PART TWELVE - YELLOW ROSES AND BLUE FORGET ME NOTS
] HOW ANNA MISSED BEN ]
A week had passed since Ben’s death, and Anna was as delicate as a snowflake. She hadn’t been to school because she didn’t feel strong enough and even going to the local shop seemed like an effort. A flower print dressing gown draped over her shoulders and knotted around her waist, covering blue pyjamas. She looked a mess: her hair was a halo of frizz and her skin the colour of milk, with dark circles surrounding her eyes. She had hardly slept or eaten and had spoken to no one about how she felt.
Ever since Anna could remember, Ben had been in her life. He had made her strong and confident. But now that he was gone, it seemed like the positive, happy Anna had gone too and left behind someone weak and scared, like a child with the invisible wall of protection built around her. Anna’s mind was a complex jigsaw puzzle, and she couldn’t get her head around why Ben had to die.
Since she hadn’t been talking to anyone, Anna had written some of her feelings down on a sheet of lined paper and after further thought, flipped it over and turned parts of it into a poem. Once happy with her choice of words, Anna tore the page from her notepad, folded it into a paper crane and placed it on her window sill. As she did so, she noticed the stars in the sky, twinkling like glitter, and wondered if Ben was somewhere among them. She knew that if he was, he would want her to be happy; but it was so hard when she felt so alone.
It was the first night Anna had slept soundly since the accident and she had a dream about Ben. She dreamt they were together at their camp in the woods and the whole place was filled with white doves. She and Ben scattered breadcrumbs for them, and they gathered around the tepee. Some of them were tame enough to climb right into Ben’s hand, and he would hold them out for Anna to stroke their feathers. She heard Ben’s laugh and felt his smooth hands and dry knuckles. She even smelt his scent of liquorice sweets and lime shower gel mixed with washing powder. In fact, the dream was so vivid that Anna woke up smiling, and it took her a few seconds to remember that he was gone.
Once out of bed, she carefully removed Ben’s drawing from the wall, and took it downstairs. Her parents and Samuel were sat in the lounge having breakfast and the room smelt of coffee and marmite. They smiled when they saw Anna, happy that she had come downstairs. Anna sat on the arm of the sofa and held the drawing for her parents to see.
“It’s lovely isn’t it,” her mum smiled, “and it’s great that you’ve kept hold of it all these years.”
Anna ran her finger along the papers edges; they were crinkled and fraying.
“Please can I have a frame for it?” she murmured, “I want to keep it forever.”
Angela remembered that she had a special frame in the attic, and promised Anna that she would fetch it after breakfast. She encouraged Anna to eat something and handed her a plate and a mug of coffee. Anna had noticeably lost weight over the last few days and managed to eat half a piece of toast with butter and jam; but it didn’t taste right. The toast was dry, the butter had a funny aftertaste, and the jam was sickly. Anna wasn’t normally a fussy eater, but her appetite seemed to have deserted her, and she knew that she’d have to force herself to eat in order to get it back.
Angela went upstairs to sort out the washing and find the picture frame while Anna tried to chew her food. She brushed her teeth to get rid of the taste, but the mint made her eyes tingle and Anna wondered why even the simplest parts of her life had become so challenging now that Ben had gone. She threw her pyjamas into the wash basket and lay in a bubble bath for an hour topping the water up every so often to keep it from going cold. The tangles untwisted from her hair with conditioner, and once dressed in white jeans and a lacy blue top, Anna almost looked like her normal self again.
She wandered back up to her bedroom only to find her mum perched at the end of her bed holding onto the unfolded paper crane, and reading her poem.
“What are you doing?” Anna snapped, snatching the piece of paper.
“I’m sorry sweetheart, but this is beautiful. I think that you should take it to Sandra, I’m sure she would love to see it.” Her mum replied. “You aren’t the only person who misses Ben, you know.”
Anna knew that her mum was right. Part of her wanted to see Ben’s mum and reminisce with her, but she was also scared. She knew that going into the house without Ben being there would feel strange. She also worried that his mum wouldn’t want to see her and would think that it was her fault that Ben died.
“Anyway, I know I shouldn’t go through your things and I’m sorry, but I am worried about you. You don’t open up to anyone, and you spend so much time alone. It’s a shame that you don’t have any other friends,” Anna’s mum said. She paused; looking at Anna’s pained face as she held the poem to her heart.
“What about that new girl? The one whose house you went to, maybe you could go and see her.” Angela suggested.
