Tuesday 31 August 2021

Stunted Growth


by Laura Goodfellow

a sturdy mug of Russian Caravan tea

There it is, right in front of me, erupting from the mulch of decaying leaves and rich coffee coloured earth. A chaotic tangle of twisted branches spreading like the gnarled limbs of wizened hags from the belly-like trunk below. I wasn’t sure if I’d still be able to find it, but the route my eight-year-old feet had first taken all those years ago lingered on the cusp of my memory and brought me back to this spot, at the foot of the old oak tree. To others, it must look like just another oak, there's nothing much to tell it apart from its neighbours, but this is our tree. I know what secrets lie hidden beneath the patchwork of the red, gold, and deep chestnut brown of its autumnal blanket.

Through a tear-stained curtain of memories, I can see us running there after school, you and me, past the chippy, scooting across the murky patch of wasteland and into the woods beyond. It's all changed now; the chippy and the wasteland are gone, replaced by an exclusive housing development. Two rows of bland, brown brick boxes, with wooden blinds and shiny BMWs parked outside. They've put in a new path to the woods, running alongside the houses, separated by one of those slatted fences; it’s still covered in old crisp packets and empty cans though


Our oak provided a backdrop to our childhood. A deep gash in the trunk led to a womb-like void inside, big enough for us to stand in. It was our den, which we were prepared to defend, with violence, if necessary, when Barry and his gang used to try and take it from us. We’d fly out, howling like banshees, brandishing sticks we had sharpened with my dad’s Swiss army knife. Our hair was wild with sticky weed, our faces smeared with mud. Running at them, we'd momentarily see the fear in their faces before Barry would say,

‘Fucking weirdos, leave them.’

Relieved choruses of 'weirdos, weirdos' would follow before they all ran off laughing.

It was after one of Barry's failed coups that I first saw you cut yourself.

'We'll make a blood bond,' you'd announced. 'He'll never get the den off us then; we'll be too strong. I’ve seen it done in films, we cut our hands, then press them together so the blood sort of touches, then we’re friends forever.’

I remember how sick I felt as I watched the sticky red gash appear on your palm as you drew my dad's knife down it.

'Your turn,' you said, handing me the knife, expecting me to do the same, but I couldn't. I just couldn't bring myself to cut my hand. In the end, I picked one of the many scabs from my knee, which produced a few drops of blood which you pressed your palm against.

            ‘Blood is blood,’ you said, smiling.


Some days we swung from dangerously frayed ropes slung over the only straight branch the old tree possessed. You were scared of heights, so it was my job to crawl across the branch, twenty-foot above the ground, to try and loop the rope around at least once while you stood below, assuring me you'd catch me if I fell. I remind my kids about the dangers of climbing trees now. I forget that once I did the same with you, with all the childhood abandon of unwavering faith in our own immortality.

On other days, we’d scour the undergrowth for discarded porn mags and giggle as the women's breasts were revealed to us as we flicked through the crumpled, damp pages. I used to wonder if you had the same tingling sensations in your trousers as I did.

            We tried shagging after one magazine-filled afternoon, just to see what it was like. Christ, we were like two fish floundering on dry land; awkward, embarrassing touches, fingers fumbling as we tried to undo each other’s zips. We didn’t have a bloody clue, but there again, what eleven-year-olds do? We ended up sitting outside the den, looking at the stars, sipping chemical-filled cider from a plastic bottle, smoking roll-ups.


At thirteen, we shared our first joints in that den. We laughed so hard our cheeks ached as the tears streamed down our faces. What made us laugh, I can't remember, but in our weed-induced hysterics, it probably wasn't much.

It turned out you liked weed. It helped block out the voices in your head, you said. The voices that held you prisoner, with their dark, deathly demands and made you so unpredictable, your mood could change in seconds. Never mind a dark cloud descending; as they say, it was like the whole fucking storm had come and sat on your shoulders. One misinterpreted word, and you would fly up, swearing as your hands pressed so hard against your ears, you almost looked as though you could have squashed your skull with all the ease of squeezing a strawberry, which was the colour your face went.

‘Fuck off, leave me alone,’ you’d scream, but your anger wasn’t directed at me, but at the voices that you were finding it harder to ignore.

