According to the myth, the very last thing that flew out of Pandora’s box was Hope.
The morning after I’d looked at E’s laptop, I couldn’t see any hope at all.
I was on autopilot. I woke the kids up as usual. I sorted their breakfasts as usual. I packed their lunches and checked their school bags as usual. I sent them off to school with a hug and a kiss as usual. E (who was home well after midnight the night before, as usual) went to work with barely a word to me, as usual. After they’d all gone, I stacked the dishwasher and cleared the house of the morning’s detritus as usual. I made the beds and put the washing machine on as usual. I checked my email and ‘to do’ list as usual. Everything was the same.
Except everything was different.
It was like waking up in a parallel universe – everything and everyone looked exactly the same on the surface, but, as any experienced sci-fi fan knows, parallel universes contain dark secrets, nasty surprises, hidden tricks and trips which mean this parallel world couldn’t be more different from the one I knew so well.
I didn’t know how to even start this new life that I’d been plunged into.
Unlike the previous night, where I’d literally cried myself to sleep, this morning I was just numb. I couldn’t feel anything. I could see everything clearly, but nothing looked real.
This was the eye of the storm. Everything was unnaturally quiet. I had so much to think about, that I couldn’t think of anything at all. I just wandered round the house, dazed, I’m not actually sure how I spent that day, but I know I didn’t ‘do’ anything.
When the kids came home from school, it was autopilot again, but with every normal thing that happened – the argument over who has put the bread in the wrong place, the moaning over what was for tea, the rolled eyes over homework, talking over the woes and the occasional joys of their days – I began to realise that everything my kids took for granted, a Mum, a Dad, a big noisy home where we all lived life as a family of six, was about to be ripped away from them, and that, even though I was the probably person who treasured this little life most, I was the one who would have to destroy it.
That night, as with every night for the next three months, I sank into the wine again. It didn’t really help (when I woke up at 3am, I was literally paralysed with anxiety and worry for the future), but for a few hours each night it numbed everything, and for those few hours I could pretend everything was ok.
I decided that, if I was going to have to wreck everyone’s lives (I felt this was all my fault somehow), the least I could do was make sure Christmas was ok and that the family get-together for Oldest Daughter’s 18th was a good one.
That night, one bottle of wine in, my brain began to process everything, and as my new reality began to crowd into my brain, and the storm began to swirl, I saw a glimmer of hope. I still wasn’t able to speak about what I’d found without crying (by now the kids were giving me suspicious looks, they were used to me sobbing over the odd episode of Holby City, but they clearly felt weeping at a recyling feature on The One Show was a bit much), but I could write.
I messaged my best friends…