Fortnightly Fiction | Rebecca’s Shadow

***CONTENT WARNING: Suicide***

Today is the day I commit suicide. It has to be today. It’s Rebecca’s anniversary. I have to top hers. “Alone…sleeping pills…overdose”. She died as she’d lived, a cliché. Her romance novels were proof of that. English, made barren. Yet, millions still bought them. Proof, if needed, that popularity is rarely a barometer of good taste. I have good taste, yet remain a shadow to the world. Rebecca’s shadow. Art…wine…opera, my Henry Higgins was wasted on her. She was happy the way she was – A Disney princess. It was as if Walt had drawn her himself, all light and no shade. Rebecca’s so-called fans saw her death as a tragedy. My tragedy will be greater. Mine will be Shakespearean. I planned it with religious zeal, not that I’m a man of faith. The only leap I’m willing to take is the 299 feet…to the bottom of this waterfall. August 1st – Bank holiday weekend. Tourists and press swarmed below, cameras at the ready. My suicide is going viral.

I started early, to garner enough sympathy to wash Rebecca’s away. Our wedding video, posted on Facebook in the wee small hours. Best comment…”Look how happy he is!” And I have to confess, I was happy. I wasn’t faking it, not then. When I saw Rebecca walking down the aisle, her ballgown swished to perfection, all angles were straightened. No bends in the road.

It’s windier than I thought. I don’t want to be blown off course, crash into the rocks. An X-rating is not what I’m after, more…G. A suicide that appeals to all the family.


First stop – The T.V. studio. And Rebecca’s parents. We were all there to discuss our ‘feelings’, one year on. My reception was decidedly mixed. Batting with Rebecca’s parents was very much hit-and-miss. All my runs were scored with her mother, Olivia. Batting with her father, Donal, however, was a permanent duck. From day one, he’d always viewed me with great suspicion. Rebecca was already a successful writer when I met her and Donal thought I was just inviting myself to the party. Fathers and their princesses. Olivia was a different animal altogether – A big, friendly, cuddly one. The source of Rebecca’s goodness, she used to surround me with tea, more tea, homemade fruit cake and an army of fresh, finger sandwiches. I always surrendered and ate everything.

Rebecca's Shadow

“I have a present for both of you.” I looked intently at Donal. His face remained impassive, but I knew his curiosity had been piqued. I unwrapped it as if it were a delicate flower, which in many ways, it was. Their delicate flower. Rebecca, framed in all her glory. I had painted it myself. Olivia started to cry. Donal tried not to. “It’s beautiful. You’ve really captured her. Hasn’t he, Donal?” Donal nodded, reluctantly. It was time for a ratings winner, the group hug. Olivia was game, but any type of hug was a Rubicon too far for Donal. He stopped me on the way out, whispered in my ear. “I know”.

A helicopter! They’ve sent a helicopter for me. I wave to it, but all I get is something about ‘stepping back’. Why would I do that? My entire marriage was about stepping back – Beauty and the Beast. Instead, I take a step forward and feel the cool spray, gently wetting my face. It’s a spotlight moment and I perform it well. My arms outstretched, an acknowledgement to my fans, my flock. I am their celebrity. I am their God. The helicopter retreats.

The condemned man’s last meal – Only one place would do. The Seagull, our favourite restaurant, named after the Chekhov play. Rebecca had never heard of Chekhov, not even the one in Star Trek. Lawrence is the Maitre D’. The high-end of Medieval, he’s the type that shines his armour every night. He always gave Rebecca his best seat and his best lines. “I love your books. Like you, they’re works of art.” While it was all I could do to keep my food down, Rebecca took it in her stride. Drank it like a cup of entitlement. I was an afterthought. A p.s. – Mr. Rebecca.

Rebecca's Shadow

So, when I turned up for lunch earlier, the only view on offer was Lawrence’s. A single table beside the toilets. I could smell the disdain off him – Rancid. He blamed me. I had somehow taken his princess and soiled her – Prince Baddy, waiting in the woods! I asked him to set a place for Rebecca. It was her anniversary and I wanted her with me. With us. That threw him. I had given him the chance to play Sir Walter Raleigh one more time. He grabbed it, or rather, he grabbed me, and moved me to our old table, where I had sautèed black sole, washed down with a crisp pinot grigio. Rebecca had her usual. Outside, Dublin Bay framed me like an actor, pining for my lost love – A David Gates soundtrack, rising to a crescendo. Lawrence took a picture on my phone which I posted straight away. Lots of ‘likes’. The sympathy pool was getting bigger.

