It was a dark time for the couple and the next three months were a daily struggle. The news from the search was not good, it seemed that the whole of Europe was looking for their daughter, but it seemed she had vanished. Susan’s mental and physical health had deteriorated, the medication kept her subdued, that was when she took it.
Several times, he, and her mother had found pills, stuffed under their bed, under her pillow, or stuck in the sink. Her GP had suggested more than once, that a spell under medical supervision would help her, but there was no way that he could allow her to be sectioned. They had to get through this together, somehow.
It was during a solo visit to see their GP, that the doctor voiced his concerns. He was worried about her mental state, and that she might try to take her own life. That shocked Alan. Of course, everyone knew that she was depressed, who wouldn’t be, but, suicide? He was urged to keep a close eye on her and to ask the other family members to do the same.
Later that evening, she asked about his visit to the GP, he mentioned that she might want to go and talk to him, or a counsellor, but she just shrugged and sighed.
“There’s no point, there’s nothing anyone can do to fix this.”
He was angry inside, the doctor’s words echoed around his head, he wanted to grab her and shake her back to her senses, but he knew that it would do no good, he had to be patient.
“I still think it would be worth a visit, just to talk, and I’d like him to check you over, you’ve lost such a lot of weight recently.”
She’d lost nearly three stone, and she was never overweight before she got pregnant, and now, well, she wasn’t skin and bone, but she was getting there. She didn’t respond, she just stared ahead at the TV, he knew that she’d heard him, she just didn’t want to answer him.
A visit from DI Rogers at the end of the week didn’t help matters. He gave them his update and then told them that some of the staff were being re-directed to other cases. He held her hand as the detective spoke, and he could feel the energy drain from her, and when he left, she broke down in his arms.
“They’re giving up on her Alan!”
He held her as he tried to reassure her that they were still searching.
“No honey, they haven’t. We knew this day would come, Susan, there are other cases, other people to help, didn’t you hear them, there is still a team working on her, just a smaller team.”
But, no matter what he said, all she could hear was that they had given up. He just held her as she cried herself out and fell asleep. Alan lay her down and covered her with a blanket.
He sat at his laptop in the kitchen, he logged onto one of the support groups that he had found online. He had been shocked by the number of people out there who had or were experiencing exactly what they were. He had taken comfort from talking to people from all over the world who had experienced the loss that they had. He was shocked at the number of children who had simply disappeared in so many countries. He was also surprised and embarrassed at just how many people from around the globe knew of their situation, whilst he had no idea of their troubles.
He had tried to engage Susan with these groups, but she just didn’t want to know, but, for him, he found a lot of comfort in talking and communicating with people who understood their situation. He felt, that if he could just get her to talk to these people, she could get a lot of support and maybe start to believe in a life after all that has happened.
The weekend arrived and he was sat at the kitchen table, the match was on the radio, and as usual, his team, Newcastle United, were making a mess of the first half. He glanced out into the garden where his wife and her sister were sat on the loungers talking, just like they used to do before things went bad.
Susan passed through the kitchen on her way to the bathroom, she smiled and asked him about the game. He smiled and rolled his eyes.
“That bad eh?” He nodded.
It had been such a long time since he’d been to a game, he missed the atmosphere, even the frustration, but he wouldn’t feel right, going to a game when his wife was dealing with her problems.
Linda left around five, and as she passed through the kitchen, she hugged him and whispered.
“Lunch, tomorrow, she’s agreed.”
He smiled and whispered his thanks. He smiled as he watched Susan walk her sister out, ’Sunday lunch out, and a late equaliser, a good day! When Susan returned, she noticed him smiling.
“What are you looking so happy about?”
He grinned, “Thank goodness for injury-time! Who’d have believed it?”
She rolled her eyes, she had never got his fascination with football.
The next morning, he woke up first, and looked across, she was still asleep, he always used to love to watch her sleep, but now, she always seemed to look troubled, even when asleep. He slipped out of bed without waking her and into the bathroom.
She was sat on the edge of the bed when he emerged from the shower, a towel around his waist, she stood slowly, her eyes avoiding his. He stood before her and placed his hands on her shoulders.
“I love you so much, Susan.”
She forced a smile, “I love you too.”
He kissed her cheek.
“I wish I could make you feel better love.”
He felt her relax, he pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her.
“It’s not easy is it honey? But we have to do what we can to get through this.”
She closed her eyes, and let her head fall, as her voice softened.
“Do we? Why?”
He looked into her eyes.
“Why? Because we love each other Susan, and we have the rest of our lives to live together. And besides, what’s the alternative?”
Almost as soon as he had said it, he wished he hadn’t as she slowly raised her head and opened her eyes and looked at him.
“You deserve to be happy Alan, I would understand if you found someone else.”
He dropped his hands and lifted her head to look at him.
“Why would you say that Susan? I love you! I want to spend my life with you! We will get through this!”
She looked embarrassed by his reaction.
“You say that now, but,”
He stopped her.
“No buts. I love you. Remember our marriage vows? For better or worse, in sickness and health? I am here for you, for as long as it takes.”
Later, at Linda’s, Alan sat in the garden with Tom whilst Susan was in the kitchen with Linda and her daughter Becky who had hardly left Susan’s side since they’d arrived. They used to be very close, and she hadn’t seen much of her recently and she missed her aunt.
It was soon time for lunch, and they all sat around the dining table, Tom poured some wine for him and his wife, Susan held out her glass. Alan noticed.
“Honey, you shouldn’t be drinking on your medication.”
“It’s okay I haven’t.”
She stopped herself, she realised what she had said. She looked away. Alan didn’t want to make a scene, not in front of Becky, but Linda couldn’t help herself.
“Susan! You need to take your medication every day!”
Her voice was getting louder. Susan looked at her sister.
“I don’t need to take it every day! I hate taking it! I hate having to rely on those pills, they make me feel drowsy all the time, I feel like a zombie. I can do this on my own!”
Alan jumped in.
“Susan, you are not alone in this, we are all here to help you, you just have to reach out and tell us when you need us to help.”
Tom picked up Becky and took her outside into the garden as Alan and Linda continued to talk with Susan who was now crying. He got up and sat beside her and held her as she cried. As she cried, she reached out and held her sister’s hand and squeezed it. After a while Alan left her with Linda, and, with the sisters embracing, he joined Tom out in the garden.
“Well Tom, I am desperately disappointed by her admission, but at least it was out in the open now. Everything that we had suspected was true, the question is, what now?”
Eventually, they all returned to the table and had their lunch, and the one person that helped the whole situation was young Becky, she didn’t understand, she just would not be ignored, and, her being there broke the tension that would have existed had she not.
Later that night, as they got into bed the atmosphere was a little subdued, they hadn’t spoken much since getting back from lunch. As she slipped into bed, he could tell that she felt bad about what had happened earlier at lunch.
“Susan, please stop apologising, I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.”
She slipped beside him and slipped her arm around him and rested her head on his shoulder, not another word was said.