Pete likes his baths. Every third evening he gets into (difficult as he was paralysed) his big white bath, fills it to his chin and pickles. During this time there is no before or after, yesterday or tomorrow; just the now. The water envelops Pete up to his chin and removes the notion of paralysed, non paralysed parts. Pete is naked with no pieces of kit hanging off him. Pete lay there feeling the water, feeling the heat; seeing the steam and enjoying the sweet smell of the bubble bath. Pete’s content in that moment.
Today is no different to many others like it, except that it’s lunchtime, not evening, and Pete has locked the bathroom door and placed a door wedge on it from the inside. He has also popped a note under it telling Karen not to come in.
The steam is glorious. Pete lays back and enjoys the moment. He looks down just to make sure the knife cuts the Femoral Artery and is conscious long enough to see the bathwater turn scarlet. Pete is momentarily confused before he blacks out.
When Karen arrived home from shopping she didn’t think about the little differences that greeted her. The front door was locked when Pete usually opens it when he sees her pull up; the kettle was not boiling; and the house was silent.
Karen called out but received no reply – maybe he’d gone to bed. Once Karen had sorted the shopping she nipped upstairs and saw the note.
At first it didn’t make sense so Karen called to Pete. Silence was returned. A sea of prickly hot fear surged up, wrapped around Karen’s head and squeezed hard. Almost breathless she phoned her sister who advised phoning the Police. They arrived quickly and while one policeman broke the simple door lock on the bathroom (although the door wedge had caused them some difficulty) the other sat with Karen in the front room.
Yes indeed, it looked like Pete had gone…
15 years later
Karen, now 74, was thinking about that night as she watched the Isle of Wight ferry roll in. She thought momentarily about the discussions she and Pete had about moving down here from London all those years ago. Karen had continued with the plan and moved in the summer of 2018 – the really hot one that broke all the records.
Greg, now 43, and Alex 40, were busy with their own lives but Karen got to see the children and the kids a couple of times a year.
Pete’s dad Harry had died in 2017 when the Norovirus took him. But he’d never forgiven Pete in abandoning him.
They and the rest of the family had never really discussed in any depth why Pete chose to act on that day all those years ago, but implicitly understood that the burden of paralysis had clearly provided too much to bear in that moment.