Bill was a proud man, a strong man, having much to celebrate regarding various aspects of his long life, except he had no-one to share his past memories with. His health was fine. No problem carrying out his household duties and by all accounts this would be the case for many years to come, but for a while now a nagging, no, not so much nagging, a niggling headache bothered him, but he could tell it wasn't so much physical as cerebral in nature - as if an idea was attempting to break free from imposed restrictions.
Periods of inactivity compounded the issue, where the unease would grow to such an extent a heaviness would descend upon him, disturbing him all the more. What could be the reason for this malaise? Bill, not being one for heavy contemplation - more of an action man, failed to grasp the meaning behind the associated memories which entered his daily thoughts at such times, shrugging off as best he could the uncomfortable weight of the impending threat to his health (as he surmised it to be) by carrying out some DIY task or other. There was something about the disturbance which bothered him on a level he was not at all comfortable with. It would come to him in time he reasoned. Not right then though as he had some gardening to do and the car to polish. It would have to wait, wishing more than anything it would go away altogether of its own accord.
Pictures adorned the fireplace where Bill's eyes would drift more often than not when sitting in his favourite chair. TV programs no longer kept his attention for long, though he still enjoyed the occasional film or documentary. His wife used to be the TV buff in the household. She would park herself down on the sofa in great expectation, being completely immersed in the developing characters and their daily struggles in her most-liked sitcoms. He could imagine her sitting there all the more these days and it brought a little tear to his eye each and every time. Funnily enough Bill was never one to show his feelings yet his thick skin had definitely thinned as of late - with regard to certain memories anyway. On the one hand he disliked feeling emotional but on the other loved to imagine Emily alive and well revelling in some sub plot whilst eating a biscuit and drinking a cup of tea. His emotional well being was caught between a rock and a hard place and it was dragging him down. He was out of his depth and he knew it.
The house was so quiet now. No disturbances. The annoyances he so greatly disliked - or thought he did at the time - he would have given his right arm to hear once again, but the perpetrator had long gone. For years he had kept himself super busy. Always on the go no matter what. Never wanting to spend time with his thoughts if he could help it. The tactic had worked. Age was catching up with him though and for that there wasn't any cure, being forced to take it easy at times whether he liked it or not. It was during these idle moments where reflection became his bitter enemy yet, strangely enough, his one and only friend. Hadn't he earned his right to take it easy? Hadn't he worked all his life without remonstrance? He had paid his dues in more ways than one yet never complained or bragged about his ups and downs. Why then was the time left to him becoming one of concern? Why was the future becoming such a dark place to consider? Always the weight of the moment would make its presence felt in an almost tangible way. His strength of character would see him through though - he had no-doubt. No way would he become a blubbering wreck for no apparent reason. If contemplation was the only way to find an answer then contemplate he would however uncomfortable it became, but still the answer eluded him and greater despair seemed to be his lot in life unless someone or something threw him a lifeline.
Bill left the house for any excuse, even to the extent of only purchasing a few groceries at a time instead of stocking up in one go. A daily trip to the supermarket was the highlight of his day more often than not, although he wouldn't have owned up to it. Nor would he have owned up to the elation he felt when encountering Helen who just happened to frequent the same store and at the same time. For months he had espied her out of the corner of his eye but had never found the courage to speak. During the drive down he would feel teenage like trepidation, an elevated heart rate, but alongside the growing excitement pangs of guilt kept pace. It was his life long commitment to his dearly departed Emily that held him in check - a line he just couldn't cross. The more he considered this 'new' woman the more Emily entered into his daily thoughts, where his dream state was hers alone. He couldn't break the hold however he tried - not yet anyway. Why would he? It was the last thing he wanted. Emily had always been his very reason for existence and would always be with him.
For hours on end Bill was on his own. Bar for a word or two to shop keepers or a chance meeting with someone he knew there wouldn't be any other discourse in his life. On occasion Bill would hold an imaginary conversation with a non-existent Emily which he knew was compounding the problems he was experiencing, but it felt so right at the time. At first it was a word here and there, but gradually complete sentences took the form of dialogue - a one sided, never to be answered soliloquy from himself and where Bill played both parts - one out loud with the other in his head. And then there were the re-occurrences of the 'sightings'.
The same thing had happened for a while after Emily's departure. Bill would forget she was no longer with him. The daily ritual of making her breakfast in bed would be carried out in a trance, with the realisation there was no awaiting, smiling recipient shocking Bill to the core. Over a period of time such episodes became fewer until he was free of their alarming nature, but they were making a comeback and the most worrying aspect to this was Bill now looked forward to them. The house he had shared for so long in such a happy state was becoming both a place of solace and danger for him - he was losing himself - effectively finding memories of more importance than the land of the living.
