by Bill Cox
“It’s been four days.”
I looked into the eyes of the Spanish police officer across from me.
“Can you give us any guidance on where you were walking?”
I couldn’t. The walk had been unplanned, an afternoon’s jaunt out into the National Park. We didn’t even take a map with us. I’d waved a car down two days later, suffering from sunstroke and severe dehydration.
I could see it in the detective’s eyes, could imagine what he was thinking.
They found her body two days later. She was lying at the base of the cliff where she’d fallen. Severe head trauma was given as the cause of death. They asked me some questions. I answered as best I could through the fog of despair, the pain of loss.
I flew home with her body a week later. Kate met us at the airport, her carer at her side. The moment I saw her, so frail in her wheelchair, I burst into tears. We hugged for a full ten minutes in the middle of Arrivals, both sobbing, united in our grief as holidaymakers hurried past.
The funeral was well attended. Everyone had liked Barbara. She had been a strong, determined woman. With the help of a carer, Kate stood up and shuffled over to the casket, and placed a white rose on top. Her Mum’s favourite flower.
Two weeks later I held the envelope in my hand. The insurance company logo was on the front. Inside was the life insurance cheque. Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds. The bank offered me the services of a financial advisor, but I already knew what the money would be used for.
Kate and I sat at the table, the clinic’s glossy brochure open in front of us. I explained to her about the experimental treatment, about how hard the travel would be for her, and about the possibilities that would lie at the other side of that journey.
“It’s what your mother would have wanted,” I told her.
She nodded her head in agreement. We were both sad, but for the first time we also felt some hope.
Days later we sat in an airport once again, ready to take the first leg of our journey to the clinic in Chicago. Kate looked tired, but she gave me a smile and squeezed my hand when she saw my concern.
“We’ll go and get you a coffee,” she said, and her carer wheeled her in the direction of the nearby café.
I took my wallet out. Inside was a picture of Barbara and Kate, taken when Kate was just twelve, just after we’d been given the diagnosis. Barbara looked resolute, determined that nothing would harm her little girl.
I put the photo back, next to the card for the Bar Sunset in Tenerife. It was there that we had decided.
“Pick a card,” she’d said. “We’ll let fate choose.”
In the end she’d never even hesitated, not even for a second.
“Look after our daughter,” she told me, looking deep into my eyes, then walked over the edge of the cliff. We’d agreed that it had to look authentic, for Kate’s sake. I sat in the sun for two days afterwards, not eating, not drinking, before striking out for civilisation.
The announcement for our flight came over the tannoy. I waved over to Kate and got our bags together.
Outside the sun was rising into a perfect blue sky, its golden rays bringing light and hope and love into a brand new day.