Forever is Over
Set in Ormskirk, Lancashire, Forever Is Over is an equilateral love triangle focusing on life, love and precious time. Richie Billingham, a married father of two in his early thirties, is attending a party held in his honour and organised by his wife, Jemma. He has terminal cancer. Through the eyes of several characters, we are taken back through the lives of Richie and Jemma.
Richie is from a large middle class family. His father is a gambler, his younger brother Jim, a constant irritant and his older sister Caroline provides an unusual insight into her romantic world.
Jemma is from a working class, one parent family. As her mother is far more interested in partying than parenthood, Jemma establishes a strong bond with her sister, Kelly, until one day their worlds are torn apart.
Kelly was Richie's first love. The idyllic, countryside setting where Richie and Kelly used to escape they called their "Sunny Road". When Kelly disappears, Richie is forced to move on, but several years later, not knowing that Richie is now married to her sister, Jemma, Kelly writes a letter to Richie, stating her intention to return and suggests they rekindle their romance.
The novel was initially inspired by the song "Sunny Road" by Emiliana Torrini. The book was written to appeal to both males and females. Fictional lives are mixed with real life events. Football, gambling, sex, violence, relationships and growing up all form part of the plot.
Jemma – The Beginning Of The End
I really wanted him to open the door but he wouldn’t. Perhaps he smelt a rat, I’m not sure. Perhaps he recognised some of the cars outside – I’d told them to park down the road and walk up, but it was a wet and windy night and some women would rather spoil the surprise than spoil the hair they have just spent hours putting into place.
“Go through”, I said to him, trying to coax him in.
“Can you not open a door?!” he asked, in a tone that implied he may have clocked my unusual behaviour. I was not in the habit of standing on ceremony! Anyway, Richie was having none of it, so I made a grab for him, whilst simultaneously trying to push open the double doors. As I opened the doors, I was greeted by about a hundred of Richie’s nearest and dearest, party poppers at the ready, for when his frail but smiling face emerged. The DJ, sensing his moment had come, pressed play and the room was filled with Elbow’s “One Day Like This”. It was no good though, multi-tasking had never been one of my strong points and as I pushed the door open, Richie had wriggled his skeletal frame out of my grasp and somehow managed to summon enough strength to run as fast as his legs could carry him, out the exit and back towards the car.
“Just give me two minutes”, I explained apologetically to the anxious crowd, as I turned on my heels to go after him. Richie’s Mum, Dot, made a move to the door too, but I wasn’t waiting and shot off after him in a Shaggy & Scooby styled run.
Back in his healthier days, Richie would have reached the car in a flash, but once I was outside, I knew he was not going to escape me, as his run had become a determined stride, still oblivious to the howling winds and rain that only Gene Kelly would want to be out in.
“Richie, what are you playing at? Everyone’s here for you?”
I loved every single pore on that man’s skin, every ounce of flesh, every strand of hair, every eyelash, every tooth, every finger, every toe, but he was as stubborn as a mule when he wanted to be.
“I’m not going back in there”.
“Yes, you are.” I replied without sympathy.
“Jemma, I’m not”.
Richie’s Mum was outside by now, but thankfully, for once, she kept her distance.
“Richie, people have travelled a long way to get here. They’ve arranged babysitters, booked hotels, bought dresses, had their hair done, your Helen, even looks like she’s had a boob job especially”.
Richie didn’t laugh. Sometimes when he was trying not to laugh, you could see the sides of his mouth curling upwards, this was not one of those times.
“Jemma, I can’t do it. I wish I could, but I can’t”.
“Yes, you can”.
Tears started to well up in his eyes.
“I can’t face it, Jemma. I can’t face a “Pity Party”.”
“Come on Richie, once you get inside you’ll enjoy it. You know you will.”
“Jemma, these people are here because I’m dying”.
“They are here because they love you.”
“No, they are here because I’m dying. What am I supposed to talk to them about?
Where are you going for your summer hols, Dogger? Majorca, great. I’m going to the crematorium, it’s going to be bloody roasting, but don’t worry, I don’t really feel the heat or at least I won’t when I’m dead!!”
I was going to rush in with a sentence that began with, “Stop being so bloody stupid…” and then I was going to let my anger and annoyance complete the sentence for me, but for some reason, I stopped to think. Richie was dying, we all knew that. I desperately wanted him to see all his family and friends, some of whom he hadn’t seen for years. I wanted him to see them whilst he was still well enough to enjoy the night, but I was not the one who’s life was slipping away. If it was too much for him, it was too much for him, I shouldn’t push it.
“OK, Richie, just listen to me for a minute.”
“Jemma, I don’t want this”.
“Richie, just listen. Don’t interrupt, just listen…”
“Shit!”, I thought to myself. “SHIT!”
I’m not one for swearing out loud, I very rarely swear, but, at that very moment, my brain was turning the word “shit” over and over like food on a barbeque. With good reason, I was wanting inspiration to arrive like an express train, but it had been delayed by leaves on the line. This was supposed to be my moment. Our moment. I wanted to say something wittyor brilliant. Something inspirational. Something that would make him see things in a totally different light. Problem was I had nothing planned, no start, no middle and no ending. I’d just have to blag it.
