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Copyright © 2017 by Angela J. Maher
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AMY WESTON PACED AROUND her living room, watching the clock. The extra coffee she’d had after a fractured night’s sleep had only made her more jittery. Her cat, Gerald, watched warily, before tucking his head back down and resuming his nap with a sigh. Her limbs felt weighted down by fatigue, but there was no way on Earth she would have been able to sleep, even without the caffeine. Her mind would not let her relax. Dylan Knox, her all-time favourite singer, was coming to town. Tickets were going on sale online at 9:00 a.m. and she did not want to risk missing out. She had been in a state of merely existing for long enough. It was time to get out and have some fun.
Buying a concert ticket was only a little thing, but to Amy, it felt like an enormous step. She had been living the life of a hermit for months, ever since the sudden death of her husband. It did not help that she would have to go alone. She had never been someone to go out often before, and when she had Jacob had always been by her side. She paused in her pacing, anxiety giving her second thoughts. Maybe she should forget about it and stay home.
“Oh for heaven’s sake, just do it, stupid woman,” Amy said aloud.
Amy looked up at the clock and saw there were only a few minutes left to go. She sat at her computer and logged on to the ticket site. The page took longer than usual to load, shredding her nerves further, but then there it was. The moment the clock struck the hour she clicked through to the ticket sales page. She selected the best seat available and hit the purchase button. Done! She sat back in her chair, pleased she had not talked herself out of it. In her previous attempts to get out and do something fun, she had always ended up cancelling. For the first time since Jacob’s death, she felt a genuine desire to go out. Following through with it had to be the right thing to do.
The website redirected to a page devoted to Dylan Knox and his concerts. She gazed at an image of him singing, taken at a concert a couple of months earlier. How strange that she would actually see him in person. Most major acts didn’t bother coming to Hobart, Tasmania’s capital, when they toured Australia. They preferred instead to only play in the major cities interstate. Amy loved her home, but there were drawbacks to living in a place often described as a backwater. Located at the bottom of the island state, it was too small to attract much attention. Her city was beautiful, though, nestled between deep water and a majestic mountain.
Amy noticed a highlighted square of text next to the picture of Dylan. She read it through and sat up straight, heart beating faster. It was a link to pay for a one-on-one meet and greet with Dylan himself. There was a single session available before each concert. The price listed for the experience made her cringe, but the money would be going to his favourite charity. Amy checked her bank account and found she had just enough money to cover the cost.
Amy sat staring at the link, palms sweating. Should she? It would clear out her savings, but she had recently started working as a temp for a nearby company. The income would allow her to rebuild her finances. It was unlikely she would ever get another chance to do something like this again. With hands trembling, she clicked the link, claiming the meet and greet session for the same night as the concert she was attending.
She felt giddy as she read the confirmation email. Amy owned all Dylan Knox’s albums and listened to them constantly. Wishing she had someone to share the excitement with, Amy’s mood dimmed. She sobered further at the sight of her now close to zero bank balance. She wasn’t an impulsive person, but she had said she needed to get out there and start living again. Picturing herself shaking Dylan Knox’s hand, a buzz of excitement returned, making her giggle. She shut down her computer and took some steadying breaths. It was time to start getting ready to go to work and face the real world.
As Amy dressed in her office clothes, she wondered how different things would have been if she’d had to work from her usual earlier start time. The water company had needed to do some emergency maintenance near her workplace for part of the morning, causing the supply to be cut off. Her boss, Mrs Thompson, had decided to give the employees that time off, for the sake of hygiene. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been until her mid-morning break that she would have been able to buy a ticket. Amy guessed that by then it would have been difficult to get one, let alone secure the meet and greet. Well, it was about time things started going in her favour.
The excitement of her concert purchases gave Amy an extra spring in her step as she walked down the street. It had been a long time since she’d actually looked forward to something and it was intoxicating. She hoped the improvement in her mood lasted for the several weeks until the concert. She was tired of the bleak hole her life had fallen into. Her new job, temporary though it was, had been one major new step for her, and now this. Her future life was looking better all the time.
