I’d been on the road for about an hour before I reached the motorway and a few miles later I overtook the removal van. Like an idiot, I waved at them, but I very much doubt if they saw me or would have realised who I was anyway. It would take me another four hours to reach my new home.

The house I’d lived in on the south coast was a beautiful, peaceful place, but whilst it was once perfect, life had moved on and the house felt empty. My work now involved a lot of travel, I was a self-employed management consultant and had taken on a much heavier workload, so it made sense to move to somewhere more central, somewhere that I was familiar with. I was heading back to the Midlands and a city that I knew well and liked. It had a couple of theatres, live music venues, restaurants and lots of things that I wanted to have nearby again.

I’d grown up in the northwest of England with two loving parents and then, when I was sixteen, they’d been killed in a car accident. My Aunt had taken me in and although she was much older than my mum and didn’t keep good health, she’d done her best. I’d worked hard at university and gained a Masters’ degree in business management.

I’d been taken on as a management trainee and moved to the city that became my home and to where I was returning today. It was there that I met and fell in love with one of the senior managers. Dee was much older than me, but it worked out and when she retired, we’d moved to the south coast from where I continued to work part-time, life was idyllic.

I’m pretty lucky, I don’t really look fifty-two, I’m five feet nine inches tall, slim, with nice but not overly large breasts, I still had long and shapely legs that were my best feature. I’d always had long, very dark brown hair that reached the middle of my back, brown eyes and a nice face. I always thought that my top lip was too thin, but that aside I had no complaints. I was a lesbian and had known that I was since soon after my parents died and I’d always been comfortable with it.

After stopping for a fresh coffee, I let my thoughts wander back in time as I passed through the Cotswolds.

Two years earlier

I left the bathroom telling Dee, who was still in bed, that I was going to make tea and would bring a cup for her. “Could you bring me a couple of pills as well, I have a slight headache?” she asked.

As soon walked back into the bedroom I knew that something was wrong, the left side of her face seemed odd and she had the most terrified look on her face. I felt her forehead, she didn’t have a temperature and when I looked at her, I realised that she was struggling to speak. I went to grab my phone to call an ambulance, then I got on the bed next to her. Holding her, I whispered that everything would be okay, even though I was petrified and doubted that I was telling the truth. I also kept telling her that I loved her, that was certainly true. I heard the ambulance pulling up and ran to the door to let them in. I led the way back to our bedroom and as soon as I saw her, I knew, in that instant, that Dee was gone. I fell to the floor sobbing and the Paramedics confirmed what I already knew. After twenty-six magical years, it was over.

During the next eight days, I was busy making arrangements, sorting out Dee’s will and a variety of other small jobs that kept me occupied. I cried myself to sleep every night and every afternoon I walked the paths we’d trod together so many times, but now alone and in tears.

I don’t remember much about the funeral or even who was there. That night I climbed into bed and lost it completely. Grief overtook me and everything that I’d kept under control escaped. I stayed there for three days, barely eating and angry; angry with myself, with God even though I didn’t believe in the Almighty, with the world in general and lastly with Dee. It was my anger at Dee that finally shook me out of the depths of despair. It wasn’t her fault; we’d shared our lives and love and I reminded myself that we’d had years of joy, a joy that some people never experience.

Three weeks later, wrapped in a warm coat, scarf and gloves, I carried the urn that held her ashes. I scattered them along a section of the cliff-top path, letting the wind take some of them away over the cliff edge and off towards the sea. I spoke out loud, telling the world how lucky I’d been, how special Dee was and how much I’d loved her. There was no one to hear me, except the wind and the waves on the beach below. For some reason, I felt Dee’s presence during those twenty minutes and I stopped crying when I sat on our favourite bench. I raised my voice once again and now yelled, almost a scream, “Dee, I wish you were still here, but at least you went quickly. I loved you with all of my heart and the years we had were spectacular. I’m going to miss you, but I have my memories which I’ll cherish. Goodbye, my love.”

