rush through me. “I’ll need proof of identification in your maiden name—a passport or birth certificate, and then you just need to provide me with a copy of your marriage certificate so I can adjust the paperwork.”
“That’s right. Anytime next week, Mrs. Milton. Just call this number and my secretary can arrange a time. Again, I’m so sorry to disturb you and your…” He looked vaguely back toward the kitchen. “Your cook?” he suggested, and I found myself nodding.
“Well, I’m sorry to disturb you on a Sunday evening. I just thought you should know. Please, do send my regards to your husband, who is more than welcome to join us in my office. Thank you again. I’ll see myself out. Oh, and do you have some contact details? A telephone number?”
I looked at him blankly. “Yes. It’s…oh-two-oh seven-six-oh…” I frowned. Oh-two-oh seven-six-oh-three. No, four. Seven-six-oh-four…” I smiled, weakly. I couldn’t even remember my own phone number. I could barely remember my own name. Sweating slightly, I reached for my bag and pulled out a business card. “Here,” I said. “My number’s on the card.”
“Thank you.” He took the card, stood up, and left; two seconds later Helen appeared at the sitting room door.
“So?” she demanded. “What did that man want? And why did he say he wished he had someone at home like me?”
I smiled nervously, unsure I trusted myself to speak right now. Then I shook myself.
“Nothing,” I said eventually. “He just…He just came to tell me Grace had died.”
“Grace? Oh, poor you. Oh, Jess, I’m so sorry,” Helen said, rushing over to give me a hug. “Oh that’s really sad news.”
“Sad?” I said, hardly trusting myself to speak. “Sad doesn’t even begin to cover it.”
PROJECT: MARRIAGE DAY 1
I woke up in the middle of the night to find myself sitting bolt upright. I was totally freaked out. I’d dreamed about Grace—although it was more of a memory, really. I was in her room and we were watching some cheesy film, I can’t remember which one, and Grace turned to me and said that I should get my hair cut like the girl in the film—I think it was Drew Barrymore. And I rolled my eyes because I thought I had far more important things to think about than haircuts, and then Grace passed me a hairbrush and asked if I’d brush her hair. So I did, and she was smiling and telling me that her husband used to brush her hair, that some of her favorite moments were leaning back in his arms as he brought the brush down gently over her head. And she said that she hoped one day I’d find someone who’d brush my hair, and I don’t know why but I found a little tear pricking at my eye, which was ridiculous, I knew, but when I wiped it away, another one came up straightaway to take its place. Of course, I stopped the tears in their tracks; told myself off for being so utterly pathetic. In reality, I mean. When it actually happened. In the dream I didn’t have time to wipe my eyes or give myself a stern talking-to, because the door suddenly opened and Mr. Taylor walked in and pointed his finger at me and looked at Grace and said, “She’s the one. She’s the one who’s been lying to you.” And I jumped up off the bed and Grace was looking at me, wide-eyed, and then she was crying, shaking her head and whispering that I’d let her down, that I was a big disappointment, and then suddenly she wasn’t Grace anymore, she was Grandma, and now she wasn’t whispering, she was screaming, shouting, telling me that I was a waste of space, that she wished she’d never set eyes on me, that the sooner I learned to fend for myself the better because she’d had enough, she was sick of looking after me.
That’s when I’d woken up to find my sheets drenched with sweat, and I was staring at the wall in front of me. I took a few deep breaths, got a drink of water,