PRE-DAWN LIGHT EDGED PAST the blinds of Amy’s bedroom window, pushing away the gloom of one more lonely night. Birds celebrated the new day with a loud chorus, but she felt on edge, weary. Her emotions were in a turmoil of darkness and excitement, overlaid with nervousness. Her eyes traced the shapes of shadows on the ceiling, as they metamorphosed with the coming of the sunlight. A cobweb danced ghost-like in an unfelt draught. It was less than a week until the first anniversary of Jacob’s death. In stark, surreal contrast, it was tonight that she would be meeting Dylan Knox.
As usual, her first thoughts on waking were of her husband. Jacob’s unexpected death and his sudden loss from her life had upended her entire existence. He had been her world, her only real family, her closest friend. She had lost all sense of her identity for a while and still felt directionless, weighted down by a depression that some days was harder to live with than Jacob’s absence. She did have good days, but always there was that dark shadow over her head.
The purchase of the meet and greet with Dylan Knox had been to give her life some much-needed fun and excitement, but after being on a high for nearly a week afterwards, her black moods reclaimed her. Now she felt painfully uncertain about the meeting. What was she supposed to say, do? She was sure there was nothing about her that would interest him. She’d had a particularly down week too and was sure it showed. Makeup could hide the dark shadows under her eyes, but not the emotion in them. Amy frowned up at the ceiling. It was going to be a disaster, but she had paid her money and should at least get an autograph out of it, maybe even a photo.
Amy sat up in bed and ruffled the plush fur of Gerald, who had been sleeping with her leg as his pillow. He opened his eyes a crack and started purring, a deep rumbling that even seemed vibrate the air around him. It was a comforting sound that always made her feel at least a little bit better. She got up out of bed, and Gerald jumped down too, heading out to the kitchen ahead of her. Amy followed, putting on a warm shirt. Most of her old clothes hung off her these days. She had lost a lot of weight in the past year and often felt chilled, even in summer.
After feeding Gerald, she made some breakfast and an extra large cup of coffee. Food didn’t have much appeal a lot of the time, but she now made sure she had three meals a day. For a while, she had been dangerously thin. At least, she thought, her slenderness meant she could wear her new, low-waist jeans tonight and not look too ridiculous. She had also splurged on a fitted black t-shirt with a sequined eagle on the front. It wasn’t high fashion, and she didn’t think she would look ‘hot’ as such, but it was a vast improvement on what had become her usual frumpy, baggy style. She needed to start caring about her appearance, for the sake of her self-confidence if nothing else.
After a shower, Amy dressed and headed out the door to go to work. It was an undemanding job, involving repetitive data entry, but it wasn’t that long since she had been unable to work at all. Her intense grief had left her exhausted, and depression had stripped her of all motivation. A chance encounter had led her to this new job and she had so far managed to avoid mentioning her widowhood. To her new workmates, she was an ordinary young woman, if perhaps somewhat quiet. It was the beginning of a new life and a relief to be treated as a normal person, instead of as that poor, sad, young widow. She was surprised and relieved at how well she was coping and enjoyed being back in the workforce.
As Amy entered the front office, receptionist Lizzie Atkins greeted her with a smile. Amy couldn’t help returning it, despite her earlier gloomy mood. Lizzie was petite, with short, spiky blonde hair and twinkling eyes. Amy secretly thought she would be perfect in a movie as an elf or fairy, and few people could resist her charm. Within days of Amy starting work, the two women had become good friends. Their personalities had clicked in a rare compatibility, despite Amy’s more conservative nature contrasting with Lizzie’s unconventional style.
“Good morning Amy. Excited about tonight? The boss said you can leave early this afternoon if you want a bit longer to get ready for your big night.”
“How did she know?” Amy asked in surprise.
“I think I might have mentioned it in passing.” Lizzie’s blue eyes sparkled. “Besides, you’re ahead of schedule with the current batch of files, and she says you deserve it. The last temp we had in got next to nothing done, and made so many mistakes it took weeks to fix it all up.”