The next few months were difficult. There was a feeling of loss, the house was empty and I hated sleeping alone. I had no money worries, but I felt that I needed to get back to work and wanted a challenge. I was fortunate to find plenty of jobs and they meant that I had to travel. That helped a lot because I was occupied, but when I got back home, the sense of being alone was always there.

Disposing of Dee’s clothes took me a while and caused floods of tears. Amongst her jewellery, I found a gold locket that she’d rarely worn. It had a picture of me inside it. I fiddled with it several times over the next few days before I decided to place a head and shoulders photo of Dee, taken on her fiftieth birthday, on one side and a photo of my Mum and Dad on the other. I wore the locket most days and often found myself touching it for comfort.

When we’d got engaged, we had identical rings, a single diamond on a narrow gold band and our wedding rings were equally simple narrow bands. I asked a local jeweller to size Dee’s wedding band and wore it alongside my own every day. I felt that it kept her close to me. Sometimes, I also wore both of our engagement rings.

I had a job planned in our old home city that would keep me there for a couple of weeks. One evening, before I went, I telephoned Celia who’d worked with Dee and me. I was surprised when she told me that she’d been at Dee’s funeral, but I hadn’t realised. When I told her that I was working near to her home and hoped that we’d be able to have dinner one evening she insisted that I stay with her. “I’m on my own since John passed, the kids are married and away with their own families. I’d welcome the company.”

The work during those two weeks was demanding, but that was what I’d wanted and they were paying well for my services. My free time with Celia was a real tonic and liberated me from much of the sense of loss. We went to the theatre, to some live music and ate out a few times, but I loved cooking meals with her and sitting talking until late into the evening.

On one of those evenings Celia’s eldest, Josh arrived with his wife, Pauline and their daughter Hayley, who was in her late teens. “Josh, do you remember Amy King, who I worked with? We met at the cricket a couple of times.”

“Amy, it’s nice to see you again after so long. Mum told me about your wife, that must have been hard. How are you doing?”

“Getting easier.” I’m not sure that was entirely true, but a good enough answer. “You’ve grown up since I last saw you and now married with a daughter. It just goes to show how time flies.”

I sat chatting with them and at one point Hayley, who was sitting next to me asked, “You met Dad at the cricket?”

“Yes, a few times. Do you go to watch or play?”

Pauline jumped in, “She’s itching to brag, she’s just been taken on by the Bandits ladies’ team. And she’s also playing for the Loughborough University team.”

She blushed but was excited to tell me about it. “That’s quite an achievement. I hope things go well for you. When’s the first game?”

“In a few weeks, training has just started, but I doubt if I’ll be picked for the first team this season.”

“What are you studying?”

“Sports science. I love sport, but not many people make a living in professional sport, so this is something that will open doors, keep me close to sport and feed me.”

Over the next half hour, Hayley and I talked about all sorts of things. I was impressed and really liked her. I told myself that I should my eye on her career.

I’d brought one of Dee’s bracelets with me, it was one that she’d worn regularly, but that I was unlikely to wear, despite it being lovely. I’m not sure why I had it with me but towards the end of the second week with Celia, I took it from my jewellery roll. “Celia, I know that Dee valued your friendship and enjoyed working with you. I’d like you to have this bracelet, as a keepsake, something to remember her by.”

Celia looked at the bracelet and took it in her hand, “She wore this a lot; I remember it well, it’s beautiful, but I can’t take it.”

“It’s not something that I’ll wear, there’s no point in leaving it sitting amongst my jewellery when you could wear it. I’m sure Dee would approve.” The tears started and I grabbed a tissue. “I’m sorry, I miss her so much.”

Celia put her arm around me. “I always suspected this would happen, because of your age differences. I’ve never seen anyone so in love, so committed as you were to Dee. I was stunned that you melted ‘Frosty’, you were a great couple. I’ll wear the bracelet and think of my friend often, of both of you, thank you, Amy.”

In part, that trip confirmed that the city would once again make a good base and home for me.