“I don’t want to see Naomi,” Anna mumbled.
“Okay, but you need to speak to someone Anna.” Her mum said. “Here’s that frame I was talking about. It’s an antique. Your great grandma used to have a picture of her husband in it during the war: he was a soldier, and she kept his photograph above the fireplace. That photo was transferred to an album years later and the frame was handed down to me; but I’ve never found a picture special enough for it."
Anna admired the bronze frame, intricately engraved with cherubs and clouds with birds trailing from them on sprigs of ivy.
“Thank you mum, it’s perfect,” Anna murmured.
She held the drawing against its glass - it was almost a perfect fit. She sat cross legged on her bedroom floor and trimmed off the frayed paper edges, leaving the loose cuttings to fall like snow around her. She peeled off the old blue tack and secured the drawing behind a sheet of glass. The frame suddenly made the picture look more special, like something that you might find in a museum: something that was a valuable part of history.
Once the picture was hung back into place, Anna changed her duvet covers. Dust and cat hair danced around in the sunlight that shone from the window as she fluffed her pillows and thought about what her mum had said. Anna thought about Ben’s mum at her house with Pete and baby Sophie and wondered how they were coping.
Ben had always told Anna that she could come and see Sophie whenever she wanted and Anna wondered whether the invitation was still there. She wondered how Sandra would greet her; she could be quite fierce when she wanted to be. Anna had seen her lose her temper before when a group of townies had knocked on the door, asking for money to buy alcopops. She hoped that they could be friends but imagined that it might be difficult for her to be around teenagers that were Ben’s age, especially a girl who should have been there to save his life.
Swallowing her breath, Anna reasoned with herself. She couldn’t live each day hiding away from the world, and she would have to see Sandra sooner or later.
On her dressing table, there stood a china elephant money bank. It was made in India and dressed in carnival attire and accessorized with brightly coloured gemstones that formed a line along the centre of its trunk.
Anna picked it up and shook it. It felt quite heavy so she pulled the plug from its belly and tipped the coins out onto her duvet cover, so that she could count them. There was a five pound note, plenty of silver that shimmered like sardines and a mound of bright copper coins too. Anna counted fourteen pounds and thirty-nine pence: which was plenty of money to buy a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the florist in town. She decided on yellow roses - to symbolise the bright happy days that she and Ben had spent together, accompanied by forget-me-nots which were self explanatory.
Anna had a free bus pass that she was meant to use to travel to and from school, but since she wasn’t going in, she used it to get a free ride into town. She had to stand because it was German market day and the bus was filled with white haired pensioners heading out to buy groceries. The driver looked bored and didn’t smile but grunted at Anna when she thanked him before leaving.
When she stepped into the florist, Anna felt as if it was somewhere she shouldn’t be. She got the same feeling if she went into a fancy boutique clothes shop or a posh hotel foyer. It felt so far away from the tiny council homes that she came from, in a street where charities would knock on the doors at Christmas and donate turkeys.
Two well-spoken women greeted Anna as she breathed in the fragrant buddleia and rose buds. Her sandal soles echoed against the marble flooring as she walked over to the desk, head turning to look at the beautiful displays of flowers and balloons arranged in a semicircle, their colours ascending in the same order as a rainbow. She felt shy standing opposite the two women, who looked very wealthy in their well-fitting cream dresses and pearl earrings.
“Please can I have a bunch of yellow roses and forget-me-nots?” She asked hopefully, holding her purse out.
The younger of the two women understood Anna straight away and got up from her seat. She led Anna towards the yellow section of the shops rainbow display; and showed off the various species of roses from which Anna could choose. Anna pointed, almost frightened to touch as the woman created a stunning arrangement of the blue and yellow flowers, tying their stems together with matching coloured ribbon which she curled using scissors.
Happy with the result, Anna made her way to Ben’s house, and for a short few moments, she felt as though nothing was wrong and that she was about to go and see Ben as normal.
] BEN’S MUM ]
Like Anna, Sandra looked tired and pale skinned as she answered the door with baby Sophie in one arm and a bottle teat in the other. The large bouquet did a good job of hiding Anna, but there was no mistaking the outline of her figure as she stood in front of the door; shoulders tilted to the side and her size four feet with polished blue nails.
Sandra’s eyebrows rose, and the corners of her mouth turned to a smile that dimpled her cheeks as she mouthed Anna’s name before saying it aloud.
