I drew in a ragged breath.
"We were walking by the road and that... drunk driver just hit her. There was this noise and...She... She bled so much. She hit her head, you see..." I tried to describe my painful memories for her, even though I did not want to. It was agonising, but as they came out, forced out bit by incoherent bit, I could feel a strange kind of release.
Grandma nodded, not letting go of my hand, but giving it an occasional gentle squeeze, waiting for me to continue.
"She... She didn't die immediately. She clung to life for a week. That...that's how they described it. Clinging to life. In and out of consciousness. Then she slipped into a coma and died. It was for the best, they said. The doctors. The huge brain contusion meant she would never have been... normal... again, had she survived. Not the Kitty we knew and loved..."
"That is probably true," Grandma said softly. "It doesn't make it easier, though."
Tears rolled down my cheeks. It was more of a flood of tears than just a trickle. Grandma pulled out a clean tissue from her pocket and gave it to me.
"You know... they told me that when she was still half conscious, she talked to invisible beings... Like she saw someone who wasn't there..." I wiped my tears away, tasting their salt on my lips.
"Yes, that is quite common when people are about to die," Grandma commented in a matter-of-fact voice.
"Yes, it is. They say the invisible people are our loved ones, coming to fetch us when it is our time to leave."
I couldn't think of anything to say to that.
"Did you see her before she died?"
I shook my head.
"She was in intensive care and they didn't allow visitors, other than her family. But her brother sent me a photo of her with his phone."
"Oh dear..." Grandma shook her head. "That probably wasn't a very good idea. I'm sure he meant well, but... "
She was right. The picture was forever etched into my mind. Her immobile bruised body under the thin hospital sheet, with a machine breathing for her, and her swollen face...I knew then what horror meant. Strange how you use a word all your life, but you don't really understand it until one day it becomes real for you. She was no longer conscious at that point. I didn't want to remember Kitty like that, but could not erase the picture from my mind. Kitty - my friend. My best friend in the world.
"He said it was like looking at a car whose engine is still functioning, though the driver had already left. She was no longer there."
We sat there in the summer morning, Grandma and I, on the old chairs outside the hut. She did not ask anything, and let me wander through the labyrinth of the memories of those painful days.
The night she died, I'd known it from the moment I woke up – I had seen her in my dream, with a winged creature that could only have been an angel. The wings had been odd, though. Not white, not feathery, but like a halo of blue around the angel's body. They were in deep conversation with each other, and walking away from me. My throat had constricted the way it does when you lose something or someone you love in a dream, and you can't call out.
Kitty had given the winged creature an object, which looked like a book. The angel had been male, with light colored hair, and, strangely, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt instead of the kind of flowing robes you'd expect an angel to wear, and he'd looked at me over his shoulder while he led Kitty away. I could still remember his bright blue eyes piercing the distance, and I had felt an odd burning sensation in my chest and back, and felt very much awake. And when the phone rang in the middle of the night, while I lay on my bed with my eyes staring into the darkness, I already knew.
The drunk driver who had killed Kitty would be brought to trial in the future and undoubtedly be convicted, but nothing would ever bring Kitty back.
Suddenly rage hit me. In my mind I saw the scared woman stumbling out of her car to almost collapse into the road because she was so drunk. I screamed out loud and slammed the table with my fist. I wanted to face her, I wanted to hit her, I wanted to kill her...
Muffin backed away from me, whining. I forced myself to stop, so I wouldn't scare him.
"Sorry." My voice shook.
Muffin stood for a while, observing me with his head tilted to one side, and then came back up to me with his rear end wriggling madly back and forth as though he should apologise, not me. I leaned down to pat him, and he licked the salty tears from my cheeks.
"Nothing to apologise for," Grandma said. "If you weren't angry at the driver, I would be worried. Now, do you have a mug here?"
"A mug? Yes, two..."
Grandma rose and I noticed she had a bag in her hands. Not a handbag, she never carried those, but a worn backpack. She went inside the hut, and I heard her put the kettle on our small gas stove. After a while she came back with two mugs of steaming instant coffee, placed these on the small table, and then returned to fetch a cake she had brought from the village store.
"Food helps when you're sad. An age-old fact. All grandmothers know it," she declared. She broke off a big piece of the cake and placed it determinedly on a tissue on the table in front of me.
My mouth was dry, and I wasn't hungry at all, but if Grandma had gone to all this trouble, then I would eat her cake.
"That's better. Low blood sugar makes it worse." She was right. Forcing myself to eat did help, even though I didn't want to admit it.
Suddenly Grandma stiffened and turned her head towards the depths of the forest. She sat there, unmoving, for a few seconds, then noticed me watching her and smiled.
"Just thought I heard something. There are no bears in the woods around here, are there? Distant relatives of Winnie the Pooh sniffing about in search of honey?"
I bit into the dry cake and washed it down with hot coffee. Then I managed a smile at her little joke.
"No bears, as far as I know. I don't think any were stowed away in our bags when we left the States."
"Our cake is safe, then. But I'll go and see if there's anything there. Perhaps it's a deer. I'd love to get a photo of a deer in the forest. Do you mind?" She took her phone from her pocket, and rose from her chair.
"No, not at all."
Grandma walked silently away, leaving me drinking my coffee, with Muffin pressed against my legs. I gave him the last bit of cake. Then I sat, looking down at the tiny ants marching over the wooden steps to reach the crumbs on the ground, tears falling silently down my cheeks and even dripping onto the knee of my jeans.
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