New home

I pulled up at the rear of the apartment block that contained my new home and got out to stretch my legs. It’d been built about four years ago, there were two flats on each of the three lower floors and a penthouse on the top. I was on the third floor and I had a decent sized balcony that overlooked the recreation ground next door, it was big enough for a couple of chairs when the weather was good.

There was a small supermarket, library, shops and cafés within a couple of hundred yards in one direction and the cricket ground was a five-minute walk in the other direction. Several buses stopped close by and there were great links to the city centre, ten minutes away and from there to the other suburbs.

I managed to wrangle several bags into the lift and dragged them to the door of my new apartment. I smiled when I stepped inside, there were lots of large windows making it bright. The open plan kitchen, dining and living area looked bare but clean, as the painters had been there a couple of days ago. I went to check the bedrooms, two good sized doubles and a small single that I’d probably use as an office. The room I was going to use had a large bathroom, with a big shower and there was another bathroom between the other two bedrooms.

I’d emptied the rest of the things from my car by the time the removals people arrived and it didn’t take them long to get everything unloaded. I cooked a pizza, then made up my bed before climbing in. I was tired, then I felt alone and started to cry, before saying out loud, “Oh Dee, I miss you so much. I love you.” There was no reply and tiredness overtook me.

The next day I felt more positive and started getting things better organised. In mid-afternoon, I’d just hooked up the TV when my new sofa and chairs arrived. Once I’d got the plastic off of them, I moved them around until I was happy with their position. I stood back to check, just one thing was missing. I went to the single room where lots of stuff had been stacked and pulled out a large, slim object enclosed in bubble wrap. I cut the wrapping away to reveal a watercolour seascape. I hung it in the centre of the lounge wall and stood back again. Dee had taken up painting after she’d retired and this was the view from our favourite bench on the cliff path. I poured a glass of white wine and admired it.

I dug around in my holdall and found what I was looking for. A head and shoulders portrait of Dee in a frame that went on my bedside table along with another photo of us both together. It’d been taken one evening when we were attending a fancy dinner and we’d both worn our best outfits. I towered over Dee in the five-inch heels she insisted that I wear, she’d refused to wear anything higher than three-inch heels that evening because she liked the height difference.

It took me a couple of weeks to get settled in and then it was back to work. I was able to do much of it from home and when I did have to travel it didn’t take as many hours. Some jobs lasted for a few days and a couple lasted longer. It felt good to get back to the need to think and problem solve, importantly it kept me from thinking about Dee so much. But it didn’t stop me from feeling lonely at times.

Idiot behaviour

I’d been unable to sleep for most of the night, now it was only 5.30 am and I was wide awake. I was broken and I knew it. Grief. For some reason, the need and desire for Dee felt overwhelming. It made no sense; I’d dealt with it and been fine. Sure, I missed her like crazy, I’d give anything to have her back, even for a short time, but it wasn’t like this. I showered, pulled on some clothes and made coffee. Then I knew what I had to do. I tipped my coffee into a travel mug, threw a few things into a bag, grabbed my coat and headed for the car.

By the time I hit the motorway the tears were flowing and I had to keep wiping them away. It was only ten weeks since I’d made the journey in the opposite direction and what I was doing made little sense, but I felt that I had to go. It took me five hours, including a brief stop for the loo and some fresh coffee, before I parked near to the house where we’d lived and I walked the path that we’d frequented almost daily for many years. I’d been walking for about twenty minutes when I sat on the bench that we’d used many times and let myself go. I screamed up to the sky, “Dee, I love you so much, I miss you. I miss you so much.”

I sobbed into my hands and didn’t see the woman and her dog approach. She sat beside me and made me jump when she spoke, “Excuse me, but are you okay? You seem distressed.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you, but I’m feeling lost and alone. I miss her, so much.” I looked up and for the first time, our eyes met. “Oh, my God.” It was the woman who’d bought our house.


“Yes, Amy King. You bought our house – Mrs Long.”

“I’m guessing that it’s your partner that you’re missing.” I nodded. “If it’s not too hard, why don’t you come back with me and I’ll make tea. You can talk to me; it might help if being in the house isn’t too difficult.”

