A time to live, a time to love.
He’d been in love with her for a long time. He could pin-point the moment that it happened. It was in the summer, three years earlier. He’d held the door open for her at the bank. She’d smiled her thanks at him, and in that second their eyes held, only for a second, but he felt a connection with her that he’d never had with anybody else in his life. He fell in love and he hadn’t been able to get her out of his mind since.
She was different to anybody else he’d ever seen, quiet, gentle. He didn’t make friends easily. He had no friends at all and he’d never had a girlfriend. He was twenty-one years old and his head was filled with thoughts of her day and night because there was nothing else in his life other than his work, and his mother. He knew that if he could just talk to her that she’d feel the same. She was different too, just like him. They’d understand each other. He knew it.
But he couldn’t talk to her. He couldn’t talk to any woman but it was worse with her because she was never alone. Sometimes he saw her at lunchtime. Thursday was a good day, it seemed to be the day that she and her mother walked around town and did their shopping. He’d follow them. They never noticed him, he was invisible. He wanted to open a door for her again so that he could re-create that perfect moment that they’d shared. He wanted her to look at him again, but she never did.
She was so pretty. She came to him in his dreams sometimes and even though she looked like a beautiful but untouchable fairy queen in the dreams, they’d make love. Sometimes she rode to him on a white horse and they’d lie in the meadow surrounded by buttercups, afterwards they’d walk by the stream holding hands. He knew that she couldn't ride a horse in real life but she was just as pretty as in the dreams. She was very thin; she looked so fragile, so delicate with her long neck and her straight mousy hair. Her eyes were blue, he knew that from the time she’d looked at him, and the times they’d made love in the meadow.
And now here she was in front of him. He’d come into work just like every other morning, nothing up to that point had marked it as a special day. She had on her white dress with the lace collar even though it was winter now. He liked that dress, he’d seen her wear it often in summer. She was in the room with Ron. She wasn’t a fairy queen any longer. She was a client.
“Ahh, now then Geoffrey, this is Alice, Jane, Chadwick, twenty three. Mother wants the works, everything's there, try and make good time if you can lad. I’ll be next door with the obese Mrs. Buckley.”
If Ron had introduced them properly, Geoffrey might not have been able to speak at all. His breath had lodged in his throat and only expelled itself in disgust at Ron’s gruff, rude manner. He shouldn't talk like that in front of her. This wasn’t just anybody. It was... Alice. He knew her name. Ron should have been more respectful. Geoffrey smiled an embarrassed apology at Alice. He gave a slight cough in the back of his throat and when Ron looked up he motioned towards her with his eyes and glared at him.
“Oh, do forgive me, Miss Chadwick. I swear I leave my manners in the coat rack some mornings. I will leave you in the capable hands of young Geoffrey here.” He gave a small chuckle on the way out of the room.
The next twenty-four hours passed in a blur. It was lunch time before Ron came hammering on the door, wanting to know why it was locked. Geoffrey giggled, and told Alison that it was a steel door and there were no windows in this part of the building, nobody could ever get in and disturb them and nobody could hear them. They could stay like this forever, he told her.
Late that afternoon they made love. For the first time Geoffrey made love to a woman and it surpassed everything he’d ever fantasised about. Finally he knew what it was to be a man. Other people might not call it lovemaking; they might give it other names, dirty names. But to them, it was perfect.
Making love to Alice was wonderful, it was spectacular but it was only a small part of what made their time together special. She let him talk and she understood what he’d been through just like he knew she would.
He’d lifted her down. He wanted to see her the way that she’d always been. He didn’t know why her chair had been brought in with her, but it had. He carried her across the room and sat her gently into the wheelchair. He laid the plaid blanket across her knees just the way it had always been and he arranged the white dress so that it folded prettily around her. He brushed her long hair and replaced her fallen hair band. He told her that they’d named them Alice bands after her because she was so sweet and gentle.
It had been quiet outside for some time, he heard he squeal of the loud hailer. Even with that the voices were quiet and indistinct and they had to sit quietly and listen carefully to hear. He placed her cool hand in his and was comforted by her serenity.
It was the same policeman as the day before. He didn’t introduce himself again, but Geoffrey recognised his voice.
“Geoffrey, Geoffrey… Geoff, lad, come on, can you hear me? Let us at least know that you’re all right in there. You didn’t take the food that we left you. You must be thirsty by now. Come on son. It’s time to come out now. Come out and talk to me. Nobody else Geoffrey, just you and me, I’ll look after you, son. I promise we’ll get you some help. It’ll be okay.”
Geoffrey tried to block out the voice. This Turner bloke, the copper, wasn’t saying anything that he hadn’t said the day before. He wasn’t saying that he and Alice could be together always. Geoffrey concentrated on talking to her. He didn’t want her to be frightened. He told her again how much he loved her.
A new voice came over the loud hailer. She was sobbing.
“Why are you doing this to me?” she wailed. Haven’t we suffered enough? Please lad, if you have any decency left in your heart, just let me see my baby one last time.”
Geoffrey was sad. Alice loved her mother. Alice would be sad too if her mother kept crying. He didn’t want to keep them apart. He just wanted her to let him be the one to push her wheelchair. He wanted to marry her and be part of the family.
He knew that he couldn’t stay in there with her forever. It had all just been a wonderful dream. He tried to explain it to her, so that she’d understand that he had to let them in. This wasn’t their meadow where Alice could walk and ride horses. This was the real world. He kissed her gently and stroked her long neck. It fell forward in his hands. He knew she was sad because they couldn’t be together.
He was on his knees crying when they burst through the door. The policemen dragged Geoffrey up. One of them called him a sick bastard. They were going to put handcuffs on him but Ron stopped them.
“Now then, there’s no need for that. He’ll give you no more trouble. Let me talk to him.” One of the policemen was being sick on the floor.
Ron put an arm around Geoffrey’s shoulder and pulled his face into his jacket that smelled of formaldehyde. It was a comforting smell. Geoffrey liked it. “Aaah lad,” said Ron, “What have you been doing? Look at her.” He moved Geoffrey’s head so that he was facing Alice, “She’s leaking look.” She was, a clear fluid was seeping from underneath her and the blood had begun to pool at her ankles. “Let’s put her back in her casket, eh? And then we’ll see what’s to be done.”
Between them, they lifted Alison gently into the coffin on the steel table. “There, we can get her out to the chapel soon and let her mother in. You’ve got to go with the police lad, but I’ll take good care of her and see to her properly.”
“I love her Ron.”
“Aye lad, I know you do.”
“Go easy on him lads,” he said to the policemen as they led him away, “He’s not well.”