and the half drank glass of warm watery whiskey on the kitchen table. To the photo of his dad, and the video of his now-dead mother.

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