Often, I’d find you sat alone in the den, quickly trying to conceal the knife in your hand and the wounds on your arms. I could see the pain in your eyes, I'd try to reach out, but you'd turn away. I never asked if you were ashamed that I'd caught you or angry that I'd interrupted.? I didn’t really understand what was going on in your head, but I knew that I hated those voices and the control they had over you.


We spent more and more time, sat in silence in the den, me watching you retreating further and further away from those around you. I’d beg you to talk to me, but you’d shrug, shake your head, and go back to whittling a piece of fallen branch. Slivers of wood curled around you, like fallen leaves as your fingers worked deftly, carving soft curves and lines till you would throw over to me, a badger, fox, or a delicate spoon. I found it hard to comprehend that those hands that had just created such beauty were the same hands that carved deep jagged lines into your arms with the same blade.  

I never minded being there with you though, it gave me the peace and quiet away from my five younger siblings that I yearned for. I'd sit and read while you whittled away. I wasn’t a very sociable teenager; I was tall and gangly. My regular clothing of ripped jeans and a black t-shirt, along with a musical taste that I inherited from my seventies rock-loving parents, marked me as different from the norm. I was cast to the outer rings of teenage society, along with all the other misfits and weirdos, not included but thankfully not bullied either.       

            It wasn't the same story for you, though.  Learning came easily to me, but for you, each word on the page was a struggle for you to read. Along with your behavioural problems came its bedfellow of learning difficulties.

'I've got dyslexia,' you told me, after school one day, when you’d been assessed by a woman in a blue suit who had come into school specially to see you.

‘I’m gonna get me some help with my reading and writing,’ you continued. The extra support didn’t help you though; you were constantly in trouble. The other kids knew what buttons to press to make you react and react you did, lashing out with your fists as groups of boys and girls goaded you on.


By the time you were fifteen, you had been expelled. The school didn't know how to help you any more than me; your exasperated family, countless psychiatrists, psychologists, or other doctors you saw, did.  Each one would refer you to someone else or hand your mother a prescription for some drug or another that would help.

Each time, you would improve for a few weeks, sometimes even a couple of months, but then you would drift back to the dark places of your mind. Swimming in a fog of drugs and depression. Not even a light from the brightest of lighthouses would have offered any respite to you. I prayed for you, not to God; I didn't and still don't believe in God. But I cried out many nights to anyone that could hear me to help you. I felt you were being stolen from me by an unseen kidnapper that lurked in the dark places of your mind. I sat and watched as your world got smaller and smaller.


When I was eighteen, I was offered a place at university, two hundred miles away, to study English Literature. For days I sat with you, by our oak, under a makeshift shelter as a dry July gave way to torrential August rain, unable to find the words to tell you I was leaving. Your head drooped as I finally told you, but you smiled and said you were proud of me and that I should go and never look back.


I did look back and look in as often as I could. To begin with, once every couple of weeks, I would turn up at the den, and you'd be there, blowing out a thick cloud of grey-green smoke from the joint in your hand.

            ‘Want some?’ you’d ask, stretching as you offered it to me. I’d wince as I saw the new flashes of red crisscrossing your arm, angry and weeping as the scabs began to form. I’d always shake my head; despite enjoying weed a few times in my teenage years, it really didn't agree with me, and after one particularly severe bout of vomiting after a joint, I hadn't tried again. You never stopped asking, though.

            ‘More for me,’ you’d laugh before asking me about my life. I’d try and ask about you, how you were getting on, but you’d just shrug, flick your hand, as though you were flicking something dirty and contagious from your fingers, and press on with questioning me about my latest assignment or which book, I was reading.


I returned home one weekend during my second year at uni, and you weren't at the den. I sent you a text and called, but you didn't reply. I went to your Mum's, but she hadn't seen you either; she thought you had come to meet me. Panic coursed through my body. Where were you? I walked the streets, searching for you, reaching your answerphone, time after time, until finally, I heard your voice at the other end.

            ‘I’ve got a job,’ you squealed in delight, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t meet you; I didn’t want to tell anyone I was going for the interview in case I failed,’ you explained.

            ‘Asshole, you've had us all worried,' I replied, breathing a sigh of relief. 'Meet you at the den, and you can tell me all about it and ring your mum.’

Twenty minutes, later you were telling me all about your new job at the local animal rescue kennels, helping to walk the dogs and muck out the horses. There was a light in your eyes, the first flicker of hope that I had seen for a long time.

