PS, I Love Youby Cecelia Ahern
Holly couldn't live without her husband Gerry, until the day she had to. They were the kind of young couple who could finish each other's sentences. When Gerry succumbs to a terminal illness and dies, 30-year-old Holly is set adrift, unable to pick up the pieces. But with the help of a series of letters her husband left her before he died and a little nudging from… See more details below
Holly couldn't live without her husband Gerry, until the day she had to. They were the kind of young couple who could finish each other's sentences. When Gerry succumbs to a terminal illness and dies, 30-year-old Holly is set adrift, unable to pick up the pieces. But with the help of a series of letters her husband left her before he died and a little nudging from an eccentric assortment of family and friends, she learns to laugh, overcome her fears, and discover a world she never knew existed.
The kind of enchanting novel with cross-generational appeal that comes along once in a great while, PS, I Love You is a captivating love letter to the world!
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Read an ExcerptPS, I LOVE YOU
By Cecelia Ahern Hyperion Copyright © 2005 Cecelia Ahern
All right reserved.
Chapter One Holly held the blue cotton sweater to her face and the familiar smell immediately struck her, an overwhelming grief knotting her stomach and pulling at her heart. Pins and needles ran up the back of her neck and a lump in her throat threatened to choke her. Panic took over. Apart from the low hum of the fridge and the occasional moaning of the pipes, the house was quiet. She was alone. Bile rose to her throat and she ran to the bathroom, where she collapsed to her knees before the toilet.
Gerry was gone and he would never be back. That was the reality. She would never again run her fingers through his soft hair, never share a secret joke across the table at a dinner party, never cry to him when she got home from a hard day at work and just needed a hug; she would never share a bed with him again, never be woken up by his fits of sneezes each morning, never laugh with him so much her stomach would ache, never fight with him about whose turn it was to get up and turn the bedroom light off. All that was left was a bundle of memories and an image of his face that became more and more vague each day.
Their plan had been very simple. To stay together for the rest of their lives. A plan that anyone within their circle would agree was accomplishable. They were best friends, lovers and soul mates destined to be together, everyone thought. But as it happened, one day destiny greedily changed its mind.
The end had come all too soon. After complaining of a migraine for a few days, Gerry had agreed to Holly's suggestion that he see his doctor. This was done one Wednesday on a lunch break from work. The doctor thought it was due to stress or tiredness and agreed that at the very worst he might need glasses. Gerry hadn't been happy with that. He had been upset about the idea he might need glasses. He needn't have worried, since as it turned out it wasn't his eyes that were the problem. It was the tumor growing inside his brain.
Holly flushed the toilet, and shivering from the coldness of the tiled floor, she shakily steadied herself to her feet. He had been thirty years old. By no means had he been the healthiest man on the earth, but he'd been healthy enough to ... well, to live a normal life. When he was very sick he would bravely joke about how he shouldn't have lived life so safely. Should have taken drugs, should have drunk more, should have traveled more, should have jumped out of airplanes while waxing his legs ... his list went on. Even as he laughed about it Holly could see the regret in his eyes. Regret for the things he never made time to do, the places he never saw, and sorrow for the loss of future experiences. Did he regret the life he'd had with her? Holly never doubted that he loved her, but feared he felt he had wasted precious time.
Growing older became something he wanted desperately to accomplish, rather than merely a dreaded inevitability. How presumptuous they both had been never to consider growing old as an achievement and a challenge. Aging was something they'd both wanted so much to avoid.
Holly drifted from room to room while she sobbed her fat, salty tears. Her eyes were red and sore and there seemed to be no end to this night. None of the rooms in the house provided her with any solace. Just unwelcoming silences as she stared around at the furniture. She longed for the couch to hold out its arms to her, but even it ignored her. Gerry would not be happy with this, she thought. She took a deep breath, dried her eyes and tried to shake some sense into herself. No, Gerry would not be pleased at all.
* * *
Just as she had every other night for the past few weeks, Holly fell into a fitful sleep in the early hours of the morning. Each day she found herself sprawled uncomfortably across some piece of furniture; today it was the couch. Once again it was the phone call from a concerned friend or family member that woke her up. They probably thought that all she did was sleep. Where were their phone calls when she listlessly roamed the house like a zombie searching the rooms for ... for what? What was she expecting to find?
"Hello," she groggily answered. Her voice was hoarse from all the tears, but she had long since stopped caring about maintaining a brave face for anyone. Her best friend was gone and nobody understood that no amount of makeup, fresh air or shopping was going to fill the hole in her heart.
"Oh sorry, love, did I wake you?" the concerned voice of Holly's mother came across the line. Always the same conversation. Every morning her mother called to see if she had survived the night alone. Always afraid of waking her yet always relieved to hear her breathing; safe with the knowledge her daughter had braved the ghosts of the night.
"No, I was just dozing, it's OK." Always the same answer.
