Life, Death and Garibaldis
Emily sat down on the blue plastic chair and looked around. Surprisingly, the waiting room was quiet. She had expected the police station to be busy with burly officers escorting handcuffed criminals to the cells below. She cradled the small box on her lap as the intimidating officer behind the reception desk watched her with a curious expression on his face. She smiled nervously back at him. It can’t be everyday a woman walked into the station asking to see a specific policeman, who is known for his soft Scottish accent and dark blue eyes.
The officer looked at his computer screen. ‘Ahh! PC Dunn has received the message.’ He glanced at her over the monitor. ‘He said he would be here in 5 minutes.’ He jerked his head towards the box on her lap. ‘What’s in the box?’
‘Nothing much,’ said Emily, hoping he wouldn’t press her… not that it contained anything embarrassing, just a packet of Garibaldis, a flask, a box of cappuccino sachets and a voucher for a weekend break in the Lake District. She looked at her fingers trembling with nerves. What was wrong with her? She was normally so confident, but her perspective on life had changed a lot since dumping her boyfriend, Mike, and striking out on her own.
Her mind wandered back to the day her perspective had changed. One minute she was pootling along in her car listening to the radio, the next she was staring into the eyes of a man driving straight towards her. She managed to avoid him, but ultimately lost control of her car as it launched over the crash barrier and rolled down the steep, weed entangled, embankment on the other side. Inside, Emily was tossed like a rag doll in a tumble dryer until, finally, everything came to a rocking halt. She opened her eyes only seconds before her world turned black.
It was a man’s soft Scottish voice, asking if she was okay, which finally woke her. She had slowly opened her eyes to find herself upside down, in terrible pain and her beloved car twisted around her. The discovery terrified her. The man’s hand, dusted with fine hair, threaded its way through the twisted metal toward her until he was able to cradle her hand in his.
‘Are you okay?’ he asked softly from somewhere outside her metal cage. ‘We are just waiting for the fire brigade to cut you out.’ Emily tried to move, but everything hurt. She winced with the pain. He must have felt her hand spasm as he grew concerned. ‘Did you hit your head? Can you remember your name?’
‘Yes. It’s Emily,’ she had said as something wet trickled down her skin. ‘Am I going to die?’
‘Not on my watch.’ Tears had stung her eyes at his comforting words. ‘How about we take our minds off things while we wait?’ She heard him shuffle into a more comfortable position on the other side of the wreckage. A pair of dark blue eyes looked at her through a gap in the metal. She caught a glimpse of his police uniform, but little else. ‘Tell me what you would like to be doing right now instead?’ His eyes crinkled with a smile. ‘Honestly, I’d really like to know.’
The man with the soft Scottish burr was waiting … ready to listen. It had felt like an age since her ex-boyfriend had done that… or her with him for that matter. She had learnt that familiarity can breed disconnection if one was not careful. It was why she had dumped him in the end. Emily frowned in deep thought. It dawned on her that it was the simple things in life that she was afraid she would never do again. Her obsession to be promoted at work disappeared; the designer shoes she had craved for so long were no longer important. All she wanted was to admire a breath-taking view of the countryside, whilst cradling a large frothy cappuccino and eating Garibaldi biscuits. And she wanted to do it in the company of someone she really cared about and who really cared for her. And as she told the man holding her hand, she realised just how precious and fragile life was.
So here she was, three weeks later, waiting to thank the policeman who had unknowingly helped her to realise what was really important in life. She had been fortunate this calm, kind man was the first to arrive and support her at the most terrifying moment of her life. The door opened and a tall uniformed officer walked in. He immediately recognised Emily and the box clutched in her hands. His gaze lifted to meet hers.
Emily stood up. ‘I hope you don’t mind me coming here, but when I woke up in intensive care, they said a man in uniform had visited and left this box for me. I guessed it was from you.’
‘I just wanted to show that I’d been listening to you. I wasn’t sure if you would want me to visit, so I didn’t stay.’ He smiled slightly and Emily felt her pulse race. She took a deep breath.
‘I’m here to return it. I can’t accept it.’ His smile faded. ‘It’s only because I don’t have anyone special to share the moment with me. You see, I finished with my boyfriend a month before the accident.’
The policeman’s eyes creased with humour. He shrugged. ‘Well I can’t accept it. You see, I don’t have anyone to share it with either.
‘No. My girlfriend finished with me recently.’ He tilted his head slightly as he looked at her. ‘I don’t blame her. I took her for granted.’
Emily fiddled with the corner of the box. ‘It seems a shame to waste it. We could always stand in for each other’s missing significant other,’ Emily suggested with a smile.
He peered into the box. ‘Garibaldi’s. They were my girlfriend’s favourite biscuit.’
Emily looked up at him and smiled. ‘They still are.’
The policeman took a deep breath. ‘I’ve missed you, Em. It’s only when you lose someone, you realise just how special they were.’
‘And sometimes the threat of never seeing someone again, Mike, makes you realise that too,’ said Emily, smiling, as she handed him the box.