            'New tablets and a better shrink,' you explained, 'and I've given up the weed, got myself a counsellor to help me stay off it too,’ you smiled.


When I returned after my exams, you were there waiting for me at the den. Your new job hadn't lasted; you'd lost your temper with another staff member and broken a window in anger. Luckily, they had agreed not to press charges on the condition you stayed away and paid for the damages. The light had gone out again, the acrid smell of weed lingered in the air again, and you refused to talk. I left that day crying. I can't tell you if those tears were for you, for me, or for a friendship that seemed lost.


It seems cliched to say I’ll never forget the day, when two years after I’d left the den crying, your mother called me to say you'd gone, taken your own life; but I won’t, it is etched into my mind with all the permanency of an anchor tattooed on a sailor’s arm. When the spectre of depression and voices that had kept you shackled so closely to it for most of your life had finally become too intense, too painful for you to carry on living with, you hung yourself from our tree.

            Our tree? That made me fucking angry with you to begin with. I felt as though you had besmirched the sanctity of our childhood by choosing there to do it. Over time, I realised that there, at the oak, was the place you had felt safe, felt free. It was the only place you could have done it, really. Mostly, I felt guilt, guilty for walking away that day and not telling you the truth. I'd made excuses texting you to say I wouldn't be home when really, I was. I couldn’t face seeing you, you see. I was twenty, my uni life was entirely different from my life at school. I had friends, we went out to parties, I joined the university writers’ group and helped publish the university's magazine. I was no longer cast to the outer echelons of society, and I liked it.  Days rolled into weeks which rolled into months. You took longer to reply to my texts; I thought you were angry at me, you weren't, though, your ship was sinking, and you weren't even trying to bail out anymore.


Barry was at your funeral. He flicked back a rogue tendril of his slick-backed hair as he turned his tear-stained face towards me and nodded, a silent acknowledgment of the loss of a piece of our childhood jigsaw. We stood together, near the back, cringing as we listened to the vicar delivering your soul to God. Bellowing out All Things Bright and Beautiful, your mother’s choice, we squeezed each other's hands as the heavy red velvet curtain shrouded your coffin as you descended to the bowels of the crematorium.




And now, here I am, thirty years later, back at this place of ghosts and dreams. The branch I nonchalantly tossed a rope over, the same one you purposefully tied a rope to, has gone. Cut down. A dark circular scar is the only evidence of its existence. My fingers tingle and quiver as I stretch my hand towards it; I want to touch it, to touch you, but it's too high.

The bark is rough beneath my hands as I reach around the trunk, trying to encircle it with my arms, pressing myself hard against it, trying to reach into its very heart and find you. Are you playing in the trees now or hiding in the den? Perhaps you are part of the tree now? I can't help but cry; the sense of you of your essence lingers all around this place and overwhelms me. Tears of years of guilt, regret, and anger spill out all at once as I sink to my knees.


Time has drifted, and darkness is beginning to creep into the woods. Shadows dart amongst the trees, and I can’t help but wonder if they are the same shadows that took you from me. There were days when I wanted to follow you, you know, to escape the guilt and sadness that I felt. I don't know what I thought, but maybe if I found you, I could bring you back. My life juddered to a halt. I was held in the past, stuck like a fly twitching on a spider's web as my life slowly ebbed away. I finally understood then why you had to leave.

            Was that you? That sudden chill wind that wrapped around me, rustling the golden canopy above. Spiralling the leaves up from the floor, so they momentarily danced before stillness returned, and they floated back to the earth below. A feeling of peace seems to be growing around me. You are happy, I finally know that.


he time has come for me to leave you again; there are two small boys waiting patiently with Barry in the car. You'd probably laugh at the thought of me and Barry together. We kept in touch, and eventually, our friendship became love.


So goodbye, my dearest friend, my first love, fellow warrior.  I won't return here, at least not yet anyway. When I do, it will be to step through into the womb of our oak and sit in our den with you again.

About the author

Laura is a mature student, about to embark on the final year of her Creative Writing degree with the Open University. Between writing and studying, Laura enjoys kayaking in the beautiful surroundings of her North Wales home. She hopes to study for an MA in Creative writing in the future. 

Monday 30 August 2021

As Good as a Holiday

by Eamon O'Leary

cappuccino (no chocolate)

Mother loved picking blackberries, or blackas as we called them. At their best towards the end of August or early September, we’d keep an eye on the weather an’ the hurling. Yes, the hurling, cos if Cork were in the All-Ireland final, we’d be glued to our tellies on the Sunday, clappin’ an’ cheerin’ every time the Rebels scored, an’ jeerin’ an’ shoutin’ at the referee whenever a decision went against us.