“I might take her up on it then. And yes, I am kind of excited.” Amy felt her mood starting to elevate. The reality that she was not only going to see Dylan Knox in concert, but meet him as well, was starting to hit home. Until now it had seemed more like an adolescent daydream.
“So you should be!” exclaimed Lizzie, “I can’t say I’m really a fan of his music, but damn that man is hot! I wonder if he’d give you a kiss if you gave another donation to his charity?”
“Well, it’s an idea.” Lizzie winked. “You haven’t mentioned having a significant other, so I’m pretty sure you’re single. Therefore, it’s not like you’d be cheating on anyone, and I read online yesterday that Dylan Knox is unattached too.”
Amy’s smile dimmed as her reality crashed back on her shoulders. “I’m not really one for kissing men I don’t know. I agree he’s attractive, but I’m not looking for romance right now, or anytime soon for that matter.”
“Sorry. I can see maybe I’ve hit a sore spot with you,” said Lizzie a look of concern crossing her face. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“It’s ok Lizzie. I know you didn’t mean anything by it. You’re right, though. There is something I should tell you about, but later, not now.” Amy’s smile re-emerged. “I do intend to get a photo with him, so I’ll do my best to get a hug at least. For now, however, a pile of files is calling my name. See you at morning break.”
“Ok, Amy. I brought in a great big chocolate mud cake with me today, so I need you to help me eat it.”
“Cake? What are we celebrating?” Amy asked as she paused in the doorway.
“It’s Meeting Dylan Knox Day. Deserves a celebration with cake if you ask me.” Lizzie grinned. She was always thinking of reasons to celebrate with cake. Not that you’d know it looking at her tiny frame and clear skin.
Amy shook her head in amusement and headed into the back room to start her day’s work. A messy pile of files sat on her desk, with a stack of archive boxes on the floor. She powered up her computer and settled down in the ugly but comfortable chair. A CD player sat to one side and she put on a Dylan Knox CD in the background. Many of his songs had a dark edge to them. She had gravitated to them when they’d seemed to mirror the way she often felt. She had soon started listening to his other work and before long had his entire back catalogue. She identified strongly with many of the lyrics and could always find a song that matched her current mood. It felt like his voice resonated deep in her chest, a kindred voice out of the darkness. It wasn’t until recently, watching YouTube videos, that she had realised quite how good looking he was as well. She’d always been drawn to his voice, but Lizzie was right, he was devilishly handsome. She might not be ready for romance, but it was going to be a real pleasure seeing him in real life.
During their mid-morning coffee break, Amy told Lizzie about Jacob. Lizzie listened without interrupting. She thanked Amy for telling her, giving her hands a squeeze, eyes bright. As Amy picked at her piece of cake, the conversation drifted to other topics. She felt relieved as they continued to talk, both because Lizzie now knew and also because she wasn’t treating her any differently. For a long time, Jacob’s death had dominated Amy’s life and she had wanted everyone to know about it, but recently she’d begun to dislike the way many people who did know treated her like fragile glass.
The time between the morning break and lunch passed quickly as Amy processed file after file. The monotony that many people would find boring soothed her. The rhythm of the routine was often an effective antidote to the chaos that otherwise overtook her thoughts. As she was about to take her lunch break, Mrs Thompson popped her head into the room.
“I see you’re still powering through those files,” she said with a smile. “Did Lizzie tell you that you could leave early today?”
“Yes, she did, thank you.”
“I think you’ve done enough for the day to go now if you’d like? You’ve been doing a great job, and I’d like to give you some bonus time off,” said Mrs Thompson.
“That would be lovely,” said Amy. “I’ve just finished off a batch, so I won’t be leaving in the middle of anything. And it’s always nice to leave work early on a Friday afternoon. Not that I don’t like working here.”
“I hear you’re doing something special later,” said Mrs Thompson as she ushered Amy out of the room. “I don’t know much about this singer you’re off to meet tonight, but Lizzie seemed rather excited about it, even for her.”