Life was wearing Bill down. He was being assailed on two major fronts - his devotion to Emily and loneliness. Both were eating away at his resolve. Were they one and the same thing? Not necessarily, but they were interconnected in this instance as to break free from their constraints would take more or less the same action - he had to reach out to another, which in Bill's mind at this point was betrayal of sorts.
Grieving can take many forms. In some instances it never ends, with the burden a lifelong hindrance for some as they never fully accept it. Such an affliction can shorten the lifespan of the sufferer, where the cause of death could well fall under the heading of 'died of a broken heart'. Some are only too happy to follow their loss one's footsteps to join them in the afterlife. Bill still had many good years in him but they would surely be spent in rapidly, declining health unless another entered his life, or he gained some strength from somewhere.
Helen's appearance at the supermarket each day at the same time was not by chance as she had been a willing participant in this spirit lifting game. Her own spouse had left her life some years ago. As soon as she set eyes on Bill something within her reached out to him. She was shocked in a way as like Bill never would she have imagined replacing her heartache with feelings for some other person. Something about Bill struck a chord deep within which shone a little light into the dark place - the all consuming shrine where devotion to a no longer living, breathing person was demanded at all times. As like Bill though she lacked the strength of will to take the first step. Her communication with Bill through proximity only was something at least - she felt a little uplifted just passing close by. They were a pair well matched in more ways than one though as far apart now as they were many months before.
Bill's supermarket runs evoked major mood swings and they were helping to bring him down. On the one hand he so needed to see Helen. Just a glimpse of her was enough to stave off a little of the growing panic his solitude was imposing on his weakening psyche, but the swing to despondency when he once again returned to his abode and well worn, comfortable chair was enough to sap his energy all the more. He felt trapped and at the point of becoming resigned to his fate, which would effectively remove Helen from his daily routine altogether if he succumbed to the pressure. To combat these feelings he sought the company of the only figure he knew who could fill the empty space - Emily. It had got to the point where Bill was considering shopping elsewhere as he just couldn't cope with these conflicting feelings for much longer.
How did Bill get to this point? Why did Emily have such a hold over him? Does it matter? Two people can bond in an instant. 'Love at first sight' is more than just a flippant remark but a well worn and truthful maxim. A person can literally fall in love in such a manner and remain so for the rest of their days. In Bill's case this was more or less how it had been. As soon as he set eyes on Emily he knew she was the one - and he had been right. Emily had afforded Bill many years of happiness. Sure they had their ups and down but in the main the ups far out-weighed the downs. The 'downs' had been weathered, which only cemented their commitment to each other all the more. It had only been Emily for Bill - there could have been no other. How then can another step into such a woman's empty shoes? It was a very tall order, but the inclination - the need was there as the supermarket runs evinced.
How old was Bill? Again does it matter? He was still in pretty good health though certainly not as robust as he once was. His family tree displayed plenty of long living men in his lineage and there wasn't anything to show his lifespan would be any different. If he kept himself positive then there was plenty of time left for Bill to make many worthwhile lifestyle changes. It was on the morning of their wedding anniversary where Bill came face to face with the notion a long lifespan might not be his guaranteed lot though.
Bill had had a rough night. Tossing and turning where his thoughts wouldn't let him rest. Even when he finally fell asleep his dream state wasn't of any benefit. In the morning he felt very poorly indeed. At least on this morning he had his feet firmly on the ground where slipping away into a day dream didn't occur. What did occur though was Bill suffering from cold sweats, shaking hands and a rapid pulse rate. When he attempted to stand up his head swam. For a while all he could do was sit on the edge of the bed. Was he dying? He really didn't want to go at this time. There was still something he needed to do. What it was he wasn't sure of at this point, but whatever it was he really wanted a chance to see it through.
Bill breathed an immense sigh of relief - the doctor had given him the all clear. Apparently a panic attack had been the cause of the emergency. Nothing wrong with his heart or anything else for that matter. A clean bill of health was the diagnosis. The doctor was concerned as to the reason for such an attack though and questioned Bill a little as to his circumstances, finally outlining steps which could help alleviate the symptoms - including attending day centres where he could meet others to socialise. It was sound advice and Bill listened with consideration, but he knew the steps he needed to take. Something has snapped deep within allowing Bill some leeway - he felt energised - stronger.
Helen went about her daily shop as per-usual. No sign of Bill so far which saddened her a little. Imagine her shock when a tap on her shoulder turned out to be none other than the man himself! There was a look in his eye and a smile on his face which caused her heart to miss a beat. He just stood there, not saying anything, but it was as if electricity flowed from him and between them - tentacles of living emotion entwining themselves where the need for speech was an inconsequence. In Bill's hand was a packet of cocoa - her favourite drink, and with tears forming in her eyes Helen smiled back at him with all her being.