“Hello Mam, the forecast looks good for pickin’ blackas on Saturday. I’ll collect you around two-ish.”

“Grand. I’ll be ready as soon as I’ve tidied up after the dinner.”

Mam never took to the new way of eating meals.

“Eatin’ yer dinner at nighttime; did ye ever hear the like of it? ‘Tis all them young wans with notions that started all this codology. I’m stickin’ to what I’ve always done. Breakfast when I get up, dinner at dinner time, an’ a boiled egg or a few cuts o’ bread an’ jam for de supper.”  

Going for the blackas was as good as a holiday to Mam. She’d wear the flattest pair of shoes she possessed, but her choice was limited, as she was forever tellin’ us, “I was never one for the flat shoes. I always like a biteen of a heel.”

No matter what the day was doin’, she’d bring along her heavy tweed coat, the one bought years earlier in The Munster Arcade.

“’Tis a bit on de big side, but sure, I couldn’t let it after me, ‘twas a great bargain”, she’d informed us at the time.

However, the most important part of her gear was the billy-can, which, like herself, showed all the signs of a long life, well lived. I don’t know where she planked it, but it reappeared every year an’ she clutched it as if it was her favourite handbag.

Off we’d head, Mam talkin’ non-stop, startin’ off with the local gossip; who’d got married, who’d had a baby, an’ who’d passed away. Then she’d move on to de sca. What she’d heard about so-an’-so, an’ yer man down de road and more. She expected or thought I knew all these people, but it didn’t matter.

Carrigaline was the first stop where we’d enjoy a cone before weaving our way on towards Nohoval. I’d take it handy, till it was time to leave the tarry road behind us an’ crawl down the stony boreen - our boreen. The grass in the middle tickling the underbelly of the car. It felt as if we were expected. I’d park alongside the same rusted four-bar-gate, an’ we’d start. Mam with her billy-can an’ me with a Tupperware bowl.

In all the years we went, we never got to know the name of the townland. We were content to call it “our spot”.

Some things never changed. The biggest, juiciest blackas were always the ones up high, with battalions of nettles an’ brambles between us an’ them. Mam, with her coat comin’ down over her knees, stretched, reached, an’ picked as best she could, an’ wasn’t slow to rattle off a string or curses whenever a nettle or thorny bramble introduced itself.

When nosey cattle came up to the ditches, she would chat away to them as if they were long-lost friends.

“Fine an’ healthy, they are,” she’d tell me, “they’ll make a good price.”

We’d watch as birds feasted on hawthorn berries an’ marvel at nature’s beauty whenever we spotted a butterfly. We’d stroll, pick, an’ admire the views an’ smells of the countryside till Mam’s billy-can an’ my bowl overflowed.

Then it was time for our reward. We’d head for McCarthy’s pub.

“Hello. I’ll have a pint, please. What’ll ye have, Mam?”

“A glasseen for me, please.” This was Mam’s word for a half pint.

After taking a decent first sip, she’d rest the glass an’ lick the frothy moustache from her lips, like a child lickin’ an ice-cream.

Back at her house, she’d put the berries in the big saucepan along with sugar, a knob of butter, an’ the juice of a lemon. Leaving the lot to boil, Mam’d get down a small army of jam jars from the cupboard.

“I’ll give ‘em a quick rinse an’ dry ‘em in de oven. They say that kills all the germs.”

Once the jam was made an’ in the jars, she’d boil the kettle. We’d have tea, soda bread slathered with butter an’ a good dollop of de jam on top.

“We’d a great day, didn’t we?” Mam would say, licking the jam from her lips.

About the auhtor 

Having won the Southport International Short Story Competition in '19, Eamon is working towards publishing a collection of his short stories. 





Sunday 29 August 2021

The Stories He Tells You


by Michelle Adams

tea, just how you like it 

You're reading this because you didn't recognise the man that gave it to you. That dear, sweet man that visits you every day, who brings you flowers, makes your cup of tea just how you like it and who looks at you with such sadness in his eyes is your husband, and you've been married for over forty years. His name is James, and you have three children together, Matthew, Katy and Lucy.