She invited Anna in and admired the flowers saying how Ben would have chosen the same two colours. She told Anna where to find a vase, and said to add sugar to the water because it would make the flowers last longer. As Anna arranged the flowers, Sandra took a bottle from the sterilizer and filled it with powdered milk ready to feed Sophie.
She spoke about the funeral, trying to force her crackling voice to sound upbeat as she explained to Anna that she wanted it to be more of a celebration of Ben’s life than an event to be sad about and that she hoped that everyone would attend wearing something bright.
Anna pulled a chair out and sat down with her arms out ready to hold little Sophie. Sandra passed her over, and Anna cuddled her tiny warm body close. Sophie’s hand was wet from being in her mouth, and she tugged on a lock of Anna’s hair and smiled as Sandra filled the kettle with water and set it to boil.
“She has such a beautiful smile,” Anna said quietly, “I’m glad that Ben got to see it.”
“Me too,” Sandra agreed, smiling. “Ben’s smile was similar don’t you think?”
Anna nodded as she bounced Sophie on her knee.
“I miss him so much.” She said. “Walking here felt like I was coming to see him. It felt so normal; and then I remembered.”
Sandra placed a hand on Anna’s shoulder as she sighed.
“I keep going into his bedroom to wake him up, and then remembering,” she smiled faintly. “I’ll sort out his things soon, but at the moment, his room is as he left it because so far I just haven’t been able to bring myself to touch anything.”
Sandra’s voice cracked as she spoke and a single tear rolled down her cheek.
Anna began to feel a guilty pain in her stomach. She couldn’t understand why Sandra seemed pleased to see her when her own son was gone, surely she was a reminder of Ben, being his best friend and the same age as him.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there with him when he died.” She said, beginning to cry too.
Sandra put her arms around both Sophie and Anna together, and told Anna that she wasn’t to know and no one can plan these things. People always look back and think about how things could have been different, but it doesn’t help anyone because time can’t be turned back.
“You were such a good friend to Ben,” she told Anna, “Right from the start, when you used to come over to play and be too shy to say anything more than hello, goodbye, please and thank you, I knew that you were a good friend for Ben. He told me how you were kind to him on that first day of playgroup: how you took down the wall of the Lego house you were building and gave those bricks to him for the fire engine he was making. He was having a bad day, he hated Tuesdays because he wanted to be with his dad instead of going to playschool, but his dad wasn’t motivated enough to entertain him more than once a week: and that broke Ben’s heart. You were his saving grace and he always talked about that first story and I’ve always liked you.”
Sandra then got up to pour the kettle, and Anna smiled as she recalled the day she met Ben. She remembered it vividly too, but had never realised how significant it had been to Ben. Being at his house was more comforting than she had ever imagined it could be, and she wished that she had gone there sooner.
Sandra said that Pete was at work, and was being very supportive, but she had heard nothing yet from either Ben’s dad or Tanya. She handed Anna a peppermint tea and they sat out on the terrace sipping from the edges of their mugs, and talking.
“I wrote a poem for Ben,” Anna said eventually, producing the piece of paper that she had refolded into its crane shape from her pocket. She didn’t want to read it out herself, but she was happy for Sandra to read it in her head.
“It’s quite short,” Anna explained. “There’s so much I want to say to him, but I didn’t want it to go on to long.”
Sandra unfolded the paper and smiled softly as she read Anna’s heartfelt poem.
“Oh Anna, its lovely!” she gasped, “Will you read it at the funeral?”
Anna looked at Sandra’s eyes. She truly wanted Anna to perform it in front of everyone. Anna had never read aloud to anyone in her life, except of course to Ben. If she read at the funeral it would be petrifying, but it would be for Ben. If he was anywhere where he could look down on her and see what was happening, she knew he would be proud. So she agreed.
“Thank you, it would mean so much,” Sandra smiled, overjoyed.
Anna’s eyes widened, terrified that she may have agreed to something that she might not be able to do. Maybe if she focused on one space in the room and pretended Ben was sat there and was the only person listening, her words would come out alright.
Sandra said that she wanted to get out of the house for a bit. Like Anna, she hadn’t been able to bring herself to do very much over the last week. She had tried to busy herself with the housework and Sophie, but the pain in her chest and butterflies in her tummy were going nowhere. Pete was arranging the funeral to make life a bit easier for her, but the whole house felt wrong, even Sophie seemed to sense it.
“Poor baby, she hasn’t been anywhere.” Sandra sighed. “Would you come somewhere with us, we could go to the aquarium?” She suggested.
