Just as I thought we were finishing, she had a few final words.
‘You could try writing a gratitude journal every day.’
What a load of rubbish, I thought.
‘Every day,’ she went on, ‘write down three things which have made you happy. You’ll soon find that even insignificant things can do that without you realising.’
I didn’t think anything could ever make me feel happy again. That’s why I was seeing a counsellor in the first place. But I agreed to try and to bring the journal along to my next appointment.
‘Just give it a go for a couple of weeks, Natalie. We’ll talk about it more next time.’
On the way home I called into the little stationer’s and purchased an exercise book with a pink fairy on the cover. Maybe the fairy could wave her magic wand and make me feel better, I thought. As I handed over my cash to the owner, Mr Jones, I thought about how Brian would have mocked my choice. He never did like me to have anything even remotely girly.
It had come as a huge shock when Brian walked out and moved in with his elderly mother. We hadn’t been arguing or anything, in fact we hadn’t been saying much at all. It wasn’t until two weeks later that my mate Jen spotted him out with her, that blonde from the new beauty shop, the girl who looks like Marilyn Monroe.
It’s a small town so it wasn’t long before everyone knew. I imagined them all comparing mousy little me to Marilyn. I’d always wanted to go blonde but Brian had told me it was too tarty. He didn’t like me wearing much make up either, though just like a schoolgirl I did get away with a little mascara and concealer. As I walked towards home I felt, as I’d done for weeks, that every passer-by must be feeling pity for me, the dumped wife.
Later I pulled out my new book and the very pinkness of the fairy made me smile. I opened it, wrote in the date, then I wondered what had made me happy. Seeing the counsellor definitely, it really was surprisingly good to talk. Then there was the pink fairy, of course. I scribbled both these items down. Putting my hand into the pocket of my old cardigan I pulled out the cheap eye shadow I’d purchased on the way to counselling. The colour made me happy too.
The following day my notes included the fresh scent of the rose by the front gate and the sugary taste of a doughnut I’d bought to have with my lunch at work. It reminded me of how I’d craved doughnuts when I was pregnant with Jack. He’s a good boy, our Jack. I always wanted him to have the chances I never had. He got his exams and is away at university. He’s done me proud, but I miss him so much, especially now.
I couldn’t think of a third thing, but sitting in front of the television that evening I realised that my work makes me happy. I’d given up my old job to bring up Jack and when Brian left, I felt almost unemployable. But Jen’s office needed someone to answer the phone and she’d put in a word for me.
The notebook filled up quickly and it wasn’t long before I had to see the counsellor again.
‘How’ve you got on with the gratitude book?’ she asked. I pulled it from my handbag and showed it to her. She flicked through the pages.
‘You do seem much happier,’ she said. ‘Will you carry on with this?’
‘I think I will,’ I replied. ‘You were right, it’s made me appreciate what I’ve got and forget about Brian.’
‘Well, you might have to buy a new journal. This one’s almost full.’
It was true. On many days I’d written more than three things. As the counsellor wound up our final session I realised that instead of being sad, as I’d expected, I felt happy. I didn’t need her anymore. I had my notebook fairy instead.
I reached the stationery shop just before closing time. Rushing in I went straight to the stand of exercise books, but I couldn’t find another with a pink fairy.
‘They’ve all sold out,’ said Gwyn Jones. ‘I’ve got one with an angel on it. Would that do instead?’
He walked over and pulled out a blue book, smiling shyly as he handed it to me.
‘I hope you don’t mind me saying this but you’re looking lovely. Those highlights really suit you.’
I looked down at the cherub. The pink fairy had clearly cast her magic spell. I just hoped the guardian angel would carry on the good work.
(c) Catherine Walter 2016