someone who saw him. Join in, Dr Tealing? Yes, of course you will. You already have. You can’t help yourself. As I was saying. We need a witness.”
He was right. I could not help myself.
“Parroulet,” I said.
FTER THE BOMBING, ONCE THE SHOCK DIMINISHED and I began to accept that what had happened really had happened, I found myself having dreams about Alice, myself and Alice, night after night. Had I gone for counselling, no doubt I would have learned that this was normal, part of a process. But I chose to be my own counsellor, standing outside and apart from myself sometimes as I grieved, and I worked it out unaided. She was my daughter, but she could not be with me in the new reality I inhabited; reasonable, then, that she should walk and run and laugh instead through my shallow sleep. She was always happy in these dreams, never fearful or hurt or anxious. Sometimes we were at home, watching television together, or out in the garden. Often we were on a beach, kicking at the frothy ends of waves. I would pick her up and carry her deeper, threatening to launch her into the sea. She’d be screaming and laughing, knowing—absolutely trusting—that I would never ever let her go no matter how very nearly she might seem about to leave my grasp. And someone—I wanted it to be Emily but I never got to see who it was—was taking pictures of us. Alan and Alice posed for the camera: hunter with seal under arm, ogre with captive princess, man with daughterclinging to neck. But it wasn’t Alan, it was me, and the dreams were more wonderful, more intense and pure, than the experiences on which they were loosely based. I wished I could have stayed in them forever, those happy-ever-after dreams, but of course I couldn’t. I would wake from them with tears pouring from my eyes, and lie in the darkness a few steps from the empty bedroom where she had once slept. After a while I would get up, and go downstairs to try to read. This was years before I got involved with the Case. No wonder I cannot remember all the literature I have read: great chunks of it passed before my eyes in those dead nights. I took it in but where it went after that I do not know.
And then a time came when she no longer came to me in dreams. And a while after that I found, to my horror, that she had faded a little in my mind, and I would catch up a photograph of her and Emily, terrified that I would not recognise them. And yes, there they were behind the glass, but I saw also that they had gone, or perhaps that I had gone. I was looking at a photograph in which they were still six and twenty-eight, while I was racing towards middle age, and on beyond that to decrepitude.
Had I gone for counselling, I might have asked the counsellor, how is it that I hardly ever dream of Emily? I asked it of myself, but I didn’t come up with any answers.
Once, when I was coming home from work on the bus, earlier than usual, a man and a little girl got on, two or three stops after I had, and sat across the aisle from me. She wassix, seven at most—Alice’s age—and in school uniform. The man was probably ten years younger than I, tall and thin, with untidy curly hair, and there was a boyish, gently ribbing tone to his voice when he spoke to the girl, his daughter. He’d just picked her up from school. I had a vague sense of having seen him before. Maybe he taught at the University. As soon as they were seated the girl made him open the free newspaper he’d picked up on entering the bus, a copy of which I’d been idly, blindly leafing through, and they began what was evidently a regular game. He took the left-hand page and she the right-hand one of each spread, and as they turned them they counted the pictures of different items on each side. The winner was the one with the highest number by the time they got to the end of the paper. The first time through it was houses, then it was animals. She won both times. “You’re much too good at this,” he said, as
Martin H. Greenberg et al (Ed)
Eden Winters, Parker Williams