The rocks are slippier here, closer to the edge. Nature, turning up the volume, marking my dance card one last time. Honeysuckle, pink-flushed and sweet. Irises, royal in purple. And of course, the waterfall, a flowing white curtain, tinged with gold by the haze of Summer sun. I put out my hands, as if to scoop it all up in a goodbye hug.

I left a note – To have the last word. My inability to cope without Rebecca, screaming like headlines from every page. Not that it was needed. One look around the house was proof enough. Bed unmade, clothes unwashed, empty bottles of fine wine, strewn everywhere. A part of me, I suppose, did miss her. Rebecca, leaving no cushion unfluffed. Rebecca, rebuking me for leaving the fridge door open for more than five seconds. Rebecca the everyday, coated now with hindsight.

Last port of call – Her grave. A shrine to mediocrity. I had thrown the last clump of earth on her coffin. A farewell, some found hard to swallow. I could’ve sworn I heard a boo. Hard to believe she lies beneath me, lifeless. Rebecca had been the very essence of life. She embraced it like a lover. In her colourful world, Rebecca was the Aurora Borealis. Black and white were never invited. She’s buried under a yew tree. To ward off evil spirits? To ward off me? Or perhaps, to begin her rebirth. Rebecca from the ashes. I took a selfie, red roses in hand, making sure to get in Rebecca’s headstone. “Together again”, across all social media.

Rebecca's Shadow

My funeral will be a lavish affair, disguised as simplicity. Tickets for the church will be on a first come, first served basis. Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, moving everyone to tears. For those disappointed, the route to the cemetery has been chosen with every vantage point in mind. You’ll be allowed throw flowers at the hearse, preferably lillies, though be careful not to obscure the driver’s view. I don’t want any accidents that could possibly detract from what’s important. Me! I’ll be buried, of course, beside Rebecca. Death, the great leveller. Family and friends will huddle graveside while a piper floats The Lonesome Boatman on a sea of grief. The sympathy dam will burst wide open. They’ve lost patience. Police, moving in. I glance down, the chasm below rushing up at me like a
hungry child. My head spins. What if I’m looked upon, despite all my efforts, as Moriarty and not Holmes? Still the villain of the piece. The sponger, who said on national television…”I’ve never read any of my wife’s books.” (If only!) And of course, the adulterer. Yes, I cheated on my wife. With Zoe.

Zoe was Maleficent to Rebecca’s Snow White, wiry and off-kilter. Her face was exotic, unknown. Her hair, brushed through with temptation. She could bore a want in your groin with one look. We tried everything. A to Z, all capitals. I was blinded, but somehow saw. Moving at the speed of light, we bent time, back and forth, back and forth… We didn’t snack, we gorged, till we were full with satisfaction. I never loved her. She wasn’t the type. You wanted Zoe, you never needed her.

What do you do with your last moments on earth? Certainly not think about Rebecca. Though, she’s doing her best to make me think about her. Hovering there, smiling at me through the torrent. Death suits her. It’s preserved her, kept her a cailín álainn. She offers me her hand, a mermaid calming the waters. “I love you.”

I dive like an Olympian, a perfect ten, and reach for Rebecca’s hand, but it dissolves like sugar. I’m falling now, all poise gone, when I hear her laugh – A vengeful laugh. It swirls around me like a watery wall of death, louder and louder.

I killed Rebecca. Not in the conventional sense of the word, but I killed her all the same. Death by neglect. I sullied her perfect world, left her drowning in a rip tide of despair. The more she tried to save herself, the more she found she couldn’t. She wasn’t equipped. The tools of life were all missing. They always had been. I was just the one who pointed it out.

I hear only lonely sounds now. The cry of a mallard on a far away lake. The wind chimes from yachts moored in a distant harbor. The sound of clichés, screaming.

Apparently, my pool of sympathy quickly evaporated after my death. My suicide, crashing into the rocks, was seen as a pathetic grab at fame. I was forgotten, consigned to an overgrown history.

As for Rebecca, she had finally learned to write the dark novel.

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