Anna was happy to go out with Sandra and Sophie. They understood and felt the same unlike her parents or the people she was at school with. Although Sandra had often been strict and stressed, Anna had always liked her. She liked that she did her best and was proud of Ben. Even if he wasn’t allowed to have sweets, had to help wash the car, and do the dusting at home: he had always been well loved.
In the pristine Rover, Anna sat in the back with Sophie and sang quietly to her, making her smile some more. Sandra flipped the mirror down above the driver’s seat and applied concealer to the bags that shadowed the skin beneath her eyes.
“Do you think I was too strict with Ben?” She asked worriedly. “If I’d known that this would happen, I would have been a lot softer. I would have given him everything he wanted, let him choose what he wanted to eat, and what to do with his days.”
“But you didn’t know,” said Anna, “you did your best and you were there for him. Ben knew that.”
“I’d like you to come around still, to visit Sophie and me.” Sandra said. “We’ve known each other such a long time and it would do us both good to share memories.”
Anna agreed, and when they arrived at the aquarium, she unstrapped Sophie from her car seat and carried her around the display of tanks, pointing at the coloured seahorses and large stingrays.
It felt both right and wrong at the same time.
] THE WOMAN IN THE SUIT ]
After spending the weekend visiting Ben’s mum and Sophie, Anna decided to go to school on the Monday that followed.
She felt a bit disorientated as she ironed her school skirt and plaited her hair; and after what had happened to Ben, she didn’t want to go near her bicycle, so she walked. It took longer than Anna remembered and when she arrived late, it felt as though everyone was staring at her. The poignant smell of wet paint hit her as she walked into the building. Decorators were busily working in the reception area, and tape was up to keep students away from the tacky walls.
When Anna reached her classroom, Naomi called over to her and pulled out a chair. The class teacher Mr Norman handed Anna a card with a felt tip picture of a tree and some swans on the front. She opened it up to see that the whole class had signed it and written messages inside. Anna felt a bit strange sat with Naomi. She was smiling and talking about her weekend; but Anna found it hard to listen. She looked over at the empty desk that she would have been sat at with Ben, it looked wrong on its own.
Anna looked at her timetable. The first lesson of the day was maths. She sighed to herself quietly, but Mr Norman still managed to hear it, he seemed to hear everything.
“You won’t be going to maths today Anna, you’ll stay behind after tutor time please.”
Anna did as she was told and stayed sitting at her desk, assuming that she was soon to be quizzed on her absence, but Mr Norman simply told her to wait. He wandered out of the room, following the rest of the class and returned with a woman at his side.
“This is Mrs McAllen, she’s a bereavement councillor.” Mr Norman said. “Your mum phoned the school asking if there was someone here that you could talk to, and luckily she was available.”
Anna looked at Mrs McAllen, and saw herself reflecting in her tinted glasses; which made Anna think that if she was expected to open up to this woman, it would be nice to at least see her eyes.
Mrs McAllen looked around thirty and had shocking red hair in a short spiky cut. Her jaw line was well defined, and she wore a grey suit with square toed shoes. Tucked under her arm was a large leather bag, heavy with papers. She looked around the classroom and screwed up her nose.
“This isn’t a very comfortable place,” She groaned, observing a poster on the wall about domestic violence. She pulled out a chair and huffed at its plastic surface.
“Grey walls, dull carpet, depressing posters,” she sighed. “This room is hardly suitable for a woman with my job description, is there not somewhere more appropriate we can go?” she asked Anna.
“There are a couple of rooms with comfortable chairs just off the library,” Anna said quietly.
“Excellent, we’ll go yonder,” Mrs McAllen grinned. “Call me Maggie; I don’t like all that formal nonsense. I’m here to be your friend,”
Anna led Maggie to a quiet room with mint coloured walls and blue cushioned seats, which she seemed to like better.
Anna had initially been annoyed that her mum had gone to the effort of phoning the school and arranging for a counsellor to see her. She didn’t think that counsellors were as caring as they made out; it was just another job that people did to make money and in Anna’s mind there was no one that could help her because no one could bring Ben back.
Maggie wasn’t anything like Anna had imagined a counsellor to be. She had imagined someone boring who would try to force her to talk to them when she didn’t want to; but Maggie was different, she was eccentric and Anna liked that.
She let out a relieved sigh as she sat on the soft chair and told Anna that it was a much better environment. She then began talking about how the area that surrounds a person affects their wellbeing and asked Anna to sign some forms. Once they were complete, Maggie fumbled around in her bag and produced a shoebox. It was decorated brightly, using a mixture of brown paper, coloured buttons and photocopied photographs, along with pressed flowers, and a label which read ‘Memory Box.’
