It was a bad night for it to be raining. She had less of a memory of him, more of an idea. He had been warm, she remembered that. She had snatches of an odour and a voice, moments of reading and laughter, a rock-pool on a seashore she didn't recognise. Then it all went dark. It was punctuated by flashes of a screaming voice, the ringing of the panes when the front door slammed shut, the way blue light looked as it reflected off her bedroom ceiling.
In the beginning it had been so slow and she had been so young, a long time past before she had even begun to realise something was wrong. Her parents were her parents; she was their genius child who was going to do so well. The first time she remembered things truly being different was when he had taken her to the park one Sunday, she could have barely been four but she vividly remembered him helping her to toss bread to the ducks on the pond. He lifted her up so she could see the Swans swimming serenely in the centre, until a particularly good lob landed the bread in the middle of them and they scrambled after it in an undignified rabble. Something must have happened, although she could not say what now and probably couldn't then. She remembered him shouting, not at her but at some men who had been walking past them. It must have happened before she reasoned, because she didn't remember feeling scared, just resigned to being picked up and bundled home in great haste, listening to his laboured breathing and muttered words. She remembered her mother sending her to her room almost as soon as she got back, the burning indignation of feeling that this was somehow her fault. She didn't go of course; she sat on the stairs and listened to her mother talking in the same soft voice she used when Lynda had a nightmare. The feeling in her stomach had been familiar, it had been the same as when the boys from up the road had dared her to the top of the junior slide and she had gone, despite the pleading look in Kenny's eyes to let it go just this once, because she knew if she let them win it would be the end of her. But the dread of being so high had felt like this, a sliding feeling settling into the pit of her stomach like it meant to stay.
After that, she thought that things moved quickly, although she wasn't sure now if that were strictly true, or if it had seemed faster simply because a great number of things were happening that she didn't understand. She still went to nursery most days, her mother ever more hurried to see her off at the gate. She remembered playing wild games with him, games of faeries and goblins, until he stopped making her laugh and began to frighten her. Then she had gone to stay with Kenny for a while. She remembered that clearly because she had been so angry, angry at being taken away from her things and forced to share Kenny's. She had been angry at Liz, for being so kind and understanding when she didn't want her sympathy, she just wanted to know why she couldn't go home. Most of all she had been angry with both of them because she couldn't make them angry, no matter how hard she tried. Finally, after what could have been a week or a month for all she knew, her mother came to fetch her. She had a haunted look in her eyes and a slight tremble in her voice as she told her it was time to go home.
She hadn't even been surprised that he was gone. Her mother made no great mention of it at first, not for months. They talked about him sometimes; visited him once a week where he lived, strange silent hours in a silent room, where the slam of the door seemed to shut the real world on the other side. She remembered being bored in some of those visits, frightened in others. Above all she remembered the feeling that she was missing something she couldn't quite place, a cheated, hollow feeling that brought tears to her mother's eyes when she mentioned it. He often said too little, sometimes too much. Sometimes the nurses took her away to play while her mother stayed. She had learnt the importance of control in that little room, both the need and the loss of it. The rooms changed as she grew, from hospitals to homes and once or twice in their own crowded living room, where they all sat nervously drinking tea and casting curious eyes at the clock. Some days he would turn up uninvited, when the ideas were stronger than the medication. They would take him home in a silence of whispers, while she stared out of the window and reminded herself how to hide.
It took her until she was nearly sixteen to visit him alone. She and her mother had always gone together, with elaborate rituals built around a simple journey. She had gone after school and not told her mum, by then the idea of telling her things barely crossed her mind. He was sitting in a straight backed chair and staring out of the window when she arrived, even as they talked his attention had kept wandering to the glass, seeing something in the trees and the car park that she could not. He smiled at her vaguely and said hello three times in the conversation, as if reacquainting himself with her presence. She couldn't make idle conversation, but then neither could he. They talked in fits and starts, him smoking endless cigarettes in hands that trembled slightly. When she left there were several cigarettes in her pocket, for when things got worse. She went on her own from then on, the Gazette threw all routines into disarray anyway, she snatched time here and there when other things didn't press so hard. But still she went, partly because she wanted to watch for fragments as they floated past in his eyes, partly because she felt it was the only fair thing to do. She didn't share her mother's hopelessness because she had never known there was hope to be had. She still kissed him, when he was quiet and it was time for her to leave and he had looked at her once and told her she was brilliant, just after she had seen one of her own newspapers on his nightstand. She didn't know if the shiver that passed through her was pride or anger; she had never looked for him in herself, she was terrified by what she might find.
She had known as soon as someone had called her to the phone. The end of the story had been expected, but not long in coming. Spike had told them she was going home, and then dared them to ask why. Her mum was sitting on the sofa staring at her hands when she arrived and they went together, they both knew they could not be there alone. She rang Kenny, who didn't complain about the time difference when he heard the tone of her voice. She helped to make arrangements, to phone her aunt and to start the process of packing the single box of his things. She felt her mother's grief as hard as her own, felt the twinge of relief as well that made them feel as if they were creatures bound for a special hell. They shared the few jokes they had left with him in and eventually, as the winter darkness dropped to cover them, her mum brought her aunt over to sit with her and sent Lynda to Spike, because she knew her better than anyone.
It was a bad night for it to be raining. She had stood with her palms to the window pane for longer than she could remember, just watching the spray from the cars that passed by reflect the soda orange streetlight.
"You ok?" They both knew it was a stupid question; she couldn't even be bothered to pull him up on it.
"Fine." She said, fixing her eyes on the road below.
"Lynda, your Dad died today, you're allowed to be upset y'know." He said it so earnestly she almost laughed, the feeling bubbling in her chest and stopping at the impropriety. She settled for shaking her head and turning to face him, her back to the street and the light and the memories.
"No he didn't." Her voice was more even than she expected and feeling his interruption in the air she carried on. "I lost my Dad a long time ago, this was the just the last of the candles going out." He still looked at her quizzically but drew her to him anyway. She couldn't explain to Spike how you lose someone without losing them. But she could replace the splinters with an idea of him and for now, that was enough.