“He’s my favourite artist,” said Amy. “I have to admit I’m starting to get rather nervous about it.”
“Enjoy yourself, dear. I have a feeling you need this. I’m not going to pry, but you’ve been looking a bit wan, especially this week. Some fun will do you the world of good.”
“You’re probably right Mrs Thompson. And thank you again,” Amy smiled.
Amy waved to Lizzie as she left. Lizzie was busy on the phone with a client and gave her a thumbs up with a cheeky grin. Amy couldn’t help but chuckle. Lizzie’s friendship was an unexpected bonus that had come with the job. She would have to make sure to keep in touch once her work contract ended. Amy had smiled and laughed more since meeting her than she had for the whole year beforehand.
Now that she’d finished work for the day, her nerves kicked up a notch. The concert started at 7:00 p.m. but her meet and greet with Dylan Knox was an hour earlier. What was she doing? She hadn’t gone out for so long, and now that she was, it was to meet an international rock star! It seemed a little bit ridiculous for a woman in her late twenties. The nerves were at least pushing away most of the fatigue she had been battling all week. She hoped they wouldn’t also turn her into a jabbering mess.
AMY CHECKED HER REFLECTION in the mirror yet again. Her simple outfit was a perfect fit and her hair shone. Despite this, she felt uncertain and self-conscious. She had tried to put on makeup, but wiped most of it off again, leaving just a light coating of mascara on her lashes, and a hint of dark lipstick highlighting her mouth. Her light brown hair had resisted all efforts to be put up in any style and hung loose and simple around her face. She’d had it cut a couple of weeks previously and missed the long tresses that could be tied back or styled in the ways she was used to. Oh well, it would have to do. She was sure she was nowhere near as sophisticated as the women Dylan Knox normally associated with, but she guessed, or hoped rather, he wouldn’t expect her to be.
She checked Gerald had enough food and water, grabbed her bag and headed out the door to wait for her taxi. She was going to be at the Theatre Royal early, but couldn’t bear to wait around at home any longer. Her constant pacing around the house had already unsettled Gerald, and she felt like she would burst if she didn’t leave soon.
The concert was going to be mainly acoustic, so it was being held in the old, but lovely theatre instead of in one of the larger venues in the city. She had been there only once before and had been enchanted by the interior. It was Australia’s oldest continually operating theatre, having opened in 1837, and had a charm that no modern venue could ever hope to emulate. Amy’s feeling that she was lucky to have been able to get a ticket had been right. The two concerts, one that night and one the next, had sold out within an hour. Dylan Knox’s last couple of albums hadn’t been major hits in Australia, but he still had a strong following of loyal fans.
The taxi arrived and sped off with her into the city. The sullen driver wove through the traffic as though late for an important meeting, jaw clenched with determination. Amy’s fingernails dug into her seat, but before she knew it she was standing on the footpath outside the theatre. Breathing a sigh of relief, she momentarily regretted not bringing a jacket, but the January evening was warm and for once she wasn’t chilled.
She was more than half an hour early but had been told to make herself known to staff as soon as she arrived. She took a few deep breaths and stepped forward. The foyer was still dim, but the door opened smooth and silent at her touch. A few other people milled around, talking or looking at their phones. As she took a few hesitant steps inside, a young woman appeared from a room behind the ticket desk. Amy went over and showed her meet and greet ticket and ID. The woman frowned a little and excused herself to go find a more senior staff member. After an agonising five minute wait, which felt like hours, she returned with another woman.
“Mr Knox hasn’t arrived yet, but you can wait for him backstage,” the second woman told Amy, before leading her through a maze of corridors. Amy followed along, having to break into a trot to keep up. She was directed into a cramped room full of musical instruments. Two chairs sat in a cleared area in the middle of the floor.
“This is where you will meet with Mr Knox. You will have about half an hour with him, perhaps a little more depending on when he arrives. If you would like to have some photos taken as well, we have a camera on hand if you’ve forgotten to bring one of your own. Please make yourself comfortable.” The woman whisked out of the room before Amy could say a word.