“I’m going to help you make one of these in memory of Ben,” she told Anna. She then explained that the shoebox in front of them was one that she had created herself in memory of her late uncle Arthur. She told Anna that she had been raised by her auntie and uncle because her own mother was unable to look after her and so Uncle Arthur had been like a father.
She opened the box to show Anna the memories it contained. It was lined with gold foil and filled with small articles, cards, photographs and accessories.
Maggie picked out a mahogany pipe and ran her finger along its rim. She explained to Anna that her uncle used to smoke it in the evenings. He always had the scent of tobacco mixed with extra strong mints lingering in both his hair and suit jacket as well as on his breath. Maggie had always been opposed to smoking because the health risks worried her, and as a child, she used to hide the pipe in a different place every day and watch as he looked for it, hoping that it wouldn’t be found; but uncle Arthur always managed to retrieve it, hence why it was still around to this day.
The box also housed his pocket watch, which was stuck at ten past four and Maggie told Anna that it was a family heirloom that had been passed down to Uncle Arthur from his grandfather. He'd carried it everywhere with him, along with his harmonica. Maggie explained that her uncle would get the harmonica out whenever there was an awkward silence and play a merry tune on it to cheer everyone up
Maggie had also kept a few of his favourite plants in a tiny flower press. She opened it up to show Anna the delicate leaf skeletons and the dried out petals of primroses and honeysuckle flowers she had collected. She explained to Anna that these plants reminded her of the days she spent helping Uncle Arthur in the garden.
At the bottom of the box, lay scattered a colourful array of buttons of coins, all of which had belonged to him. The buttons belonged to various articles of clothing each of which Maggie had vivid memories of her uncle wearing and the coins came from each country he had visited.
“He travelled a lot,” Maggie explained, holding out a newspaper article that depicted him stood beside an aeroplane.
“He piloted his own small aeroplane as a hobby and visited most European countries. Unfortunately, the engine failed and that’s how he died.” She explained. The time had flown by, and it was nearly time for Anna to go back to her lessons.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Maggie smiled, “I want you to bring in some things that remind you of Ben and we’ll start putting a box together.
When Anna got home, she found it hard to pick out special things because everything reminded her of Ben. Every game she owned had been played with him, every cushion sat on, every felt tip doodled with and every book read. Anna found the tin they had kept sweets in years ago. It hadn’t been used for that purpose for a long while, and Anna now kept photos in there. She had piles of pictures of her and Ben making faces at the camera, climbing rocks, paddling in the sea, and sitting in their camp in the woods. She selected her five favourites and put them in an envelope to go in her memory box. The rest she spread out on her bed ready to turn into a photo montage for her bedroom.
Other trinkets she collected were the drawings and cards that Ben had given her over the years and the gift wrap he had handmade for the necklace she still wore. There was a plastic bear that had come free in a cereal box, which Ben had given Anna when they were small because it had a pink bow on its ear. Anna bought a lollipop to remind her of their treat tin, and in an old box in Samuel’s room, she discovered a red Lego brick to remind her of that first meeting with Ben. Anna tucked these special things into a plastic wallet and placed them lovingly in her red leather schoolbag.
After dinner, she stood in front of Dusty and practiced her poem for the funeral, trying over and over again to speak clearly enough for everyone to understand her.
] OUTSIDE THE LIBRARY ]
The reading room had become a place of silent reflection now that there were only Ben and his granddad to occupy it. The room was toasty and the fire dying.
Ben’s book pile had been changing daily. He had never been an indecisive person on Earth, but up until now, his biggest decision had been choosing which options to take for his GCSEs. Since researching various options, Ben’s focus had changed from animals that would venture into Anna’s garden, to unusual ones which would be drawn to her attention because she wouldn’t expect to see them.
Ben noticed that his granddad had befriended Mrs Vine’s black cat, who was sitting on his lap and purring as Ben’s granddad stroked his cheeks and teeth.
“When you’re a cardinal, cats will be your enemies,” Ben reminded him.
His granddad remained silent, his lips formed a soft smile and his eyes appeared lost.
“Granddad!” Ben called to him, slightly worried, causing the cat to jump up and stretch out his paws.
