Peggy and I were perfect together. We had exactly the same sense of humour and endless things to talk about, even though we were two of the shyest people on the planet. I guess we just clicked and that just makes it all the more painful to remember.
We met at one of my first ballroom dancing competitions. I was really nervous and I went to the loos to change my outfit, forgetting to take my number off my back first, so I asked a girl standing by the sink for help. She slipped me her mobile number on a slip of paper, then disappeared.
I found the paper a few days later and, after much deliberation, called her. We met up in a cafe on the other side of London and we just talked for a couple of hours about nothing. We kept meeting up in the cafe every Saturday at 2. After 6 or 7 weeks, I finally twigged that we were never going to be just friends. Going that bit further just seemed totally natural.
Meeting up in the cafe couldn’t last forever, but she was very firmly in the closet. We agreed that, to stop her big brother from finding out and probably killing both of us, we’d be super secretive about the whole thing. My number was saved under ‘Charlie’ on her phone and she was ‘Sam’ on mine, both names suitably unisex. I even used a different Oyster card when I went to her’s so that no-one could track where I was going. It was so exciting, like being double-agents with secret identities. We loved it.
She had a flat in North London which she shared with her big brother and her two little sisters. I’d go round sometimes to help her babysit her sisters while her brother was out. I got to know her eldest little sister, Sophie, pretty well. She was a typically volatile preteen, but usually nice. The youngest sister, Amy, was 5 and loved showing me her reading books from school.
Cut to February 2010. I had just had an interview and I knew that her brother was out for three days, so I went round to Peggy’s to watch a film and talk about the interview and just generally relax. I knew that she was feeling poorly, so I brought some tulips too. She loved them and laughed at the droopy one.
We sat on the sofa with her head on my shoulder and her hand in mine, watching some sickening chick-flick. It was just a normalish day. I felt her hand twitch and then her head. Her whole body was shaking and all I could think was ‘FUCK’. She had never done anything like that before and my mind was completely blank. There was no terror, no sadness, just nothing. Just ‘FUCK’.
Sophie came into the room with a tray of orange juice and biscuits, which she dropped on the floor. I could tell that her mind was doing exactly the same thing as mine had. I don’t know if it was the crash of the tray hitting the floor or if it was just me coming to my senses, but I could suddenly think again. I screamed ‘Call a fucking ambulance Sophie’ and stuck a cushion under my Peggy’s head. I held her hand and cried and kissed her cheek until the paramedics came.
The hardest bit was letting her go. I knew that I couldn’t go to the hospital with her because sooner or later her brother would turn up and she wouldn’t want me to risk it. She lived straight. That was what I had signed up for and that was how it had to be.
She never regained consciousness.
I feel honoured to know that I was the last person that she saw and held and kissed, but because of the secrecy, I couldn’t tell anybody that she had even existed, let alone that she had died. I couldn’t even go to the funeral. I had to keep pretending to everyone that nothing was wrong.
I doubt that anything I do ever again will be as hard as that and I wish every day that she was still alive. However, I had a great time with her and I never want to forget a single second of it, the super romantic day trip to the beach or the picnics in the park or sitting on the sofa watching rubbish telly. I loved it all.