Grace’s life changed forever on that rainy Friday afternoon in May when Harry walked into her bookshop.
He led her from the lonely secluded world of her musty, dusty domain and into the sunlight.
It was a bit of a culture shock at first, because although they had both lost their parents years before, Grace came from a family of one while Harry’s kin were apparently infinite.
But despite that and the fact that he was 10 years her senior he navigated her passage through all the pitfalls and hazards inherent in family occasions until they loved her as much as he did.
Christmas had always been a cold and lonely season for her, a time for locking herself away from all the poor deluded fools who thought their lives would be enhanced just by indiscriminately saying merry Christmas to all and sundry.
But Harry dragged her kicking and screaming into the folly and illuminated Christmas for her until she loved it as much as everyone else.
And when he married her she was so happy she had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming but it was not just a special day for her and Harry it was also the most joyous occasion the family had ever known.
He made her so happy he was her sun and her moon and he called her the star in his sky.
Since that first day 12 years had passed and now so had he.
Grace sat in the lounge of the house they made together and her eyes moved around the room from object to object.
Each one possessed with a memory that stabbed her like a knife.
His armchair by the fire where he sat and read to her beneath the hideous standard lamp he loved so much.
The Stelio Mola figurines they bought on their honeymoon in Sardinia.
The Glass fronted cabinet housing the numerous crystal ornaments he'd bought for her, birthdays, Christmases and anniversary’s, each one holding a separate special memory.
And as she looked at them each one wounded her afresh.
Her eyes settled on the book shelf, each shelf crammed with the books they loved so much and the tears fell, slowly at first, appearing from the corner of her eye like a solitary jewel before cascading down her cheek, then another followed, then another.
She didn’t know how she would continue without him.
Harry had lead her from the gloom of O’Brien’s bookshop and into the light and now darkness had returned to her world.
Whenever she was sad Harry would comfort her and dry her eyes.
Who would comfort her now who would wipe away her tears now?
Harry was a strong man and was strong in his faith, He was a lifelong believer and he lived his life by Gods rules.
Through all the years of her solitude her faith had been placed on hold but with his love it had been rekindled.
Now with his passing it was cooling again and she was angry with God.
Even though on his death bed he made her promise to temper her anger and under no circumstances was she to return herself to the shelf.
That might be difficult as the musty bookshop she came from was no more as it was now a ghastly coffee shop.
But were it not, she would not have returned there, there was but one place she wanted to be now.
The funeral was every bit as agonizing as she had anticipated,
Harry’s family had done their best to support and comfort her but they were grieving for him also.
But somehow she got through it but it was with great relief that she said goodbye to the last guest, Charles Braithwaite, one of the partners from Harry’s law firm but just before he left he gave Grace a memory stick.
“Harry made a video” he said as he handed to her “A living will if you wish”
She wore a puzzled expression as she stared at it sitting in the palm of her hand.
“He requested that you watch it after the funeral, when you were alone” Charles continued.
Grace poured herself a large glass of wine and drank half of it before she plugged the memory stick into the USB port on the TV.
She sat in Harry’s armchair and took a deep breath and then he appeared.
“Hey Hon” he said and she gasped when she saw his lovely smiling face
“I hope you saw me off in style” he added with false bravado, “I wish I could have been there” he frowned
“No, no” he corrected himself “I wish I was still there with you”
He paused to compose himself
“I love you so much and you’ve made me so so happy”
He paused again
“I love you too Harry” Grace said through the tears
“I’m sorry darling for hurting you, and for leaving you alone.
Part of me thinks that if only I had walked into Waterston’s all those years ago instead of O’Brien’s, I would have spared you all this pain.
But the selfish part of me would not have missed our time together no matter what the price”
“Now I’ve gone and my life is over, but yours is not”
And then Harry put on a sterner expression as he stared down the lens and said
“And don’t even think of coming after me even though I love you so very, very much I don’t want to see you again for a very long time”
His voice faltered towards the end of the sentence and then there was a break in the recording before he reappeared recomposed.
“Now just remember when things get tough the family are there for you, they’re your family now and they love you and they will help you”
Harry paused and took a drink of water
“Ok darling listen very carefully because this is important, keep your faith and don’t go blaming God for this” he said wagging his finger and
Grace laughed as she always did when he put on his stern face.
There was another break in the recording and when he return he said
“You are still a young woman….”
“Pah” she exclaimed
“And don’t think I can’t hear you contradicting me, you still have a life ahead of you and I want you to live it.
I don’t want my well-loved book returned to the shelf, to be forgotten and left unloved.
You must keep the book open and keep the pages turning”
“I have to go now darling” he said and smiled
“No, no, not yet” Grace begged “Don’t go yet”
“I love you darling and I’ll love you forever” and he was gone and Grace broke down completely.
But she heeded his words she allowed herself to be absorbed into the Edwards family and supported them as much as they supported her and she didn’t return the book to the shelf.
She kept the book open and the pages turning and although she never loved anyone as she did Harry she did have a happy life.