Just a quickie one shot to reassure BH people that I haven't totally deserted you for Resonance. I've been wondering what Carmen was doing in Bristol, since Annie said she wasn't from there (she phoned and emailed home). My initial thought was that she was visiting the grave, but at the end of S2E6 we see that she's never actually visited Annie's grave, so that was blown out of the water. That wondering turned into this little piece which shows things from Carmen's point of view.
I seem incapable of writing a fic without Mitchell sneaking in somewhere, so he has a little cameo in this one too. I can picture him hugging Annie close and saying "I saw your mum today" and her beaming back and saying "Yeah, so did I!" And I decided that Annie's sister had had a baby. :)
Being Human belongs to Toby Whithouse and the BBC - I'm just playing with the characters for a bit for fun.
Please leave a quick comment as it's nice to know whether people like things or not.
Birthdays and anniversaries were the worst. Christmases weren't great either, but birthdays and anniversaries were horrible. Hers and mine, both were equally bad. I missed spoiling her – getting her a bottle of her favourite perfume or taking her to get her hair and nails done. We loved doing the mum and daughter girly stuff even when she was tiny. And I missed the cards and flowers she'd send me for mine. Annie was great at choosing cards. You could always tell that lots of thought had gone into them; she hadn't just dashed into Smiths and bought the first one in the rack. They'd always be beautiful and apt and very her. Every birthday she'd buy me freesias - she'd always bring me freesias. Even now, their delicate perfume reminds me of her.
Does it sound like I was totally obsessed?
Frank thought that I was obsessed; that I was living in the past. He said I should refocus. What the hell did that mean? Refocus? He said that I should concentrate on Charlotte and Robin and little Lily-Anne and maybe get a job to get me out of the house. Maybe he could move on this quickly, but I couldn't. I bore two daughters, not just one, and I couldn't turn off my feelings like that. He said I should see a counsellor. I told him to go to hell and then burst into tears because I didn't mean it. Sometimes I was sure he thought I was going doolally.
I loved little Lily-Anne to bits of course, but I looked at her and I thought how much Annie would have loved being an auntie. She'd have spoiled Lily-Anne absolutely rotten. Then I thought how she was looking forward to a family of her own and what a great mum she would have been and I wanted to sob and scream and wail to the heavens that that man – that evil, loathsome man – had stolen her chance of a life away.
It was tearing us apart. Oh, Annie, how could he do that to you?
I've gone off track, haven't I? Where was I? Oh yes, birthdays and anniversaries.
I spent a lot of time in her room; I'd kept it just as it was when she left. Sometimes I sprayed a little of her perfume in the air, just so the room carried on smelling of her. I do sound obsessed now, don't I? I'd lie on the bed and talk to her. I'd tell her about the baby and about her dad and his work. I'd always put fresh lilies in her room; she loved lilies so much. Robin knew that his daughter got Anne in her name for the auntie she'll never know, but I don't think he realised that Lily was for her too. Poor Charlotte, she misses her almost as much as I do.
Some of Annie's old school friends still pop around for a chat, which is lovely of them; they were sweet kids. I remember when they met on their first day at senior school with their turned-up trousers and their two-sizes-too-big blazers. They are getting married and having babies of their own now – they are all at that sort of age. Annie lost touch with most of them when she went to Bristol, but afterwards I think they all understood that it was Owen's influence that made her do it and felt bad for thinking ill of her. So we would sit at the kitchen table with our cups of tea and we would remember her and laugh and cry and then they would go back home to their loved ones, feeling better for pouring out how they felt to Carmen – I was always just Carmen, not Annie's mum or Mrs Sawyer – and I was left washing up tea mugs and feeling like there was a hole inside me where my heart used to be.
So why did I go to Bristol? It turned out that my aunt – my mum's sister – was in a nursing home down there. She'd no family of her own and I felt so bad about it that I decided to pay her a visit. I'd not have gone otherwise. I wanted to remember Annie at home and happy and not controlled by Owen, putting on a brave front over the phone or in emails. I figured: quick visit, discharge my duty to the maiden aunt and then head straight back home again – try to forget that Bristol had any deeper significance in my life than that.
