The Promise

Claire Wilson

Claire Wilson

‘I did it, William,' I whispered to the sea.
It was hard for me, knowing how much he would've loved it here. It had been prominent on his list for the best part of 30 years. To visit the place his grandparents were born.
I hadn't thought much of William the first time I saw him. No burning looks of passion. No secret glances.
The hot sun beat down on my skin as I closed my eyes and remembered.
I could almost feel the Scottish rain on my skin. Opening one eye, I realized it was a little boy playing with a water gun with his father. I smiled to let them know I hadn't taken offense.
‘No shade,' as my granddaughter Olivia was keen on saying. I could be doing with some shade against the sun, I thought, as I closed my eye again and settled back into my memories.
1984.
It'd been cold and raining as I'd made my way to the bus stop. He immediately removed his cap and smiled at me. Politeness made me smile back. The date was etched in my memory. The day that we first met. He approached me, coughing to clear his throat before he spoke.
‘Hi there. Nice morning.'
‘Lovely,' I replied.
‘I'm William Peter Thomson and I've just moved to the area.'
Before I could introduce myself, he'd asked me out. Going against everything I was feeling, and wanting to annoy my strict parents, I found myself agreeing. I blamed his eyes, the way they sparkled like the exotic oceans I'd seen in films. It was his eyes I fell in love with first.
We married just six months later. Things had gone too far one night, and we found ourselves with a nine-month deadline.
‘This isn't what you deserve,' he repeated as we made our plans as man and wife.
‘We should've had the time to travel the world. Had time for ourselves at least.'
‘Don't worry, William. We can have all that once the baby is born.'
Our girl, Janet, was born two days after her due date. Andrew quickly followed a year later before James surprised us a few years after that.
William worked every day while I kept our home a happy one. We could barely afford a holiday in the UK far less one overseas. Instead, we bought a cheap car and a three-bedroom house. Small, but it was ours.
When William got laid off from the mines, things were difficult. He retrained as a bus driver, and I considered employment. But with no experience except how to raise children on a budget, I was unemployable.
Somehow, we got by. When the kids were older, I got a part-time job in a supermarket.
Before we knew it, the kids were teenagers, and we could afford a week in Portugal. It wasn't as far overseas as William would've liked, but it was away from the front door, and we got to feel a bit of sun.
It became a regular thing, saving up for our annual trip to Portugal. Even the kids could agree on that. They wanted less at Christmas – just so me and their dad could afford two weeks instead of one. They were good kids. Still are. The oldest are married off with kids of their own. And James, well, James has always been different. There's a young man in his life, I'm sure of it. Not that I care. As long as they're happy – that's all I care about.
William had always promised to take us to Australia. His grandparents had been born in Perth. Then we would travel to South Africa. Canada. New Zealand. All the places we'd watched documentaries on. He had them all written down on his list. But it was never meant to be. The cancer had gotten to him first. Had spread everywhere before the Doctors had the chance to catch it. He never even let on he was sick. Not until it became impossible for him to hide.
He went quickly. I took solace from that. It had been three months since he passed. The numbing grief. The unfairness of it all. Waking up in the same bed, expecting him to have nipped to the bathroom, waiting on him coming back before remembering he never will.
That's why I'd made the leap.
The mortgage was paid off and I had a comfortable pension. When William's life insurance came through, there was only one way I wanted to spend the money. I brought the whole family here. Down under. Perth. Technically, we brought William too. There was only one place we wanted to scatter his ashes.
‘Granny,' said a little voice at the same time as a cold hand touched my shoulder, ‘mummy asked if you wanted a drink?'
‘That would be lovely, Olivia. I'll have a cup of tea please.'
My hips creaked as I got up off the sun lounger, giving myself ample time to allow my joints to work.
It was almost time. Spreading the ashes later in a private ceremony, arranged with the hotel on the private beach.
‘Do you need a hand, Granny?'
‘No sweetie. Just give me a minute.'
‘What's that you're reading?' I asked, using my walking stick to point to the book in her hand.
‘I'm re-reading all the Hunger Games books. They're my favorite.'
I'd been unable to read since I lost my William. I missed the feel of a book in my hand like I missed the feel of William in my bed. ‘You'll never be lonely if you have a book in your hand,' was a favorite saying of his.
We walked into the hotel and passed the gift shop. Rows of books lined the shelves next to the window. I slipped into the shop to see what they had.

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