Chapter no 13 – Regret Overload

The Midnight Library

She’d met Dan while living with Izzy in Tooting. Big smile, short beard. Visually, a TV vet. Fun, curious. He drank quite a bit, but always seemed immune to hangovers.

He had studied Art History and put his in-depth knowledge of Rubens and Tintoretto to incredible use by becoming head of PR for a brand of protein flapjacks. He did, however, have a dream. And his dream was to run a pub in the countryside. A dream he wanted to share with her. With Nora.

And she got carried away with his enthusiasm. Got engaged. But suddenly she had realised she didn’t want to marry him.

Deep down, she was scared of becoming her mother. She didn’t want to replicate her parents’ marriage.

Still staring blankly at e Book of Regrets, she wondered if her parents had ever been in love or if they had got married because marriage was something you did at the appropriate time with the nearest available person. A game where you grabbed the first person you could find when the music stopped.

She had never wanted to play that game.

Bertrand Russell wrote that ‘To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three-parts dead’. Maybe that was her problem. Maybe she was just scared of living. But Bertrand Russell had more marriages and affairs than hot dinners, so perhaps he was no one to give advice.

When her mum died three months before the wedding Nora’s grief was immense. ough she had suggested that the date should be put back, it somehow never was, and Nora’s grief fused with depression and anxiety and

the feeling that her life was out of her own control. e wedding seemed such a symptom of this chaotic feeling, that she felt tied to a train track, and the only way she could loosen the ropes and free herself was to pull out of the wedding. ough, in reality, staying in Bedford and being single, and letting Izzy down about their Australia plans, and starting work at String

eory, and getting a cat, had all felt like the opposite of freedom.

‘Oh no,’ said Mrs Elm, breaking Nora’s thoughts. ‘It’s too much for you.’

And suddenly she was back feeling all this contrition, all that pain of letting people down and letting herself down, the pain she had tried to escape less than an hour ago. e regrets began to swarm together. In fact, while staring at the open pages of the book, the pain was actually worse than it had been wandering around Bedford. e power of all the regrets simultaneously emanating from the book was becoming agony. e weight of guilt and remorse and sorrow too strong. She leaned back on her elbows, dropped the heavy book and squeezed her eyes shut. She could hardly breathe, as if invisible hands were around her neck.

‘Make it stop!’

‘Close it now,’ instructed Mrs Elm. ‘Close the book. Not just your eyes.

Close it. You have to do it yourself.’

So Nora, feeling like she was about to pass out, sat back up and placed her hand under the front cover. It felt even heavier now but she managed to close the book and gasped in relief.

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