22. Wells of Silence
She had to leave him. She couldn't be certain that she was making things worse, but she certainly didn't seem to be making things better. It was so painful to see the man she loved in a steady decline. All her attempts to help seemed to antagonise him and make him more secretive and defensive.
But she couldn't abandon him. She almost immediately regretted making him feel rejected. She knew he already felt completely isolated and alone, and leaving only made it worse, but she'd had to protect herself.
She stepped into the bedroom, invading his precious private sanctuary. It was dark but the scene was still horrific.
Laying awkwardly, his naked skin was purplish and yellow in parts, as if covered with terrible bruises. There was a paleness to the rest of his body where the blood had drained away completely. The small amount of flesh covering his bony frame had swelled, leaving his skin tight and shiny.
He was undoubtedly dead.
She didn't gasp, scream or flee the scene. Her mind reeled with a sense of responsibility. How could she protect him now? How could she defend this undignified end to his life? How would she deal with the police, family?
She scanned the room. There were so many things lying around that she wanted to pick up and dispose of that it was completely overwhelming. How could she stay here and deal with a cleanup operation, tip-toeing around his dead body?
Having stood rooted to the spot, surveying the scene, the situation was clearly hopeless. She wouldn't know where to begin. She left to phone the police.
She didn't feel guilty that she hadn't been able to do more after he'd died, but she wasn't able to forgive herself for leaving him.
"What if I'd stayed?" she sobbed.
It wasn't her fault, the police, her trauma counsellor, her parents, her brothers and her friends all told her. How could they be so sure? How could they know whether things might have turned out differently if she hadn't left him?