‘That room was part of Rhys’
After a couple of years of living with my memories and the emptiness that Rhys had left behind, I came to the conclusion that we should move house. I felt that staying on the estate, round the corner from where Rhys had been shot, was not helping us cope with our grief.
This was to become a sticking point because Ste wanted to stay. To him, evidence of Rhys is all around – from a tree carving with his initials to the dents in the garage door; Ste felt that moving would be like abandoning Rhys.
When I first brought it up, Ste gave me a point-blank ‘no’. Eventually, he agreed to get an estate agent to look at the house. A nice lady came to give us a valuation, and she obviously knew who we were. When she saw Rhys’s room she looked a little uncomfortable.
‘I don’t want to upset you but you’ll have to decorate this room,’ she said, kindly. ‘You’ll get all kinds of ghouls coming, just wanting to have a look.’
Over the years, I had kept that room out of the public eye. Because it was such a part of Rhys, I hadn’t wanted to change a thing but she was right when she said we would have to do it if we were going to put the house on the market.
Together, Ste and I sorted out all Rhys’s stuff. He had built up quite a collection of
figures, which we divvied up between his closest mates. We retrieved all the socks from the top of the wardrobe where he’d rolled them up and booted them. Sorting out all the things he loved was really emotional and we ended up keeping more than we binned because I couldn’t bear the thought of chucking it away. We still have all his football kits – we counted 27. I couldn’t help but smile when I remembered how Rhys used to put his old Everton shirts on the dog when they were playing. Some of his things, such as his remote controlled car, went up into the loft, but most of it is still stored under our bed and his bike and skateboard are still in the garage.
After we’d cleared the room, Ste took down the Everton border, stripped the wallpaper and painted it. We both felt down but the effect on Ste was that he changed his mind about moving. ‘I can’t do it, Mel,’ he said. ‘We can’t leave all the memories of Rhys behind and move away.’ So we decided not to sell the house.
Ironically, a short while later, Ste dropped a bombshell. It was July 2011 and I was in the bedroom when he came in from his night shift. He lay on the bed, fully clothed.
‘I’m leaving,’ he said, bluntly. ‘I’ve got a flat. It’s all organised. I just need to be alone so I can sort my head out. I need some time and space and I can’t get that here.’
Although I was desperate for him not to leave I was so emotionally battered that I had no fight left in me. ‘OK, fine,’ I said. ‘Do whatever you like.’ Ste packed his stuff and left; it was only after the door closed that I broke down. He’d said it wasn’t for ever but I didn’t know if he was going to come back… Stay With Me, Rhys