You don't remember him because you have an illness, a horrible, horrible illness that is stealing your memories. You wrote this letter shortly after the doctors told you what to expect - ready for this day that you prayed would never come.

You must be very confused and very scared. But NEVER be scared of James – that man would die before he ever hurt you.

It was hard to hear the news you had been dreading. When you first went to the GP, you'd hoped he say that it was just old age creeping up or that it was stress from James' retirement (as much as you love him, it was a little tricky getting used to him being home all day!). Dr Porter was coming up for retirement himself, and in the past, had been a little dismissive of what he called 'ladies' problems'. An old fashioned gentleman with old fashioned views, you'd expected that he'd wave away your concerns as he had in the past. But that wrinkled old face had frowned, and he'd pulled his chair closer and asked questions, ones that even now you can't quite remember, that linger on the edges of your memory, that evaporate into nothing whenever you try and focus on them.  Driving home that day was a blur; you couldn't remember leaving the surgery or even the journey. James found you sitting on the driveway, the engine of your little yellow mini still running, just staring at nothing. You hadn't told him how much it was bothering you, those minor innocuous symptoms he'd made light of, that on their own were nothing more than silly little idiosyncrasies,  funny little habits. Some had always been part of your personality, like mixing up words – always calling the dishwasher the washing machine or the oven the sink.  But before, those little foibles had been a product of a distracted mind, not a sick one. And in the end,  those little things, when put together, turned out to be quite a big thing. Alzheimer's. A funny-sounding word for something that isn't funny at all. 

They handed out leaflets, links to websites, contacts for charities that could help. You read everything several times because it was increasingly hard to take in information even then, particularly about unfamiliar things. James read them to you; you read them together. There were endless conversations with specialists, support workers,  and with the lovely lady from the charity. You wanted, no, you needed to understand what was coming, to be prepared for whatever was ahead. Though deep down, you knew it was inevitable.

You sat down on a sunny afternoon when you realised that soon when this illness had really taken hold, you would forget that you had grandchildren, forget even your children. You've spent a long time trying and failing to come to terms with the unhappy truth that the ones you love the most would eventually become strangers to you.  You sat down at the battered old writing desk (inherited from your mother) and wrote yourself a series of letters,  reminders of your most precious memories, and James promised that when the time came, he would return them.

When you wrote these words to yourself, you hoped that they wouldn't upset you too much, that they wouldn't scare the woman you would become. Don't cry. As your mother used to say, 'Crying takes away the energy you need to fight.' Keep reading. No one knows you as well as you know yourself, and as long as you are still there, still in a world where you have your family behind you, there will be a part of you that knows that you can do this, you can still be strong, still hold on. Hold on.  Hold on to James; he's got you.

 James has been the love of your life; your soul mate and your best friend. He has been your most loyal and committed companion, and you love him as much as he still loves you. You've spent many hours staring into those gentle green eyes of his, holding that labourer's hand that touches you so softly. You've raised your three beautiful children and welcomed seven gorgeous grandchildren into your family. Your family have been your strength, and you are more proud of them than words can say.

James was your first real love, and although it was a short courtship, it wasn't wholly love at first sight. You met each other at the wedding of your cousin Helen to an old school friend of his. You were sitting next to each other at the reception, and for the first hour, you barely exchanged words. That wasn't for want of trying on your behalf, but other than a polite 'Nice to meet you.', James sat silent, too shy to join in with the animated conversation amongst the guests on your table.   You quite liked the look of him, despite the way he fidgeted in his seat, obviously uncomfortable in his smart suit. You liked the way he wore his hair slightly longer than fashionable and how he seemed to be listening intently to the conversation around him, even as he remained mute. He's always been like that. Quiet, not shy, and observant, taking in the world around him, considering, gathering his thoughts and words, thinking about what he wants to say. He sometimes jokes that he's so quiet because you are always talking. He 'never gets a word in edgeways' to use an old cliché!  Your father used to say that you never had a thought cross your mind that didn't immediately fly out of your mouth, but he meant it affectionately, even if it did sting on occasion.

Back to James – you'd almost given up on engaging him in conversation when Helen wandered over to your table, as she circulated amongst her guests between courses. 'Wonderful!' she'd exclaimed. 'I knew you two would get along!' (she obviously hadn't noticed his silence). 'Sarah,' she continued, 'you and James have so much in common!' You were a bit bemused -  your table had been chattering about several interesting subjects, and he'd yet to comment on any of them.

