79. The Art of Dying

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There'll come a time when most of us return here,
Brought back by our desire to be,
A perfect entity
Living through a million years of crying,
Until you've realised the Art of Dying.


Minnie holds my hand tightly, our fingers locked together as she stands just in front of me, as if to protect me. I tug her arm, wanting her to stop, come away, but she won't. She won't stop. She keeps making it worse.

Tears run down my face. I've got hiccups from crying so much. Grandma Minnie looks like she's about to cry too. Her face is pink and there's water in her eyes, as she leans forwards with her hands in the washing-up bowl in the kitchen sink. She keeps shouting at Minnie. Grandma Minnie never shouts.

'B... But...' Minnie stammers. Her voice is wobbling and her bottom lip is trembling but she's trying very hard not to cry. 'Where is he? We want him. We want Alfieeee!' She wails his name, as she breaks into tears, then sniffs hard, trying to stop them.

'Well, you can't have him!' Grandma Minnie snaps, pulling her hands out of the soapy water. 'You can never see him again. Do you understand, Mineva? He is gone!'

'But... But... Alfie said...'

'Minerva, you will not say that man's name one more time! You are to never mention his name ever again! Do I make myself clear?!'

'Mummy...' I mumble. I want her. I want Mummy.

'Now, look, you're upsetting Hannah,' Grandma Minnie says. She pulls a tea towel from where the handle of a kitchen drawer holds it and pats her hands dry. She crouches in front of me and makes me let go of Minnie's hand, although I don't want to. I don't think Minnie does either, she holds onto my fingers for as long as she can.

'But,' Minnie tries again, determined to say what she wants to. 'Alfie said me and Hannah could ring him up whenever we wanted and we could--'

'Minerva! So help me, if you carry on like this, you shall have a smack!' Grandma Minnie shouts, rising her hand, threateningly.

Minnie steps back from us, shocked into silence.

'Go to your room, Minerva,' Grandma Minnie says, sternly, turning away from her.

Minnie stays where she is. She moves her eyes to me.

'I want Mummy...' I say.

'Oh, Hannah, Mummy's not here,' Grandma Minnie says, gently. She puts her arms around me and hugs me to her. 'Remember what I told you? Mummy's gone to heaven. I'm sorry, sweetheart.'

'Alfie promised...' Minnie tries again, very quietly.

'Go to your room! Now, Madam.'

Minnie sticks her bottom lip out in defiance. 'If Mummy was here, she'd let me!' she shouts, with a stamp of her foot. 'Me and Mummy and Hannah were going to go and live with Alfie. Alfie promised!'

'GO TO YOUR ROOM, MINERVA!' Grandma Minnie shouts, making both me and Minnie jump. 'And you will stay there until I say you can come out!'

Minnie looks like she might argue some more, but then she turns on her heel and flees. I hear her run up the stairs and slam the bedroom door.

Grandma Minnie wouldn't let her come out of her room again until teatime the next day, but for once, Minnie did as she was told. She never said Alfie's name ever again. Not to Grandma Minnie. Not to him. Not even to me.

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