First thing on Saturday morning, I send Kaja a text. Scant thirty words, but it takes me half an hour to write and rewrite them.
Hello, love. Can you get away from the store for half an hour this morning? I have something important to say. I’d prefer to tell you here, if possible.
What is it, my love? Never mind — I’ll be there at 10 xx
When she comes to the door, I’m waiting for her. She’s pale; I see confusion and sorrow in those storm-blue eyes. She has composed herself for bad news.
I love her in this moment more than I have ever loved anyone. I love her more than life.
I kiss her lightly on the cheek. She lets it happen. I ask her to sit down. She sits. I sit opposite her. Then I tell her. Everything.
She listens quietly. When I’ve finished, she sits for a few moments more, nodding, as if I were still talking, her eyes on the floor.
My heart sinks. I always thought that a hackneyed phrase, but as it turns out, it’s merely a true and accurate description. I actually feel my heart sink in my chest. I feel crushed by my shame, the enormity of my loss.
Then she crosses the small room, perches on the arm of my chair, hugs me, kisses me on the forehead, murmurs: ‘Silly little man.’
She collects her thoughts.
At length, she says: ‘You’ve been very stupid and — I’m sorry to say this — very weak. I know you men are proud, and it usually does no good to hurt your pride, but it has to be said.
‘You’ve made a poor choice — a dreadful, awful choice — and done a very bad thing. But you’re not a bad man. On the contrary: you’re a good man, one of the best men I know. We’re all weak sometimes; we all do bad things. We all behave like fucking idiots.
‘You must make this right, and I know that you will. I have no doubt about that. None at all.
‘If it’s any consolation, I doubt that anything you did — or failed to do — contributed to the death of that poor young man. I know the guilt that you must feel, and I understand…