"Your dad and Declan have gone out and I was thinking of you, pet." Why did that soothing, sympathetic voice always send tears to Holly's eyes? She could picture her mother's concerned face, eyebrows furrowed, forehead wrinkled with worry. But it didn't soothe Holly. It made her remember why they were worried and that they shouldn't have to be. Everything should be normal. Gerry should be here beside her, rolling his eyes up to heaven and trying to make her laugh while her mother yapped on. So many times Holly would have to hand the phone over to Gerry, as her fit of giggles would take over. Then he would chat away, ignoring Holly as she jumped around the bed pulling her silliest faces and doing her funniest dances just to get him back. It seldom worked.
She "ummed" and "ahhed" throughout the conversation, listening but not hearing a word.
"It's a lovely day, Holly. It would do you the world of good to go out for a walk. Get some fresh air."
"Um, I suppose." There it was again, fresh air-the alleged answer to all her problems.
"Maybe I'll call around later and we can have a chat."
"No thanks, Mum, I'm OK."
"Well, all right then ... give me a ring if you change your mind. I'm free all day."
"Right then ... take care, love."
"I will." Holly was about to replace the phone when she heard her mother's voice again.
"Oh Holly, I almost forgot. That envelope is still here for you, you know, the one I told you about. It's on the kitchen table. You might want to collect it, it's been here for weeks now and it might be important."
"I doubt it. It's probably just another card."
"No, I don't think it is, love. It's addressed to you and above your name it says ... oh, hold on while I get it from the table ..." The phone was put down, the sound of heels on the tiles toward the table, chairs screeched against the floor, footsteps getting louder, phone being picked up ...
"You still there?"
"OK, it says at the top 'The List.' I'm not sure what that means, love. It's worth just taking a ..."
Holly dropped the phone.
"Gerry, turn off the light!" Holly giggled as she watched her husband undress before her. He danced around the room performing a striptease, slowly unbuttoning his white cotton shirt with his long slender fingers. He raised his left eyebrow toward Holly and allowed the shirt to slide from his shoulders, caught it in his right hand and swung it around over his head.
Holly giggled again.
"Turn off the light? What, and miss all this?" he grinned cheekily while flexing his muscles. He wasn't a vain man but had much to be vain about, thought Holly. His body was strong and perfectly toned. His long legs were muscular from hours spent working out in the gym. He wasn't a very tall man, but he was tall enough to make Holly feel safe when he stood protectively beside her five-foot-five body. Most of all she loved that when she hugged him her head would rest neatly just below his chin, where she could feel his breath lightly blowing her hair and tickling her head.
Her heart leapt as he lowered his boxers, caught them on the tips of his toes and flung them at Holly, where they landed on her head.
"Well, at least it's darker under here anyway," she laughed. He always managed to make her laugh. When she came home tired and angry after work he was always sympathetic and listened to her complain. They seldom fought, and when they did it was over stupid things that made them laugh afterward, like who had left the porch light on all day or who had forgotten to set the alarm at night.
Gerry finished his striptease and dived into the bed. He snuggled up beside her, tucking his freezing cold feet underneath her legs to warm himself up.
"Aaaagh! Gerry, your feet are like ice cubes!" Holly knew that this position meant he had no intention of budging an inch. "Gerry," Holly's voice warned.
"Holly," he mimicked.
"Didn't you forget something?"
"No, not that I remember," he answered cheekily.
"Ah yes, the light," he said sleepily and pretended to snore loudly.
"I had to get out of bed and do it last night as I remember."
"Yeah, but you were just standing right beside the switch a second ago!"
Yes ... just a second ago," he repeated sleepily.
Holly sighed. She hated having to get back out of bed when she was nice and snug, step onto the cold wooden floor and then fumble around in the darkness on the way back to the bed. She tutted.
"I can't do it all the time you know, Hol. Someday I might not be here and then what will you do?"
"Get my new husband to do it," Holly huffed, trying her best to kick his cold feet away from hers.
"Or just remember to do it myself before I get into bed."
Gerry snorted. "Fat chance of that happening, my dear. I'll have to leave a message on the light switch for you before I go just so you'll remember."
"How thoughtful of you, but I would rather you just leave me your money."
"And a note on the central heating," he continued on.
"And on the milk carton."
"You're a very funny man, Gerry."
"Oh, and on the windows so you don't open them and set the alarm off in the mornings."
"Hey, why don't you just leave me a list in your will of things for me to do if you think I'll be so incompetent without you?"
"Not a bad idea," he laughed.
"Fine then, I'll turn off the bloody light." Holly grudgingly got out of bed, grimaced as she stepped onto the ice-cold floor and switched off the light. She held out her arms in the darkness and slowly began to find her way back to the bed.
"Hello?!!! Holly, did you get lost? Is there anybody out there, there, there, there?"
Gerry shouted out to the black room.
"Yes, I'm hhhhowwwwwwcch!" she yelped as she stubbed her toe against the bedpost. "Shit, shit, shit, fuck, bastard, shit, crap!"
Gerry snorted and sniggered underneath the duvet. "Number two on my list: Watch out for bedpost ..."
"Oh, shut up, Gerry, and stop being so morbid," Holly snapped back at him, cradling her poor foot in her hand.
"Want me to kiss it better?" he asked.
"No, it's OK," Holly replied sadly. "If I could just put them here so I can warm..."