Here goes nothing.
“Look Richie, your Mum and I arranged this for you. As you know, only too well, I am from a weird family. I’ve had “stepdads”, “stepbrothers”, “stepsisters”, “stepcousins”, I’ve had more steps than a John Buchan novel, but your family’s different. From the moment we met, I loved you, but I was always jealous of you. You had a proper family. A Mum and Dad who adore you. Your Mum is an interfering old bat, but she’s prepared to stand outside in the pissing rain in the middle of November for you. You’ve got a brother and two sisters, all from the same Dad and you all get on. You’re like the bloody Waltons!
That’s not all. You’ve got friends who you’ve known since infant school. People you would do anything for and would do anything for you. I wish I didn’t have to say this, but these are friends you may never get the opportunity to see again after tonight.
Now, if you want to miss out on an opportunity to see these people because you think they are so tactless that they’ll talk about their summer holidays, then let's get in the car and go home. But we both know the real reason they are here. They’re here because they know you’re dying and it’s destroying them like it’s destroying me. They are here because they want to have a wonderful night with a wonderful man. They want to celebrate your life with you and not at your funeral when they can’t hug you and kiss you and tell you how much they love you. They….”
“That’s enough, Jemma.”
Richie took a tissue out his pocket. Blew his nose, wiped away a tear and walked towards me. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure whether he was going to slap me or hug me, but he wrapped those skinny little arms around me and held me tightly.
“I’m sorry, Jem. I want to be brave, I want to be positive, I want to live every moment like it’s my last, but it all doesn’t seem real. Nights like tonight, however well intentioned, just remind me of what lies ahead. I remember being on Sales courses at work and you’d get these really confident “life coaches” who would tell you to assess the problem, then gauge its importance from one to ten, with ten being death. This problem is a big, fat ten, Jemma. I’m dying. Our kids won’t have a father next Christmas. I won’t see Jamie score his first goal and I won’t be there to walk Melissa down the aisle on her wedding day. I so wanted to do that. You won’t believe how much I wanted to do that”.
Richie broke down, sobbing and sobbing as all the fears and anxiety that had been built up since the diagnosis came spilling out. Richie’s mother, Dot, a woman who would not normally go swimming for fear of getting her hair wet, shuffled towards us like a rat that had been drowned and revived several times over.
“Everything alright, love?” she asked from just further than slapping distance away, which is what half of me felt she deserved for asking such a stupid question. The other half understood though that she needed to be there for Richie and I managed to keep quiet, paving the way for a response from her son.
“Everything’s fine, Mum. Jemma’s just persuaded me to go back in and see everybody. You go and get yourself dried off , Uncle Billy would have a field day if he saw you looking like that! Get yourself dried off and we’ll follow you in, in a minute.”
Dot gave her son a re-assuring smile and headed inside, looking every single day of her sixty three years. She didn’t deserve a daughter-in-law like me. She deserved better. She only ever saw the good in people, especially Richie. I don’t believe all parents have a favourite child, but Dot’s was definitely Richie and she was losing him. I’m sure people learn to live with loss, but I knew in those moments neither Dot nor I would ever learn to live with the loss of Richie.
Intertwined and emotionally battered, Richie and I went inside and the party began………
He said he hated every minute of it, but he said it with a huge smile! It was a fabulous night. A fabulous night for a wonderful man. Two months have passed since I lost him and I have yet to manage twenty four tear-free hours. I don’t care. If I shed a tear in his memory every day for the rest of my life, I will go to my grave a proud woman.
This is our story. The story of Richie Billingham and Jemma Billingham (nee Watkinson).
Enjoy it, learn from it and more than anything, never take your health for granted. Don’t just seize the day. Seize the moment. Every single one.
When I began to read this book I did not know what to expect or even if I'd bother with it after the first chapter. What became quickly apparent to me was how relatable the characters are and it is the strength of the characters that drew me in. All different in likeable and unlikeable ways, true to real life!! I enjoyed the way you get to view the story through the eyes of the different characters it kept things interesting to say the least! This book made me laugh out loud, reminisce about my teenage years, be content in the present and be thankful for tomorrow. It is light-hearted, full of good humour and yet, such as life, is a reminder to all not to take tomorrow for granted or indeed the here and now. I laughed, I cried and most of all enjoyed reading this book immensely!! Just fabulous.
About the Author
Calvin Wade was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire in 1971. He studied Economics at Manchester Metropolitan University, graduating in 1992. On graduation, he worked in a record shop for eighteen months to fund a backpacking trip around the world.
Since returning from his travels, his working life has been in the mortgage industry, working for Alliance & Leicester, Yorkshire Building Society and Birmingham Midshires. During this period, he has run five marathons, three in London and one each in Liverpool and New York. His first London Marathon was run in a fancy dress house where he was narrowly beaten by an apple, a banana and a pear.
Calvin Wade is married to Alison and has two sons, Bradley and Joel.