Trevor wore his loneliness like a cloak. It permeated his skin turning it grey, his eyes lifeless and staring. When Jenny died from the cancer that ate her alive, he thought he would die too. He took his last breath with hers. Lung’s bursting, he was forced to breathe again.
‘No, no, no … not my Jenny’.
Eventually the Hospice staff convinced him to leave. He walked to the Tolstoy River bridge and stared at the black swirls below. His tears dripped off his face and into the water. The icy wind pushed at him, encouraging him to jump, but he couldn’t. Jenny fought so hard for her life that he couldn’t throw his away. His heart shattered, he made his way to the hushed, freezing apartment and fell shivering into bed.
Life just happened after that, like clockwork. He got up, ate and showered – some days. Cleaned up. Jenny always had the apartment shining clean and he wouldn’t let that slide. Flashes of Jenny filled his day. Laughing in the kitchen mopping up the milk she spilled. Vacuuming while singing to her 60’s albums. Hiding her tears from him while watching her favorite love story. Walking naked from the bathroom, looking 16 at 60 to him.
They were supposed to retire together. Now at 65 he was utterly alone.
Dinner for 1 was a miserable occasion but he had to do it. Opening the fridge, he was greeted by green cheese, milk close to the expiry date and a sorry looking lettuce. With a sigh he picked up his wallet and headed out the door. He didn’t see the children in the park, the lovers on the bench stuck together at the lips. He missed the music and smell of fresh croissants.
Crossing the road, he noticed something. It was a lovely mannequin with painted nails and face artfully made up. Her bright pink robe and peeping matching nightie were just like what Jenny would wear. He stared. She even looked like her. Time stopped as he thought about Jenny in a lovely pink nightie. He smiled. A young girl laughed behind him and he stopped staring, embarrassed. He walked away, feeling a tiny bit less sad.
Passing the shop again on his way home, he stared as long as he could before getting self-conscious.
“Night my love”. He touched the cold glass as he walked away, his cloak of loneliness firmly back.
Dinner filled his stomach but not the hole inside Trevor. Standing at the window he could just see the shop before the neighbor’s balcony blocked his view. She looked so much like his Jenny. Sighing he called it a night.
The next day he used onions as an excuse to go out and past the shop, he slowed and smiled. Those eyes and lips, wow. His loneliness was still there but he felt it shared, a little.
Night after night he walked past and smiled. Slowly he noticed other things. The lip sucking lovers first, then the music. The fresh air and daily walk did him good, even though he didn’t know it.
The mannequin changed clothes. The silky green dress was daring and he wondered if Jenny would wear it.
‘Maybe in your younger days, darling’. Smiling he walked past, doffing his hat to the lady. He chose a bench where he could see her and pulled out his beef and mustard on rye. Chewing slowly, he stared and experienced the evening and missed his Jenny.
3 months and 12 different outfits later he got a shock. The “Closing Down Sale” sign screamed at him. Heart pounding, he went in.
‘I am Beatrice. May I help you sir?’
‘Something for you wife?’ the assistant asked kindly.
‘Are you selling everything in the shop?’
‘Everything. We are going out of business and the owner is moving away. He wants nothing from it.’
‘Please don’t think it odd, but the mannequin…’ he trailed off as she looked confused.
‘The woman, uh…female mannequin, is it for..’ he coughed ‘sale? She looks so much like my wife… I…’. The sales assistant smiled.
‘Of course you can have it. Once we have no use, its yours. I lost my husband 6 years ago.’ Beatrice looked down. ‘I would have liked someone or something to keep me company’.
‘Thank you, thank you’.
Trevor gave her his number, doffed his hat and left. He wondered how long it would take and if the assistant thought he was weird. He didn’t care much. He wanted her there. Not for anything strange, just as a reminder of his love.
Every day for 4 weeks he went past the shop, every day Jenny stared as he went in and out. The assistant kept her promise.
‘Today’s the day Trevor, you can take her home’. She clapped at his smile. Sometimes a little kindness is all one needs.
Beatrice helped him pack her up, showing how to put her back together. They were very gentle, and Trevor’s excitement was palpable.
‘This is for you and for the little lady.’ Beatrice handed him a paper bag with a wink.
‘Don’t open it now’. She smiled. ‘Its for later’.
Trevor reached over and gave Beatrice the biggest hug. She smelled nice, like old books and roses.
Trevor rolled the mannequin out with the store bag over his arm.
Shocked he realized he felt happy! Actual happiness. And it wasn’t because of Jenny or Mannequin Jenny, it was Beatrice!
He stopped and went back.
‘Beatrice? I… I wonder if you would like to have coffee sometime? You know, if you are not too busy or…’ he trailed off at her smile.
‘I would love to.’
Trevor realized that even in death his Jenny was looking out for him.
He left feeling lighter, happier and even looking a little forward to tomorrow.