Amy looked around at her surroundings. An assortment of black instrument cases sat around on the floor and up on some shelving. She could recognise guitar cases, others for violins and a double bass perhaps, but many she couldn’t begin to guess at the contents. A piano stood against one wall. After fidgeting for a few moments, Amy moved to stand in front of it. She stroked a key with her index finger. Her husband had loved to hear her play, but after he’d died, her desire to play had died too. She had sold her piano soon afterwards without ever touching it again. The key was smooth, cold and familiar under her finger. Pressing down, a note rang out clear and true in the quiet room, making her jump. She looked over her shoulder. The door was open but she was alone as far as she could see, and by her watch had at least another twenty minutes to wait. She placed both hands on the keys, paused for a moment, and then, taking a deep breath, began to play a slow tune.
Her emotions tumbled in her chest, joy at playing again mixed with sadness. The tune began to take a familiar form. She was playing a version of one of Dylan Knox’s songs, she realised, but not in a way she had ever heard it. The melody was from a hard paced, aggressive song, but Amy’s hands coaxed it into a gentle, sad beauty. She finished playing and stood motionless for a moment, deep in thought. Her fingers were still resting on the keys, her eyes half shut.
“That was lovely. I’ve never tried to play it like that,” a voice said from behind her. A male voice, with an American accent. A voice whose timbre sent tingles along her arms and made her eyes open wide.
Amy slowly turned around. Dylan Knox was standing just inside the door. Amy froze, completely tongue-tied. She had seen so many pictures and videos of him that she felt as though she knew him. He was, however, so much taller, more handsome, and yes, sexier, in real life than she had imagined. She knew she must look like a complete idiot just standing there, but she couldn’t move for the life of her.
“Hi, I’m Dylan. Come sit down,” he said, moving to one of the chairs. He waved away a tall, burly man who was standing in the doorway. “My bodyguard,” he explained. “He likes to hover. It’s his job I guess, but it freaks some people out.” He smiled and Amy managed to move to sit on the other chair, her right knee a hair’s breadth from touching his left. She even managed a shy smile of her own.
“I didn’t hear you come in,” she said, a quaver in her voice. She cleared her throat and forced her hands into a relaxed posture.
“I’m glad you didn’t,” Dylan said. “I might not have heard the rest of the song. You played it beautifully. Even though I wrote it, I didn’t realise it had the potential to be so melancholy and gentle.” He smiled at her again, his clear grey eyes meeting her dark brown ones in a way that made her heart beat even faster.
“I… I was just playing around a bit,” stammered Amy. “I haven’t played in a while. The piano was there. I thought I had some time to fill…” She shrugged and ducked her head.
“I’m early too. Makes it easier to avoid overeager fans. I’m sorry that I startled you. Please don’t look so scared, I won’t bite.”
“Oh I’m just nervous,” said Amy, relaxing a little. “I’ve never met anyone famous before. I don’t know what to talk about, or what to do.”
“I’m no different to anyone else. I just make music that lots of people happen to like. Relax. How about you tell me which album is your favourite and we’ll start from there.”
“I love all of them, but I guess my favourite is Shadows,” said Amy after a moment’s hesitation.
“That’s an interesting choice,” Dylan said, studying her. “Not many people choose it as their favourite. It’s quite a dark album, definitely the least cheerful of the lot. I had to face a lot of my personal demons to write it.”
“It’s probably because I’ve been going through a pretty hard time,” said Amy, looking away. “I lost someone almost a year ago. I won’t go into it, but your songs gave me a feeling of solace and understanding. They matched how I felt so closely that I felt a little less alone. Sometimes it was the music more than the lyrics. It gave me a focus and helped me stay grounded.” Amy shrugged, looking back at Dylan “I’m sure there were a few times that your music helped stop me from having a complete breakdown. Maybe I’m not making much sense, or making a fool of myself, but it’s why I wanted to meet you.”
