The words on the screen demand friends. I’m not finished. The only—only . . . ha!—problem is I can’t forget her as every part of our lives were intertwined. Were, so recently. Who’m I kidding? Still are. In art, how we’d met; in flowers, how I’d courted her; at dinner, when we’d gazed at each other until our food went cold. Not in the wine, though. I’ve emptied every bottle of alcohol in the house into the sink, thrown the empty bottles into the recycling and swore I’ll never drink again, even moderately. But the shrivelled skin. The shrivelled skin on my ring-finger. The ring has been gone for over a month now but the white, still strangely shrivelled even after all this time skin reflects white-hot guilt into my eyes under fluorescent lights. I try to focus on the screen but success is fleeting, and my focus, my attention, keeps on drifting back to that missing ring, that missing part of me. I give up, save, and slam the lid of the laptop down.
‘You’ll just have to forgive her.’
‘How can I forgive her?’ I ask, shoving the Caesar salad around in the bowl, knowing my friend’s eyes are firmly fixed on the top of my head. ‘It was bad enough she let her alcoholic brother stay with us, alone with our child, without even warning me about what might, and did, happen.’
‘Yeah that was pretty damn awful.’
‘Yeah, and then she went off the rails herself. I tried to tolerate it but I failed. It was wildly out of character for her and I tried to help, but she refused to open up and give me an insight into what was going on with her. So I had no choice.’
‘Do you miss her?’
‘I miss the Sudha I married, yes.’
‘Y’know,’ he starts, and I lift my head expectantly, ‘I know the girl she’s living with. Apparently Sudha hasn’t touched a drop since she’s moved in. Not noticeably, at least, and not at the house.’
A letter to India. How appropriate. Like reaching for the one tether still binding us to each other. I look at Neel’s mother’s black locks atop his smiling face as he bangs a spoon into his high-chair. And the word below her parents’ address comes easily: Sudha.