‘That room was part of Rhys’

The Mail on Sunday - You - - Real Lives -

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

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