“I’m glad my music has helped you, and I’m glad I’ve got to meet you. I write songs because it’s my passion, but I always feel blessed when my music becomes important to someone else in their life. The fact that you identified with Shadows means a lot to me in particular. It wasn’t an easy thing to bare my soul like that. I felt that I was screaming into a void, but exposed to the whole world at the same time. I felt alone, at the bottom of an abyss. Sometimes I still feel that way. Shadows tends to be viewed as a somewhat experimental album, but in reality, it’s the deepest part of me I’ve ever shown. You must have been through a very dark time. It means a lot to me that you identify with those songs.”
Amy and Dylan’s eyes locked. A feeling of understanding passed between them. Amy felt an odd tugging at her heart. She hadn’t considered the possibility Dylan would understand her and the way she identified with his songs. This was an unexpected situation and she wasn’t sure what it meant, if anything.
The woman who had brought Amy back to the room burst through the door, ignoring Dylan’s bodyguard who was shadowing her. “Oh, you’re here Mr Knox. I didn’t realise you had arrived.”
“I came in through the back way,” said Dylan. “I spoke to a guy named Paul on the way in. I thought he’d let everyone know I was here.”
“No, he didn’t,” she said in a clipped voice, a frown and twist of her lips breaking through her cool composure. “I’ll leave you to it, then. I’ll be back at the end of the meeting to help take photos.” She gave a brief smile and nod, and strode away.
“I suspect Paul is about to get chewed out,” said Dylan. “I hope he manages to avoid her. I don’t think I’d like to be on that lady’s bad side, somehow.”
Amy laughed. “She certainly seems… brisk.”
“Yep. But I’ve met worse people than her when I’ve been on tour,” said Dylan.
“I have to say it’s amazing that you came here. Tasmania usually gets left off the map,” said Amy.
“I like to play in lots of places, but I don’t always do many concerts. So, each time I go on tour, I try to do at least one concert in a new area. When I was planning my Australian tour I did an internet search for theatres and came across this one. It’s so lovely I couldn’t resist coming, and some of my more memorable concerts have been in smaller cities” said Dylan.
“Where are you going after Hobart?” asked Amy.
“Melbourne next, then I fly over to New Zealand for a few shows. After that, it’s Europe, starting in Germany, I think,” replied Dylan.
“It must be exciting travelling all over the world,” said Amy.
“It is, but it can be tiring too. And lonely. It’s different to a holiday, you’re rarely in one place long enough to get a feel for it. There are a lot of places I’d like to go back to one day, to spend some time there.” Dylan gave Amy a cheeky grin and winked. “Care to join me sometime?”
Amy laughed. “Sounds tempting. I’ve never really travelled, but I’m sure your entourage is big enough already.
“Not that big, not with this tour anyway. But seriously, if you ever do get the chance to travel, do it,” said Dylan.
So he really had been joking about joining him. Amy had known it anyway, but the confirmation still caused a pang of disappointment. Even if he had been serious, she wouldn’t have gone. She didn’t have a passport and wasn’t the sort of person to take off on a whim like that.
They continued talking and before they knew it their time was almost up. The brisk young woman reappeared and took some photos with Amy’s camera. Dylan seemed impressed that she had something other than a phone to capture the moment. He signed her copy of Shadows and then, to her surprise, asked if he could get a selfie of them together with his phone. She agreed and felt a wave of heat wash over her face at the feel of his arm around her.
“I have to go check on something,” the staff member said, heading back out of the door. “I’ll be back in five minutes to escort you to your seat, Amy.”
Dylan gazed down at Amy as they found themselves alone again. His height of six foot four meant she barely came up to his shoulder and he felt a sudden protective urge. He didn’t want her to be out of his sight yet, he realised with surprise. He had met hundreds of fans over the years, many of them identifying with his music in one way or another, but he felt different about Amy. What was it about her? She did look young and fragile, and sad. Maybe that was it, or maybe he was lonely. He toured with a small group of people in tow, but he didn’t hang out with any of them. He’d enjoyed talking with her that was for sure.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting you, but the time’s gone too quick,” he said. Making an impulsive decision, he pulled an electronic swipe pass from his pocket and handed it to Amy. “Meet me back at my hotel after the concert. The room number’s on the pass. I’m not trying to seduce you,” he said noticing her alarm. “I just want to talk some more. Leave it with Miss Brisk, or whatever her name is, if you don’t want to meet later.”