“Sorry Ben, I’m just thinking,” his granddad explained. “I’ve decided that a cardinal, beautiful bird as it may be in its lush landscape of mountains and rivers, is not the choice I’m going to opt for this time round. This may come as a surprise to you, but I’ve decided not to return to Planet Earth.”
Ben raised his eyebrows as his jaw fell. He wondered if it was true that his granddad had lived enough lives and learned so much that he didn’t need to make any further appearances in our world again. Ben asked him about this and questioned whether he would be moving on to a new Solar System, but his granddad shook his head, and told Ben to take another guess.
“You’re going to stay in the library?” Ben asked.
His granddad nodded in response and explained to Ben that Mrs Vine and her cats needed some male company, and if he were there with her they would be able to share the duties equally between them. Then she would have more time away from her desk to explore new areas. He told Ben that there was more outside the library, and that they would be able to leave the building and explore individually if they chose to: as long as one of them remained to mind the desk. Ben’s granddad explained that Mrs Vine would be a prisoner in her job until someone else chose to accompany her in the library’s way of life. He said that if he stayed then he wouldn’t be born again, he would simply remain the age he was now; but with no ailments or pain. It would also mean that for the whole time that Ben had lives to live within the same Solar System the two of them could meet between each one.
Ben grinned, happy that his granddad seemed so contented with his decision.
“Whatever happened to Mrs Vine’s husband?” He asked intrigued.
“He moved Solar Systems,” Ben’s granddad explained. “He was a spirit and lived loads of short lives so that he could keep returning to the library to be with Mrs Vine, they spent a long time getting to know each other and building up a friendship and eventually they married but he still wouldn’t commit to staying in the library, he liked the adventures on Earth. Once he had lived over a hundred lives and learnt as much as he could, he chose to move on somewhere else, instead of staying here with her like she had dreamed of. He thought the library would be a dull place to remain”
“There’s more than just the library here though, isn’t there?” Ben asked, scrunching his nose.
His granddad nodded and reminded Ben of the exterior of the building, but all Ben could ever remember seeing was a bus stop and the building.
“Can we explore?” He asked. “Even if it means we just go for a short walk. I’ll have to decide what to be soon, and I feel like I’m losing focus looking at printed words on paper all day every day; a few breaths of fresh air would really help.
Ben’s granddad agreed and went to speak with Mrs Vine. She leant them a silver pocket watch and asked them to be back before dark, explaining that the temperature really drops outside at night. She also handed them a copy of the area map and told them not to get lost.
As they descended the staircase to the front door, old paintings watched them and creatures scurried away clearing a pathway for them to pass through.
Ben’s granddad opened the squeaky hinged door, and they were greeted by gentle falling snow that covered the muddy ground in patches. Their hair and clothes blew in the frosty breeze as they looked down at the map with its fluttering corners. There was a patch of water depicted that looked more like a lagoon than coast. There were also caves and rock, and plants with roots that hung like beaded curtains.
“That place looks interesting,” Ben hinted, pointing towards the area. The nice thing about the library’s world was that there was no traffic or human pollution. The thick twisting roots were everywhere covering pathways and forming archways; it must have been some sort of weed because it grew all around, its leaves were dark and pointy, and its berries a sunshine yellow. Large black coated mammals wandered about the place, they were about the same size as cows but had features similar to guinea pigs and didn’t seem to mind the snow. From the caves swung sharp icicles that blended in with the stalactites and after stepping into a few for shelter, Ben and his granddad discovered that some were not caves at all but extensive tunnels with several adjoining passages.
Ben wanted to explore them, but his granddad argued that they had no torch, and knew nothing of the types of creature they could encounter inside. When Ben reminded him that they were both already dead and asked what was the worst thing that could happen to them now, he couldn’t think of an answer, and agreed to the adventure.
It actually turned out that seeing wasn’t a problem. Fire flies and glow worms were dotted around to light the way, their bodies shining in fluorescent pinks, greens, whites, and oranges. They lit only the tunnel that led to the lagoon. Ben and his granddad were surprised to find that it was so far underground that the water was lukewarm with no ice sheets to be seen, it shone every colour of the rainbow beneath the glow worms light. Ben and his granddad rolled their trousers up above their knees and dipped their legs into the water and it bubbled like a Jacuzzi.
“Now this is more how I would have imagined heaven to be,” Ben’s granddad smiled, “I knew I wouldn’t get bored in this world.
“I’d stay here with you if I didn’t miss Anna so much,” Ben smiled.
He missed her to the point where everything that he did, no matter how enjoyable, was unable to distract him from the fact that she wasn’t there.