Fall from India Place Page 69

The entire room watched me silently and I kept speaking. “I can tell you that it’s okay to feel whatever it is you’re feeling right now. It’s okay to miss him and it’s okay to hurt and it’s okay to feel lost – just as long as you come to me, or your friends, or your family, when all those feelings try to overwhelm you. Because in amongst all those feelings, some of you are going to be angry, and some of you will need someone to blame. It’s okay to be angry. I can’t tell you if it’s right or wrong to feel blame, but what I can say is don’t be angry for too long and don’t hold on to the blame forever. That kind of anger can take away a piece of you, a piece of you that you might not get back. Jarrod wouldn’t want that. Under the bluster and swagger, he was a really good person” – my lips trembled and my eyes were bright with unshed tears I couldn’t and honestly didn’t want to hide from them – “and I don’t think he would want that for any of you.

“I won’t lie to you. This changes things. It may even change you. I know it will change me.” I shrugged helplessly, feeling suddenly so young, too young to help them. “I guess it’s a reminder of the uncertainty in life and the foolishness of merely existing when the world is pleading with you to live. If you take anything from this, please take that. We take life for granted. We have to stop that. We have to start living.” I looked around at them all, catching some of their grief-stricken eyes. “If any of you need to talk to me, even if it’s to write it down, to put what you’re feeling on a bit of paper, then I’m here.”

I smiled sadly through the blur of tears and tapped the pile of books at my side. “Jarrod once confessed that his favorite book when he was younger was Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. His primary school teacher read it to the class. So we’re going to honor him today – you can read along with me as I read it to you.”

Before class I’d run over to the primary school next door and asked them for copies of the book, explaining why I needed them. They were kind and gracious enough to let me borrow the books. I passed the copies out to my kids and placed the last book on Jarrod’s desk slowly, fighting my tears. His friend Thomas, who had always been full of cheek in class, made a choked noise at my gesture and when I looked his way I saw him bury his head on his arms on the desk, his shoulders shaking as he tried to muffle his sobs. I passed him, squeezing his shoulder in comfort before walking to my desk, fighting the burn of emotion in my own throat. The muscles in my jaw, in my gums, in my cheeks, ached with it.

Somehow, I managed to open the book and I started to read.

Feeling as though I were wading through mud, I got through the day. I had e-mailed the teacher I shared the adult literacy class with and explained why I wouldn’t make my Thursday evening lesson this week. I got a kind e-mail in response from him and he told me he had it covered. From there I finished up my classes and jumped on a bus to Leith after work. There was one person I wanted to see more than anyone.

I wanted Marco. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and feel his strength, breathe him in, and know that I hadn’t given up on living the life I really wanted, the life I needed.

I was determined that someday in the near future I would do just that. The Hannah I used to be, the Hannah from my diaries, wasn’t afraid of anything. I didn’t want to be afraid anymore, and I didn’t want life to pass me by. However, I didn’t think it was right to use Marco as an emotional crutch. Things were already so complicated between us as it was. When I went to him, I wanted him to be sure I was coming to him for the right reasons.

So I got off the bus and I strode to Cole’s apartment.

As soon as he opened his door I walked into his arms and burst out crying. Thankfully, his dodgy flatmate was out, so I could tell Cole about Jarrod in private. He left me briefly to make me a cup of tea and when he returned he pulled me into his side and held me close.

“I was standing there in front of the kids,” I whispered, “telling them that they had to learn too soon how fragile life is and that they should learn from it and really live life. I felt like such a hypocrite, telling them to live life when I’m so scared of living that I pushed Marco away.”

“What is it you’re afraid of, Hannah? Him hurting you?”

“Yes. But I don’t want to be anymore. Once I get through this, I’m going to go to him.”

“Hannah, he loves you. You should go to him now, let him help you deal with this.”

“I can’t.” I shook my head stubbornly. “I can deal with this alone. I’ll go to him afterward, so it’s clear why I’m coming to him. Plus, I have to talk to him about something that could mean he doesn’t want to be with me.”

Cole frowned. “What could that possibly be?”

“The fact that I can’t have kids.”

“Since when?”

“I don’t want them, Cole. After what happened. I almost died. I can’t put the people I love through that again.”

“Who says you will? There’s a risk?”

I shrugged, feeling stupid but no less absolute in my fear. “There’s always a risk of another ectopic pregnancy, but, no, the doctor said I could go on to have a healthy pregnancy.”

“Okay, so… you don’t want them? Or you’re afraid?”

I shrugged.

“Do you want kids, Hannah?” He insisted on an answer.

I pinched my lips together and nodded.

“Then one day… you’ll be brave enough.” And he seemed so sure I couldn’t help but hope he was right.

Cole wasn’t the only one who attempted to get me to call Marco to tell him about Jarrod. Ellie did too. As much as my family was there for me through the hard time of losing a student, they didn’t seem to understand that I could handle it on my own.

Thursday morning came all too quickly. I dressed in a conservative black pencil dress I sometimes wore to school and borrowed Ellie’s long black wool coat. Jarrod’s mother had decided to hold the funeral at Jarrod’s gravesite instead of inside the church. When I arrived, my knees almost buckled at the sight of his mum. I didn’t know if I’d ever witnessed such devastation.

Harvey, Jarrod’s little brother, clung to his mother’s side, his eyes wide and haunted.

My tears started to flow freely as I found a place in the crowd of mourners near the front. I recognized some faces of his classmates – Thomas and Staci were both there with their parents. After the minister spoke, Jarrod’s coffin was lowered into the grave.

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