'Really?' you'd replied, 'Like what?' You were genuinely curious, keen to get this handsome stranger chatting.

'Oh, all sorts,' she added. 'James likes old stuff too - don't you, James?'

His polite smile quirked into a grin at that. 'Old stuff?' he asked.

'Yes, those old-fashioned books and things,' she explained before turning to speak to another guest. His eyes crinkled, and his smile grew -  her words had sparked some interest. She'd given you an opening, and you took it. And she was right; you do have a lot in common. As well as a love of classic literature, you share a love of old movies and spent the afternoon discussing your favourites. By the time the waiters had cleared away the coffee cups and started moving the tables to make way for the dancing, you were already falling for him. He wasn't much of a dancer, though he's improved slightly over the years with your guidance. As he held you in his arms and awkwardly swirled you around the dance floor, you knew he was special.

At the end of the evening, you agreed to meet him the following week.  He bought tickets at the Empire to see a screening of The Wizard of Oz, one of your favourites. You shared popcorn and lost yourselves in the story, and he surprised you when he confidently held your hand, and you wondered how you ever thought he was shy. As Dorothy returned home from her adventures, you snuck a look at James, only to find him looking right back. You realised that you wanted to share an adventure of your own with him.  And what an adventure it has been!  After the film, he walked you home (the long way round), and you talked about everything and nothing. When it was time to say good night, he kissed you chastely on the cheek and thanked you for a lovely night. You laughed at his reserve and pulled him into your first real kiss. It was wonderful. As the butterflies in your tummy fluttered, your heart raced. The kiss didn't last as long as you'd have liked,  but when you opened your eyes, you met that look, which told you everything you needed to know without words. That look which told you that he felt the same way as you – that look -  that he gave you just a few moments ago when he held out this letter.

He will struggle once you start to forget him. It will break his heart, as it is breaking yours. Yours has been a happy marriage. You have always been there for each other.  In good times and bad, just as he is here for you now. You've called him many things over the years: your rock, your foundation, your reason for getting up every morning, and yes, you've even called him a ‘stubborn old fool’ at times.  You've had your arguments, just like any other couple, and there are lots of things you've disagreed on. But the one thing you've always agreed on, that you promised each other on your wedding day, and on the day you were diagnosed, was 'in sickness and in health'. He's not going anywhere.  When you wrote this, the idea that scared you most was that your symptoms would get so severe that you'd forget so much, it would all become too much for him. He's promised you, over and over, that no matter what, he will be there. You'll know, from the fact that he's with you now, having given you this to read, that he's keeping that promise.

It was Claire from the charity that gave you the idea to write this. Well, not this specifically. She was explaining the importance of planning ahead. She meant things like a will, organising a Power of Attorney, and other financial matters. She said it was best to write these things down. You've done all that and more. You've made your children promise that when they see that you and James aren't coping very well at home, they will make sure you both get the proper help you need. Together, you've picked out a nursing home. You were drawn to the one with the beautiful garden, full of flowers and bird tables. It might even be the garden that you can see outside the window of the room you are in now. James was insistent that he would care for you himself, in the home you've shared since before Matthew was born, but Claire helped persuade him that at some point, you might need more than even his huge heart can give.

Then, although you had taken care of all the formal things, you found that you weren't quite finished.  You want to remind yourself of everything you can - all of what you and James have shared. You've written a few more of these letters, describing important events: your wedding day, the births of each of your children, your grandchildren. You may have already read some of them. There is so much more you don't want to forget,  more than you could ever put down on paper. So, although he's never been a man of many words, you've agreed that James will tell you stories, like the ones you both love to read. The stories he tells you, the ones he already has, and the ones he'll tell you tomorrow and the next day and the day after that – they are YOUR stories. They are the stories of your lives together, of the adventures you've had, of the places you've been. They will be the tales of the people you have known; of those you have loved. They will be about your family, your friends, your dramas, and your ordinary days. There will be happy ones, and maybe some will be sad. Listen to them. Hold them in your heart and be strong.

Don't be scared, not of him, or of forgetting. He will remember everything for you both.  

About the author 

Michelle Adams lives on Anglesey, North Wales. Since turning 40 a few years ago, she has returned to study and is currently a student with The Open University, studying towards a BA in Arts & Humanities (English Language & Creative Writing).