Mrs Long, she told me to call her Lucy, made us tea. It seemed weird to be sitting in what was once my lounge, even though it had been redecorated and contained different furniture. “Thank you, this is very kind of you,” I said and as I looked up, I noticed that one of Dee’s watercolour landscapes still hung opposite the fireplace. “Oh gosh.”

“The painting? Yes, it’s lovely and it belongs there. Do you miss it? You can have it if you wish.”

“That’s kind of you, but it’s in its rightful place and I have others. I’ve been feeling lost for a few days and woke up early this morning, after very little sleep, in quite a state. I thought that I’d dealt with the grief of losing her. I still think about her every single day, but this morning I was overcome and I was drawn here.”

I sipped my tea and Lucy stayed quiet. “It’s the last place that we were together, right here and her ashes are along that path. I felt as if I wanted to be close to her again. It seems stupid….”

“I think it shows the depth of passion that you shared. It probably was foolish, but if you felt that you had to do it, what harm has it done?”

We talked for a couple of hours, about the house, about my life here and the years that Dee and I shared. By tea time I made to leave and apologised for imposing upon her. I was going to stay in a local hotel and stopped to have a meal. When I finished eating, I felt much better and decided to head back home. I was shattered by the time I got back to bed and knew that I probably shouldn’t have driven for so many hours. It was another stupid decision I’d made that day, fortunately, there were no adverse consequences.

* * * * *

Celia told me that Hayley might be playing in a one-day game at the University the following Sunday and I decided to go. I met with Celia and Hayley’s parents; we had a lovely day. Hayley played well, I was impressed, she certainly knew how to bowl.

* * * * *

I’d bumped into a few old colleagues from Haskells, where Dee and I had met, and one of them invited me to do some work on a restructuring they were undertaking, in the department where Dee, Celia and I had worked.

On the last day that I was there, I was having coffee with Connie, the department head. “My husband’s been offered a new job. Actually, a three-year contract in Australia. My daughter lives there with her husband and my granddaughter, who was born a month ago. I’ve never met her yet and I can’t wait. We’re going to talk this weekend, but I’d love to go and now the reorganisation’s finished, it’s the right time.”

“I’d jump at the chance if I were in your shoes, what an opportunity.”

“I’m telling you this because, if we decide to go, it’ll be quick. They’ll need someone to step in until they can replace me. I thought that you might be prepared to do that. It would depend on how long they took to find someone.”

* * * * *

Connie phoned me on Sunday evening to tell me that they were going. I told her that I could fill in for her if they wanted me, for a couple of months.

It was odd being back in the office that Dee and later Celia, had occupied even though it had been totally changed. It took me longer than I expected to settle in, but I started to enjoy it. I also started to get out and about again. One evening I decided to venture to Sisters, a club that catered, mainly for women, gay women. I wasn’t looking to hook up, I just wanted company and maybe to dance again.

The place had changed, at least the internals had, the clientele looked no different. I chatted to a group of women a few years younger than me and danced with most of them. I went home that night feeling great.

Two weeks later I went back. This time I met two women at the bar, we got chatting and danced together, but they left early and I wasn’t ready to leave so I sat at the bar. A voice startled me, a young woman, maybe twenty, was standing next to me. “You look lost, are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine thanks. The two who I was talking to just left, but I’m not done yet.”

“I’ll dance with you if you’d like. It’s my first time here and I’m nervous. I’m Zoe.”

“We all have to have a first time. I’m Amy. Come on then.” I’d like to tell you that she was plain, but I’d be lying, she was a couple of inches smaller than me, with a curvaceous figure, long legs, emphasized by a short dress, that was also short up top and showed more than a little cleavage. She had a lovely oval face with huge blue eyes and waist-length red hair. As we danced, I realised that she was exceptionally beautiful, stunning. I’d not looked at anyone, except Dee, in almost thirty years who’d caused the feelings that I was experiencing right then.