The view was astonishing, as it always had been. A light breeze was creating ripples, miniature waves on the lake. The water ebbed and lapped beneath our feet. The breeze was not unpleasant; it was quite welcome on such a warm day. Warmth radiated from the marble on which we sat. The silence between us was neither awkward nor uncomfortable yet I longed for him to break it, so that I knew how he felt. He finally answered.
‘You want me to go there? With every sodden face acting as a reminder of her. With everyone shuddering and retching out their words, because the idea that a twenty year old girl can just collapse and die shakes them to the pit of their gut? It forces them to realise how fragile we are. I can’t handle that. I came here to escape that. I can’t be around them.’ Kieran kept looking straight ahead, not turning to me to speak.
‘You can’t run away, we’re all hurting.’ I said weakly. There was no conviction in my voice, but how could there be? How could I convince him that he had to be at the wake when I felt the exact same way? No sooner had I arrived at the estate that i wanted to leave. I had walked around that Victorian house, smothered in grief, inescapable grief. I was welcome of the chance to get away for a while.
‘I’m not running away, I just can’t be there. I can’t you know? What are you doing here anyway, won’t you be missed too?’ He sat motionless, watching the water.
‘Mrs Oaks was looking for you. She had a panic attack when nobody knew where you were. She’s lying down, Scott’s with her. I knew you’d be here.’ I explained.
‘I know. Doesn’t it gut you; this was our place you know? I mean, now we’re the only ones who know about it. Just us, me and you. And take that fucking jacket off. I can’t stand that shit.’ There was a shred of anger in his voice.
I stood up slowly and unbuttoned the Calvin Klein tuxedo jacket, took it off and draped it across the seat before sitting back down. I put my hand on his.
‘We all loved her’.
I breathed deeply and took in the crisp air. The freshness of the south of Sweden made me feel so awake, so alive that I almost felt guilty of my mortality. When contrasted with the stuffiness, the suffocating smog of London it was simply exhilarating. It was liberating, it was beautiful. It was her.
Kieran had sat with my statement for a few moments before he replied.
‘No, they didn’t. Some of them cared. Some of them will miss her in a year, five years, some even ten. But I won’t ever forget her. I can’t…I can’t let go.’
‘I don’t know what else to do Kieran, this is all I…know…to do. I won’t ever forget.’ I will admit that my voice trembled as I spoke.
Kieran stood up, eyes still fixed on the lake.
‘I know you won’t. We’re inseparable. I mean, we were inseparable. Oh God, I hate this shit. I’ll never get used to that ‘were’. Fuck, I shouldn’t have to, you know? I’m not ready for this. Old people die. Twenty year old girls, healthy, beautiful girls don’t just die. They can’t. I’m too young for this, I never thought I’d be going to a funeral until I was…well much older…and with you two. Isn’t it sick, how we’re conditioned to disregard death, like it never happens? Like we’re all somehow immortal, fucking immutable contingencies…’
He pulled off a shoe and hurled it into the lake in desperation before continuing.
‘… but we’re not, we’re just whispers of fleeting footsteps. We’re a soft breeze on this plane that expires in a sharp breath. And now, here I am, twenty-two and one of the few people I ever loved is now gone, so young, so healthy and beautiful. I mean she’s a beautiful person. I mean, was. Isn’t that just fucking sick?’ Kieran was visibly shaking. Grief had manifested itself in anger.
‘I’ve never heard you say that before.’
Kieran finally looked at me. His eyes were dark and reddened. He had hardly slept. He looked at me as though in shock, as though he had just realised I was there.
‘Beautiful. I’ve never heard that before, ever. Oh shit, you really loved her didn’t you, I mean, you loved her?’
I stood up and took him in my arms, my best friend. I held him tight, my arms around his shoulders, his around mine. We stood there sobbing. Horrible, retching sobs. Deep, painful expressions of grief. We didn’t let go, for fear of losing one another. Standing in silent acknowledgement that everything we knew had changed. From that day on the world was a harsher placer, a place cold and devoid of excitement. Weary day rolled into empty weeks, into numb years. Looking back on my life, this was the defining moment, the turning point. I’ve never felt my heart beat as fast as it did that morning by the lake in Nejsjon and I’ve never felt it beat so fast since.