Chapter no 64

Then She Was Gone

I have both my passport and a handgun. I have a change of clothes in a small bag and a fully charged phone. My plan is to get as far away from London N4 as I can and then either blow out my brains or leave the country. I will see how I feel when it comes down to it. At this juncture I have no idea what is worse: to break my daughter’s heart or to break my daughter’s heart and then spend the rest of my life either in hiding or in jail. Plan B at least does not involve a funeral.

And so finally I have cleared up your shitty disgusting mess, Noelle. As I speak (or think, or write, or whatever the hell it is I’m doing with a dead person) Laurel will be introducing herself anew to her granddaughter and then they will go together to the twinkling Richard Curtis Christmas meal in the twinkling mews house in twinkling Belsize Park—and imagine everyone’s faces, Noelle, when they walk in together, those two fine women with their strong brows and their big brains and all that golden light dazzling the bejesus out of everyone. Just imagine.

I wish I could be there to see it.

But I denied myself that privilege when I chose my own happiness and my own needs over Laurel’s.

I’m out of London now, Noelle. I appear to be heading west. Yep, there goes Slough. And I’m feeling good. In fact I’m feeling amazing. I’ve finally shed you, like a dead skin.



I touch the gun in the innocuous Sainsbury’s carrier bag on the passenger seat. I caress its solid lines, feel the cool of the metal through the plastic. I imagine the barrel of the gun, hard against the roof of my mouth, the pressure of the trigger against my fingertip. The day is still bright and clean. I imagine myself pulling off the road a few hours hence and driving into a dark-skied, sleepy Cornish village, finding a bed for the night, or sleeping in my car.

Tomorrow I would awake and it would be Christmas Day. The world would fall silent as it always does at Christmas, all those big loud lives sucked up behind a million closed doors. And where would I go? Where would I be? And the day after that? And the day after that?

I feel clean and pure, purged and new. I have just done the best and greatest thing I have every done or ever will do. Do I want to be here when this breaks in the newspapers? Really? Christ, just imagine the terrifying photographs they would dig out of the two of us. Fred and Rose West would look like Brangelina in comparison.

I pass the Glastonbury Tor. The sun is beginning its descent and the sky is a pearly gray. Pale gold light shines off the stones and a few sightseers are thrown into delicate silhouette. I pull off the M5 at the next junction and make my way back to the tor. A road back I find a field. From here I can watch the sunset, can see the shadows of the Glastonbury stones shrink and grow in the changing light. I think of Laurel and Poppy in the flickering candlelight of Bonny’s dining table, of their faces open and bright. And then I think again of you and me, inextricably linked for infinity, our faces side by side on the front pages of the newspapers for years to come, and I know that I do not want to be here to see that. I think of Poppy, of her brave face as I held her hands in her bedroom last night and told her the truth about herself, the solid set of her chin as she bit back on her emotions, the tiny nod of her head as she silently absorbed words that no nine-year-old girl should ever have to hear. I think of how she will learn to live without me and I know that she will. I know that she will flourish. I think of my parents in Washington, the purse of their lips, the unspoken words going through both of their minds: We should have left him in the hospital. And I know that this will be my last sunset, this one, here, right now, on Christmas Eve, playing out in violent flames of red and gold across the horizon. And I know that these are my last moments.

And that is fine.

That is absolutely fine.

I put my hand into the plastic bag and I take out the gun

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