So I visited that morning, straight off the train. It was a nice enough nursing home, as they go, and my aunt seemed quite comfortable there. They all smell the same though, don't they, and all the flowers that you take never quite cover the smell up. All the visitors got thrown out just before lunch. The inmates were expected to take a nap after their meal, like children at a nursery, and we weren't allowed to return till the late afternoon, so I took myself off to the city centre for a sandwich and a coffee.
Bristol has all the same shops as any other British town, so I didn't feel much like shopping, and there was nothing on at the cinema that I fancied watching, so on impulse I found myself in a rather run down theatre. It was a psychic show; Alan Cortez his name was and he claimed to be a medium. I paid cash for the ticket. - better that than have Frank query the item on the credit card bill. If he found out I'd been to see a medium he'd really think I'd finally lost my marbles.
I wasn't sure what the procedure was for this sort of thing. Would there be dramatic music and clouds of smoke and Alan Cortez asking theatrically if there was "anyone there?" What there was, was a somewhat dingy interior that had clearly seen better days, with a fusty smell like old wardrobes and jumble sales. People were looking shiftily around as if scared to be recognised by a friend at a show like this or looking almost pathetically hopeful, waiting to be reassured that their loved one was happy and had gone to a better place.
Alan Cortez took the stage to a burst of music through the theatre's tinny sound system, but there was no smoke. Maybe the theatre's budget didn't run to it. He was dressed in a quaintly elegant fashion, with a jacket and bow tie and a carefully clipped moustache.
"Already I'm sensing a presence. Who are you? Do I have a name?"
This was madness. It was ham theatre preying on the insecurities of the bereaved and the desperate, so I was shocked and horrified when he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have someone who wants to make contact with Carmen."
I said nothing for a moment, hoping I'd misheard, but when he persisted, "Do you have a Carmen in the house?" I had to speak. It's hardly a common name after all, and it wasn't as if they could have found my name on the credit card stub, was it, since I'd paid with cash. So it was either a very lucky coincidence, or he really did mean me. I raised a tentative hand and a microphone was thrust under my nose.
Was there anyone in particular that I was hoping to get a message from? Well, I could have dodged the issue and said I'd like to speak to my mum, but she'd died peacefully in her sleep at seventy six, not been pushed down stairs in a fit of rage by a jealous fiancé, so there could only be one answer really. "Yes, my daughter."
He knew her name. My God, he knew her name – how had he done that? I wasn't even from Bristol.
But when he asked me what I'd like to ask Annie, I just didn't know what to say. Did she suffer? Was she all right now? Instead all the pain and the hurt poured out of me in one agonising stream of thought. I confessed to keeping the pain close to me, picking at it like a scab to keep it fresh and real because that was all that was anchoring me to the here and now. I acknowledged the guilt that I felt that I hadn't seen what Owen was doing until it was too late, that I hadn't queried why the emails and phone calls were getting shorter and fewer and why the time between visits home was lengthening and lengthening. I had told myself it was her growing up and establishing her own identity, and that all children did that, when in fact her identity was being eroded – eaten away by a jealous monster who wanted a docile puppet that he could manipulate.
When the emotions had flooded out of me, leaving me empty and raw, I experienced the kindness of a stranger. The person next to me offered a comforting arm and I allowed myself to cry properly for the first time in months. I was angry: angry at Annie, angry at Alan Cortez, and most of all angry at myself. Why had I had to come here, to this dingy theatre in Bristol to hear Annie speak through this middle-aged down on his luck medium? Why couldn't Annie have spoken to me in her own room with her own voice and told me in her own words what she wanted me to know?
And that's why I found myself backstage knocking on Alan Cortez's dressing room door. I still had unanswered questions. Like why was she still here?
I couldn't believe – didn't want to believe – that she would talk to him rather than to me, and I was probably very unfair to him. I'm sure Annie would have spoken to me if she could. Or maybe I'd have thought I really was going mad, if I'd started hearing my dead daughter's voice in my head. As it was, watching a tissue float in mid-air and form itself into a paper flower was surreal enough. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I would never have believed it; I was always the one in front of the television pooh poohing this sort of thing. "Look, you can see the wires holding it up!" There were no wires, believe me. This was no sleight of hand, this was no trickery – this was for real. I had loved those flowers and I'd forgotten about them. How could I have forgotten? She had been so proud when she made them for me.