"Aaaaah! Jesus Christ, they're freezing!!"
"Hee-hee-hee," she had laughed.
So that was how the joke about the list had come about. It was a silly and simple idea that was soon shared with their closest friends, Sharon and John McCarthy. It was John who had approached Holly in the school corridor when they were just fourteen and muttered the famous words, "Me mate wants to know if you'll go out with him." After days of endless discussion and emergency meetings with her friends, Holly eventually agreed. "Aah, go on, Holly," Sharon had urged, "he's such a ride, and at least he doesn't have spots all over his face like John."
How Holly envied Sharon right now. Sharon and John had married the same year as Holly and Gerry. Holly was the baby of the bunch at twenty-three, the rest were twenty-four. Some said she was too young and lectured her about how, at her age, she should be traveling the world and enjoying herself. Instead, Gerry and Holly traveled the world together. It made far more sense that way because when they weren't, well, together, Holly just felt like she was missing a vital organ from her body.
Her wedding day was far from being the best day of her life. She had dreamed of the fairy-tale wedding like most little girls, with a princess dress and beautiful, sunny weather, in a romantic location surrounded by all who were near and dear to her. She imagined the reception would be the best night of her life, pictured herself dancing with all of her friends, being admired by everyone and feeling special. The reality was quite different.
She woke up in her family home to screams of "I can't find my tie!" (her father) or "My hair looks shite" (her mother), and the best one of all: "I look like a bloody whale! There's no way I'm goin' to this bleedin' weddin' looking like this. I'll be scarlet! Mum, look at the state of me! Holly can find another bridesmaid 'cos I'm not bleedin' goin'. Oi! Jack, give me back that feckin' hair dryer, I'm not finished!!" (That unforgettable statement was made by her younger sister, Ciara, who on a very regular basis threw tantrums and refused to leave the house, claiming she had nothing to wear, regardless of her bursting wardrobe. She was currently living somewhere in Australia with strangers, and the only communication the family had with her was an e-mail every few weeks.) Holly's family spent the rest of the morning trying to convince Ciara how she was the most beautiful woman in the world. All the while Holly silently dressed herself, feeling like shite. Ciara eventually agreed to leave the house when Holly's typically calm dad screamed at the top of his voice to everyone's amazement, "Ciara, this is Holly's bloody day, not yours! And you will go to the wedding and enjoy yourself, and when Holly walks downstairs you will tell her how beautiful she looks, and I don't wanna hear a peep out of you for the rest of the day!"
So when Holly walked downstairs everyone oohed and aahed while Ciara, appearing like a ten-year-old who had just been spanked, tearily looked at her with a trembling lip and said, "You look beautiful, Holly." All seven of them squashed into the limo, Holly, her parents, her three brothers and Ciara, and sat in terrified silence all the way to the church.
The whole day seemed to be a blur to her now. She had barely had time to speak to Gerry, as they were both being pulled in opposite directions to meet Great-aunt Betty from the back arse of nowhere, whom she hadn't seen since she was born, and Grand-uncle Toby from America, who had never been mentioned before but was suddenly a very important member of the family.
And nobody told her it would be so tiring, either. By the end of the night Holly's cheeks were sore from smiling for photographs and her feet were killing her from running around all day in very silly little shoes not designed for walking. She desperately wanted to join the large table of her friends, who had been howling with laughter all night, obviously enjoying themselves. Well for some, she had thought. But as soon as Holly stepped into the honeymoon suite with Gerry, her worries of the day faded and the point of it all became clear.
Tears once again rolled down Holly's face and she realized she had been daydreaming again. She sat frozen on the couch with the phone still off the hook beside her. The time just seemed to pass her by these days without her knowing what time or even what day it was. She seemed to be living outside of her body, numb to everything but the pain in her heart, in her bones, in her head. She was just so tired ... Her stomach grumbled and she realized she couldn't remember the last time she had eaten. Had it been yesterday?
She shuffled into the kitchen wearing Gerry's dressing gown and her favorite pink "Disco Diva" slippers, which Gerry had bought her the previous Christmas. She was his Disco Diva, he used to say. Always the first on the dance floor, always the last out of the club. Huh, where was that girl now? She opened the fridge and stared in at the empty shelves. Just vegetables and yogurt long past its sell-by date leaving a horrible stench in the fridge. There was nothing to eat. She smiled weakly as she shook the milk carton. Empty. Third on his list ...
Christmas two years ago Holly had gone shopping with Sharon for a dress for the annual ball they attended at the Burlington Hotel. Shopping with Sharon was always a dangerous outing, and John and Gerry had joked about how they would once again suffer through Christmas without any presents as a result of the girls' shopping sprees. But they weren't far wrong. Poor neglected husbands, the girls always called them. That Christmas Holly had spent a disgraceful amount of money in Brown Thomas on the most beautiful white dress she had ever seen. "Shit, Sharon, this will burn a huge hole in my pocket," Holly guiltily said, biting her lip and running her fingers over the soft material.
Excerpted from PS, I LOVE YOU by Cecelia Ahern Copyright © 2005 by Cecelia Ahern. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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