The Watcher

A Short Story

The Watcher

Your alarm goes off at 6.15. As usual you press the snooze button, turn on your side and doze off for another ten minutes. You always had to have that ten minutes. When the alarm goes off again, you switch it off, turn on the bedside light and sit up.

You sit on the edge of the bed for a moment, adjusting to the light before slipping your feet into the slippers by your bed. Today you are wearing your stripy pyjamas. You always wear them when the weather gets cooler.

You enter the bathroom for exactly 25 minutes. I never understood how you could be so exact with your time: shower, brush your teeth, moisturising, make-up. All done with precision timing. That's why you always wanted to get in there before me; it used to drive you mad when I lingered in the shower and put you off your schedule.

You come out of the bathroom your make up and hair done; you have pulled it up into a loose bun. I used to love that style, especially when you undid it at night and let your long hair cascade over your shoulders. You walk over to the wardrobe - there are still empty shelves where my clothes used to be - and choose your clothes for the day. You choose the red bra and underpants; you always insisted wearing matching underwear, "My mother always said to me to be prepared for the worst at all times. People judge you by the smallest things, including your underwear."

I told you that I had heard people say that before, but never actually known anyone who had abided by the rule. I wonder if the doctors who resuscitated you after the car crash appreciated your matching underwear.

You pull on one of your many black dresses. When I first discovered your collection of black dresses I tried teasing you about them, saying that at least you were prepared for a dozen funerals. You just shrugged your shoulders and said it saved you time in the mornings.

Having dressed, like clock work, you enter the kitchen at 6.45, feed the cat and have a glass of water. You never were that fond of the idea of having a cat, but once we got him, Snuggles - your name for him - became your cat instantly. You stroke Snuggles and tell him you will be back about seven. You used to say that to me as you left for work.

You seem to have adjusted to a life without me very well, far better than I have. There was a time when you would cry yourself to sleep every night, but after about two weeks you seemed to decide that enough was enough and got a grip again. You emptied the closet of my clothes, threw them unceremoniously into a black bin bag and took them to a charity shop.

I follow you as you walk to the tube station - a walk we did so many times together. Inside I slip through the gates unnoticed just behind you and enter the carriage through a different set of doors. It's already busy, but not yet impossible to find a seat: one of the reasons you perfected your morning routine. You preferred to get the tube before the first rush and have a quiet moment in the office before all the others arrived.

At work you get quietly through the day. When you first returned to work after the car crash, your colleagues used to ask if you were ok, if you needed anything. You were always polite but wouldn't open up to any of them and one by one they stopped asking. You always were very private.

"I don't need the world and his wife knowing my affairs and talking about them," you used to say. You preferred to keep people at arm's length, even me to begin with, but eventually you let me in. Into your flat, your head, your life. I always

felt very privileged and loved you even more for that. I still do. I wish I could tell you so.

As the day draws to a close the office empties out; few people stop by your desk and ask if you want to join them for a drink. You know they are only being polite. You smile back and politely decline.

You are one of the last ones to leave the office. You always worked long days, but never like this. I can only wonder if you don't like going back to the empty flat. Finally you switch off the computer and head home.

Just like on the way in, I follow you to the tube and slip in. It's still busy and you have to stand, but at least it's only four stops. On the way home I follow you as you do your shopping at Sainsbury’s; I wish I could offer you help with the bags, like I used to.

We used to meet up outside Sainsbury's on Fridays. I always made sure I was there before you. I liked waiting for you. We would go through the aisles, you in the front, me following - a bit like now - as shopping was always your domain. You were the planner of dinners and therefore the shopping list.

You reach home and juggle with the bags to open the door. Snuggles is there to greet you and follows you to the kitchen. You feed Snuggles, put the shopping away and heat up some dinner from last night. You eat it on the sofa while watching some TV, just like we used to do.

Even though it is Friday, you turn the TV off at ten. Your evening routine is as meticulously timed as the morning one and by 10.15 you are in bed. Half an hour of reading and then you switch off the light. Snuggles is curled up at the end of the bed. He never used to sleep in the bed when I was still there, but now he does; maybe he feels your need for companionship.

I wish I could hold you and kiss you good night like I used to. I used to tell you every night that I would always be there for you. I wish I could let you know that I still am. Even if you cannot see or hear me.

They pulled your body from the wreckage first. By the time they got me out, it was already too late.

literature
Reija Sillanpaa
Reija Sillanpaa
Read next: 'Chocolate Kisses'
Reija Sillanpaa

Cancer diagnosis in March 2019 made me re-evaluate my life and helped me to rediscover my love for writing. I write fiction as well as factual articles on topics that interest me such as health, food and the environment.

IG: @r_s_sillanpaa

See all posts by Reija Sillanpaa