And then it all tumbled out of me as I shared my grief with thin air and Alan told me that I needed to let go. So was it Alan, or was it really Annie? All I can say is that it felt like Annie. If I'd closed my eyes I'd probably have smelled her perfume and it seemed like if I'd reached out my hand I could have touched her arm, smooth and warm and comforting. But of course there was nothing there.
When he told me that she wanted me to visit her grave I nearly rebelled. I'd never gone there, afraid to lose my picture of my beautiful vibrant daughter to an image of a slab of marble with her name and dates on. Twenty two years old, for God's sake – where is the fairness in that?
I had hated that she was buried in Bristol. I'd wanted her buried next to her grandma, but Owen was calling the shots and he was very good at getting his own way. Then soon after, Owen disappeared off the radar. We heard on the grapevine that he'd got a new girlfriend and had rented out the house he'd bought with Annie. And then one day the police came to the house to tell us he'd confessed to pushing her down the stairs. He'd had some sort of psychotic break and was being held in a secure unit. Frank arranged for the gravestone that Owen had paid for to be replaced with a similar one with Owen's name removed. He gave up any claim on her the day he pushed her to her death.
I went to the graveyard and I left the paper flower on her grave, and as I left the graveyard a strange peace accompanied me. I had laid a few ghosts to rest, if you'll pardon the expression, and I was ready to face another hurdle to my recovery.
I went to the Pink House. I'd not been there since the accident and I leaned against the wall across the road and just looked. She had been so in love with it. It was going to be their first home together and she had plans for the smallest bedroom to become a nursery. I could see a figure moving about in the kitchen, stopping to look out now and again, and eventually a man emerged. He was wearing fingerless gloves and sunglasses, I noticed - a strange combination, but I don't pretend to keep up with fashion so maybe it was trendy or something.
"Are you OK? Can I help?" He had an Irish accent, and as he talked he pushed up the sunglasses and blinked up at the sky. "You've been sitting there ages. I thought maybe you might be lost or ill or something."
"No, I'm fine, thanks. I was just looking. My...my daughter used to live here."
"Annie?" he blurted out. "I mean...we've...I've heard about her from Owen. And the neighbours of course. Oh God, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have mentioned Owen – I'm an insensitive idiot. Jesus." The poor chap was obviously embarrassed. He probably thought he'd upset me.
"You heard what happened?"
"Yeah. Listen, do you want to come in for a bit? She should be back-" he looked flustered for a moment, nervously pushing the hair out of his eyes. "I mean...I should be getting back. The house is...empty...right now..." His voice tailed off into confusion.
I had no idea what he was on about of course, but he seemed sweet enough. However kind his intentions, I had no plans to ever set foot in that house again. Visiting the cemetery had been one thing, but seeing the actual spot where she had died was another entirely. Besides I was late for Aunty Alice by now, and I'd already need to get a much later train than I'd intended. I set off down the hill back towards the nursing home. It was probably past supper time by now, and I fully expected to be sent away with a flea in my ear, but already a plan was forming in my head.
We're redecorating Annie's room now. It feels disloyal to her, somehow, like we're emulsion painting her out of our lives; like a new set of curtains and a fresh duvet set is somehow taking the place of her memory. But Frank is relieved; he says I'm coming to my senses at last. We've moved Aunty Alice to a nursing home near us where I can keep an eye on her, and she can come and stay in our guest bedroom from time to time. It will be a nice change for her - a holiday, almost – and Frank says she will give me an "interest".
I think what she gives me is a realisation that you don't ever know how long you've got left. That you could go on till your body wears out and your brain grinds down or you could be cut down in an instant by a stupid action or an act of callousness. I realised that by mourning Annie so long I was almost insulting her memory by wasting what time I had left to me.
I've kept Annie's perfume and I still sometimes spray some in the air; I feel closer to her when I do that. And I still buy lilies, but now I put them in the hall where we can all enjoy them. I think that's acceptable, don't you? I can have reminders of her now, without it being the sole purpose of my life to preserve her memory.
I still call it Annie's room. It will never be just a guest bedroom for me. But I'm healing, Annie; I'm moving on, like you wanted me to. I'm not at peace with myself quite yet – I don't think I will ever be entirely – but I'm getting there. They say spirits move on when they have done what they need to, so I hope you are at peace now too, darling. You can rest at last.
A wise person told me when Annie died that you never get over losing someone, but that eventually you learn to live with it.
I started living again, that day in Bristol.