© 2014 Martin Guinness

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It was the last thing I expected. I mean, we’d talked about death of course. But it was always me. We’d both expected that it would be me. And after I died she’d have to figure out what to do. After all, I was that much older than her. And women are always meant to live longer than men anyway. Aren’t they?

   We’d been standing in the kitchen, late spring sunshine spilling through the windows. Marie had just finished preparing our lunch. She’d bought a beautiful piece of salmon and grilled it with snow peas and tiny, steamed potatoes. I couldn’t resist popping one of the potatoes into my mouth. It was delicious. She’d pulled the cork from a bottle of our favorite Pouilly Fumé, poured the wine into two chilled glasses, and smiled at me as she held out my glass.

    But I never managed to take hold of the glass. Instead the smile disappeared from her face, and her eyes widened, as though she’d just recognized some awful truth. Which, in a way, I guess she had. The glass slipped from her fingers and smashed on the floor. She followed it down moments later. Just like that, lying prone amongst the sodden glass shards.

    My reactions in quick succession were: firstly, plain surprise. Then raw shock. And, finally, sheer terror. I had no idea what had happened. I just knelt down beside her, ignoring a needle-sharp glass splinter that drove into my kneecap.

   “Maddy. What….? What is it?...What’s happening?”

   But she didn’t move. And her eyes stared straight back at me….sightless, because there was nobody there to see anything.

   “Please!…. Come on!!”

   Strangely, it was a while before I realized that she was dead. When I did, the life went out of me too. My eyes closed and I slowly collapsed on top of her. I wanted to scream and scream. But the words strangled in my throat. And a strange sort of paralysis came over me as I lay there, clinging onto my dead wife’s body.

   I have no idea how long we lay there together. It could have been hours and it could have been only seconds. Eventually I pulled away from Marie and looked into her lifeless eyes. But it was too much for me. I shut my eyes again, and slowly managed to wrench myself away from her rigid torso. Still in a daze, I sat up and looked around me.

    All I could think was: “What am I going to do?”

    I reached down to lever myself up, but my wrist found glass and I winced. The blood started slowly, then began to drip. But I didn’t notice it. Not then. I managed to drag myself to my feet, and just stood there looking at her. I still couldn’t believe that she was actually dead. Eventually I noticed the blood, and reached for a table napkin to cover my bleeding hand.

    I stood there for quite some time, unsure what to do. In a daze I looked around and saw the phone. But, even then, it was a few moments before I picked up the receiver and dialed 911.

* * * *

   Marie Alexandre d’Angelo was born in Casablanca to a French mother and Italian father. Both of them were journalists, often reporting from international locations. They separated when she was three, and for the first few years of Marie’s life she went with her mother wherever a story took her. Sometimes this meant traveling around Europe, and sometimes even to North Africa and Asia.

    As a small child, she was different to other children. While they were drawing pretty pictures of animals and houses and mommies and daddies, all lit by golden suns, Marie was drawing pictures of people she saw in the street, including beggars and prostitutes. Her teachers had wanted Marie to see a child psychologist, but neither of her parents was worried. In fact they encouraged her.

    And then, back in Paris one glorious birthday when she turned eleven, her father bought her a camera of her own. She was delighted. Here was a real opportunity for her to tell more stories with her pictures. And the last thing she wanted to film was family snaps.

    When she graduated from the Sorbonne she wanted to follow her parents into journalism, and applied to be a newspaper cadet. After a year, a combination of less-than-exciting stories and, let’s face it, not such brilliant writing, almost saw her tossed out of the newspaper.

    But, one day, she showed some of pictures to a friend in the newspaper office. The friend insisted that Marie show the pictures to the picture editor. He was impressed and suggested she come and work for him.

    It wasn’t long before she found herself in Angola and Sierra Leone covering a story about conflict diamonds. Many of her pictures were extremely confronting shots of amputations, rape victims and other atrocities. After that she never looked back, gaining recognition for an individual style and powerful imagery.

    And then she seemed to travel from one war zone to another, each new commission bloodier than the last.

   Naturally she ended up in Iraq.

   Which was where I met her.

* * * *

   We were both in Baghdad in 2003 to record the invasion. Or, if you insist, ‘liberation’, depending upon which way you look at it. The atmosphere was both terrifying and exhilarating. A group of western journalists remained in their hotels waiting for the promised waves of Shock and Awe.

    I remember gingerly standing on my tiny bedroom balcony in front of the camera held by my trusty cameraman Ed Wellings. Behind me the sky split open with myriad explosions, more electrifying than a hundred cracker nights. As parts of the city were illuminated by the orange explosions and the resulting fires I attempted to give a running commentary. But the explosions and the sirens were drowning……………..