They heard rapid footsteps as Miss Brisk returned. Amy pocketed the pass before she could see it, and was whisked out of the room before she could get a chance to say goodbye to Dylan. What had just happened? Her fingers brushed the shape of the pass. Would she? This was completely out of her range of life experience. Apart from her marriage, she’d had few dealings with other men.
She had met Jacob when she was 18, soon after her aunt had kicked her out of home. Her father’s younger sister had become her guardian when her mother had died from breast cancer. Amy had been 12 at the time. Her father had died when she was a baby. All she knew was that it had been a workplace accident. She had tried to ask her aunt about it once, but she had refused to say a word, pain written across her face.
To give her credit, Aunt Jessie had looked after Amy, fed and clothed her, and made sure she went to school. But Aunt Jessie was a lot younger than Amy’s father. Not long before Amy turned 18, Aunt Jessie had met a man and they had become engaged. On the day of Amy’s birthday, she gained access to a trust fund, her inheritance from her mother, and had then been asked to leave. Aunt Jessie wanted to have a family of her own after she got married. Amy had understood, and although the idea of going out into the world alone frightened her, she had soon found a place of her own.
The trust fund had been enough to buy a modest two bedroom cottage in the central suburb of North Hobart. She had repainted it herself and planted roses and lavender in the front yard. The backyard was too shaded for much of a garden to grow, but the enclosing neighbouring trees made it quiet and peaceful. The money had soon started to dwindle, however. Thoughts about going to university were pushed aside, as she simply couldn’t afford it. Instead, she got a job in a newsagency just around the corner. It was there that she had met Jacob.
Their romance had been quick and dizzying. They married only a few months later, an impulsive move they had both been told they would regret. He had moved into her little house, and the next eight years had been mostly good. Neither earned a large wage, but they’d had fun on weekends, going on day trips in their little red car, or watching movies at the nearby cinema.
Then Amy had started to think about a baby. Jacob was resistant to the idea, at first, but had begun to relent. He’d had no desire to start a family, but the fights it was causing were getting to him. Amy had even started picking out names, but one morning Jacob went out for his usual run and did not return. Amy hadn’t worried too much at first, but when he wasn’t back for lunch, alarm bells started to ring. She tried to call him, but the calls went unanswered. She sent text messages, each one more urgent than the last. Then the police had shown up on her doorstep. Jacob had collapsed during his run. His heart had stopped, and although a witness had called an ambulance and performed CPR, he had been unable to be revived. The autopsy later concluded he’d had a heart defect, undetected, from birth.
She had been plunged into an inescapable nightmare. Somehow she had endured the funeral and the finalising of his estate without losing her mind. She didn’t have many friends and before long spent most days alone, the phone silent. It had been oddly easy to accept that he was dead, but his absence was still like a raw wound. She was still young at 27, but the idea of just ‘getting over it’, as some people had advised, was anathema to her. It was not the sort of thing you could get over and the idea of even trying to felt like a complete dishonour to Jacob. All she could do was learn to live with it and try to build a new life without him.
Amy emerged from her memories of the past and looked around from her seat in the theatre. Rows of plush red seats stretched out either side of her, rapidly filling. Beautifully decorated balconies hugged the walls, and an ornate domed ceiling invited upward looks. Its beauty was dreamlike. She touched the pass again. Perhaps this was some sort of dream. With a thrill of excitement, Amy made her decision. She would meet Dylan at the hotel. Maybe she was being naïve, but it was time to take some risks. If it was the wrong decision, at least she wouldn’t have the regret of never knowing. Life was too short for that sort of regret.