After some deliberation, Carol decided the photograph of her and Ian resting on the bedside table was definitely one of her favourites. The camera had captured their undying love to perfection and the old saying, a picture speaks a thousand words, sprang readily to mind.
Looking back along the fading curve of time, Carol recalled how her thoughts at that particular moment were of her and Ian and their blossoming relationship. She had considered herself exceptionally lucky to find such a wonderful person. Not only was he very attractive, but his charming personality alone would be sufficient to steal away anyone's heart; and he had certainly stolen hers.
At the time it had all seemed like a fantastic dream, a living fantasy from which they would never awaken. She tutted and shook her head. How innocent and carefree her thoughts were back then, when the world seemed young and vibrant and their togetherness would seemingly last forever.
People often described them as a perfect couple. Carol's friends considered Ian quite a catch, and if one admired the rugged outdoors type, he did possess a certain appeal. Hardly a day went by that he did not take her in his arms, run his fingers through her rich dark hair, look longingly into her expansive brown eyes and say how he adored her. How he loved her and would always love her.
They had been married for over four years now and how swiftly those years had passed. Carol thought about all the plans they had made together and the trips they were going to embark upon. The exciting weekend jaunts to Europe and the holiday of a lifetime, a month long safari travelling the game reserves of Kenya. They had spent hours discussing these ventures and when the conversation finally exhausted itself, they would make love, before drifting to sleep, their arms entwined about each other.
How she missed Ian. No matter how much she dismissed the unwanted memory, the accident, such a terrible accident, continued to haunt her. If only she had driven that fateful morning instead of Ian, it would all be so different. Their final conversation, when she had pleaded with him to reduce his speed, remains firmly fixed in her mind . . .
"Ian please! Don't drive so fast. You can always catch a later train."
"Look Carol, don't tell me how to drive."
"I'm not. I just don't like speeding."
"Carol. I'm not speeding. It's just; I don't want to miss that train; okay."
. . . If only he had listened. Carol often wondered If Ian even saw the tanker emerging from the concealed lane end. She herself only caught a fleeting glimpse before the horrific impact shattered their precious lives forever.
How long ago had it been? She asked herself. It felt as though they had been parted years, but surely, only months had passed. After the funeral she had lost track of time. Even now she sometimes wondered what day of the week it was. Not that such things mattered any more: now that Ian was gone.
Carol felt incredibly lonely, empty even. She was unsure if the lack of children in their marriage was a blessing or an added tragedy. Children would surely be a comfort in helping her deal with her loss, but how would they themselves have coped? Children, she knew, were amazingly resilient, but would they bounce back from the loss of a parent?
They had of course intended having children, broaching the subject many times, discussing the advantages and drawbacks until finally deciding, careers first, children later. The decision did make sense as they both had good prospects in their chosen professions. Carol, a highly respected lawyer with a reputable law firm, while Ian was a sought after rising star in the heady world of advertising, or so he jokingly claimed. They had exchanged promises that when the time was right, they would start a family. Now the time would never be right.
Tears pressed at the corners of Carol's eyes but she held them in check. Sitting and weeping would be of no use. She had wept enough over the passing months and she felt, all cried out. She backed away from the ornate four-poster bed that dominated the room, its sad emptiness only increasing her suffering. She remembered the last time she and Ian had shared this bed. How his strong arms had held her close and . . . it suddenly became too unbearable. She burst from the bedroom, the rising tide of emotion threatening to overwhelm and drown her.
Once out of the bedroom she regained her self-composure and wandered aimlessly downstairs. In the entrance hall unopened letters were scattered haphazardly across the tiled terracotta floor; but Carol passed them by without a second glance. In the lounge, there were more photographs to remind her of Ian. Most of which hailed from their early courting days when they were both flushed with the first exciting stirrings of young love.
Wanting to avoid the pictures, Carol turned her attention to the large bay window spanning the whole of one wall. The expanse of bowed Georgian glass was one of the houses finest features and afforded a magnificent panoramic view of the spacious gardens. The sloping lawn looked very inviting, covered as it was with virgin snow. Beyond the garden wall the carpet of dazzling whiteness stretched tranquilly down to the nearby village. The church spire, standing prominently above the glistening snow covered rooftops gave the whole scene that nostalgic Victorian Christmas card effect that held such incredible appeal. Carol had not yet contemplated a Christmas without Ian and she wondered just how she was going to cope.
Still gazing through the window, Carol detected the crunch of car tyres on the crisp frosted surface of the snow-covered driveway. In her daydream state she had remained unaware, until now, of the steadily approaching vehicle. She dashed into the dining room and peered into the garden as her mother-in-laws Jaguar swung around to the front of the house. Excitedly, she rushed to the front door, not having seen Ian's mother, Patricia, for what seemed like an eternity and her spirits instantly became more buoyant. She intended to surprise Patricia and instead of opening the door she stood in the hallway, waiting pensively. The key turned in the lock and Patricia entered.
She scooped up the assorted mail and as she rose, Carol moved forward, intending to embrace her welcome visitor. She tried to speak but . . . .
Patricia shuddered as Carol floated through her, blaming the icy tingle rippling along her spine on the alarming coldness of the house; with it being vacant and unused for so long.
"Better switch on the heating," she murmured, rubbing her arms, attempting to alleviate the unwanted lingering coolness. Ian could hardly be expected to come out of hospital and return to the chilly atmosphere of an empty house. Still shivering, she walked into the lounge and picked up a photograph of Ian and Carol. "Poor Carol," she murmured, tears welling in her eyes. "Ian will miss you."