10 Years, Actually: Sarah & Karl, Jamie & Aurélia
by Bobby Finger
This is part of a week-long series celebrating the tenth anniversary of Love Actually.
Sarah still lived in the same flat in the winter of 2006, and it seemed to get a little messier by the year. There were old clothes she’d been meaning to donate piling on the backs of chairs she never sat in. Piles of books she thought would get her back into reading, but never even opened. She was sitting on the part of the couch uncovered by magazines and laundry when the phone rang.
“What is it, my darling?”
“Sarah,” a woman’s voice on the other end said. “It’s about Michael.”
Three hours later she was in his bedroom, being watched by a crowd of nurses as she sobbed on his bed. She didn’t remember it being so empty. She didn’t remember it being so neat. She didn’t remember the walls being a color so pale that it was almost unclassifiable. And she didn’t remember his only piece of decoration: a photo of his sister, unframed, on the nightstand.
Harry gave her three weeks off. Paid. (He had grown softer since the affair.) There were papers to sign and people to call. He was cremated, as he’d always hated dirt. His memorial was well attended, though no guest but Jamie had ever met him. Karl left early, probably something to do with his newborn. Some cried because there was death. Others cried because there was crying. Sarah cried because there was nothing else to do.
She entered her flat holding the urn, placed it on her mantle, and began cleaning. For the remaining five days of her time off, she scrubbed and tossed and dusted and vacuumed and steamed and fixed and brushed and peeled and wiped and replaced. When her home was perfectly clean, she scanned its walls. Where have I seen that color before, she thought. So she painted. Different colors for the bedroom and living room and kitchen. By the time she was ready for her first day back at work, it was a new home — just like she wanted.
She went on her first date in March. A doctor friend of a friend who asked too many questions. In May, a professor friend of a friend of a friend who had too many answers. In July, she adopted a cat who had nothing to say and was fond of her lap. That fall, she was asked out by a man in a grocery store. For the next few months they cooked meals and drank wine and saw movies and had mostly fun sex, but by their New Year’s kiss it was clear to both of them that it should end.
“What happened?” Jamie later asked her. He watched her eyes brighten before she responded.
That Valentine’s Day she dined alone. A bottle of wine and five courses to herself. It wasn’t until the second that she realized a man two tables away had the same idea. By the third, she decided she would ask him to join her. By the fourth, she did. By the fifth, she was certain. By dessert, so was he.
Five months after arriving in London, Aurélia had another sleepless night. They hadn’t had slept together in weeks, and had barely spoken since their last fight. What had she screamed at him again? “You never have anything to say”? Was that it? Something like that. Well, I was right, she thought while staring at the ceiling of the guest room. The last thing he said that mattered was “I do.” But, now, even that was questionable.
The next morning, Jamie awoke just as she finished preparing breakfast. “Good morning,” he said.
“I made eggs.”
“And now I think I’ll go.”
“Good luck with your words.”
They stared at one another for a few short seconds until coming to the conclusion that speaking would be pointless. Jamie nodded and sat down. She and her bags were gone before he finished his coffee.
Years later, Aurélia picked up a copy of Jamie’s latest bestseller in the airport. “Really?” her husband asked with a smile. “Of all the books in this store, this is the one you’re choosing?”
“But it’s supposed to be the best of the series.”
He rubbed her shoulders and giggled quietly as the cashier placed the paperback in a bag. Through the plastic you could just make out the face on the cover. It was a woman. Brunette. Sad eyes. She looked kind of like…
Nah, couldn’t be.
Bobby Finger would also like to know what the characters from While You Were Sleeping are up to.