Hope everyone had a good/nice weekend. I went out to dinner with my family on Friday, was a little strange, there were only two other groups in the restaurant, didn’t really expect it to be busy, but it was ridiculously empty. Still, the food was nice.
On with the show!
It was cold here, but she was warm.
He sat beside the bed on a small stool, holding her hand. The duvet had been carefully placed over her body, it was so thick you couldn’t even see the rise and fall of her chest, that didn’t worry him though, not anymore. It had at first, when it had happened, waiting for her chest to cease its steady movement. She was still alive, and that was the important thing. She seemed unreal now, her skin pale, her lips bright red, her cheeks even seemed to have a slight blush to them. She reminded him of a china doll, he knew if he pulled her eyes open they would remain that way, staring at nothing. It had struck her so fast, one moment she was fine, chopping onions for dinner, the next she was on the floor. He didn’t know what was wrong with her, she lay there, unresponsive, blood dripping from her finger. She’d be fine, he knew that. She had had a few fainting spells previously, she always woke up quickly, but not this time. He had moved her from the kitchen into the sitting room, putting her on the couch and bandaging her finger, the knife must have slipped. The bleeding had stopped by now, but it made him feel useful. He checked her pulse, it was still strong, steady, but she wouldn’t wake up. That wasn’t too concerning either. The last time she had a fainting spell she was out for the night. The doctors said she was fine, he remembered that’s what they said. She hadn’t liked the fuss that was made, she told him next time just to wait until she woke up. So he waited and waited and waited.
Her skin started to feel cold, the sitting room wasn’t that warm, the couch wasn’t that comfortable. He’d move her to bed, that way she’d wake up in the morning and she’d be warm and safe and comfortable. He carried her upstairs with little difficulty and put her into the guest room. He always liked calling it that. It made everything sound so fancy. Really it was still Abby’s room, she was gone for the moment, off on another adventure. Not that they minded. She was still young, she’d call sometimes, write post cards, then land in the door and expect food and shelter. Not that he’d turn her away of course, they could never do that. Still, while she was gone it was known as the guest room. The bed was already made so there was no worry there. He pulled back the covers and put her into bed, after a moment, he wondered if it was wise to leave her in her clothes. She’d be more comfortable in her pyjamas surely. He stripped off her jeans and t-shirt and pulled on her nightdress, she’d prefer that. She always hated falling sleep in her clothes. He put the covers over her body, smiling. That would keep her warm, safe. He kissed her gently on the forehead and went back downstairs.
In the kitchen he turned on the kettle, he needed to calm himself down. He saw the hob had turned itself off. Good. It was one of those electric things, he hadn’t put the pan on it yet. He looked around the kitchen. He’d still need to eat. The things for dinner were still on the counter. She’d be hungry when she woke, He’d get a start on dinner, that’s what he’d do, if she woke she’d want something to eat.
He ate alone, the room growing darker. He wasn’t hungry, but you were supposed to eat at dinner time, so that’s what he did. He packed away the left over’s, it would do for dinner tomorrow. He could make something for himself. The cup of tea he had made sat on the counter, cold. He never liked tea. He looked at the cup, then poured the contents down the sink. She’d be ok tomorrow. The night passed by all too slowly, he tried to distract himself, watch TV, read a book, but nothing held his attention. Finally he decided to go to bed. He checked on her again, she still felt cold. Another duvet, that would keep her warm. She looked so serene, lying there. Her hair was splayed out on the pillow, so dark. No one believed she hadn’t started going grey yet, but he knew that black hadn’t come from a bottle.
He lay in the darkness, staring at nothing. He couldn’t sleep, not without her beside him. It felt wrong, but he couldn’t sleep beside her either, not now. It felt wrong, dirty somehow. They shared a bed for almost thirty years, but he couldn’t bring himself to sleep beside her tonight. In the morning he knew she would be thankful that he hadn’t fussed, he would never tell her how difficult the time had been. He dozed occasionally, snapping awake suddenly, convinced that something had happened, each time he got out of bed and raced to the guest room where he would check that she was ok and each time she was fine.
In the morning he made a big breakfast, French toast, bacon, orange juice, it was all there. He wasn’t hungry but he knew that she would be. But she wasn’t. At midday he finally admitted that she wasn’t just sleeping late. He ate his food, it was cold. Upstairs she continued to sleep. What could he do? What should he do? He knew he should ring someone, but what would they say? What would she say? It was too late to call anyone now, they’d want to know why he didn’t straight away. The doctor had said she was fine the last time. She’d be fine this time too. She’d be angry with him if she woke in the hospital. She always hated hospitals.
The days passed slowly, and still she continued to sleep. He began to stay by her side, reading, sometimes aloud. He sometimes watched the TV, leaving it on when he left the room, hoping the noise would draw her back to the world. He only left her when he needed to, when the hunger became too great, when he needed to go shopping, when the phone rang. The house remained clean and tidy, he made sure of that, but the gardens slowly fell to ruin, weeds and flowers growing wild, the bushes starting to grow together. She had wanted a blackberry bush, saying how she would keep it trimmed, but now there was nothing but brambles growing at an alarming speed. He seemed to gain new scratches every time he walked through the gate. Each time he thought he’d have to cut them now, before they got too bad and then he promptly forgot.
She seemed to be getting thinner, not much, but it was starting to become noticeable. He didn’t know how he’d be able to feed her, he had heard of people using milk, but he had no idea if he could manage to feed her without choking her. He was pondering this when the phone rang. It was Abby, she told him she was coming back to see them. He didn’t mention Nessa’s condition, it would only worry her. When Abby arrived they could figure out what they would do. They’d make a plan of action.
Abby stood outside the house for a moment, trying to quell the feeling of unease. The house looked like it was falling apart. The garden was over grown, brambles covered the gate, the windows were dirty, the whole place looked as though it had been abandoned.
She made her way through the brambles carefully, narrowly avoiding cuts and scratches. Using her key in the front door she stepped inside, expecting more of the same, but the house was clean, surprisingly so. She couldn’t remember the last time everything had been so organised. Maybe they were focusing on inside for the moment, the weather was horrible the last few weeks, or so she had been told, maybe that was why the garden was in such a state. “Hello?” she heard movement upstairs, her stomach grumbled, as she walked to the kitchen, her father appeared, “Hi hun,” he pulled her into a hug, “how have you been?” “Fine, I’m starving though, is there any food?” “There’s some left over’s in the fridge, I made lasagne the other night. You can heat some up.” “Cool. Where’s mom?” “She’s out for a moment.”
As Abby made herself food, her father turned on the kettle, no doubt making tea for her mothers return. She smiled. Some things never changed. As she was eating the heated lasagne, her father sat down across from her, they sat in silence as she ate. She always cherished that about her father, he allowed her to collect her thoughts, to unwind a bit before trying to talk to her, she enjoyed the silence. It was comfortable, welcoming. When she finished he took the plate away and put it in the dishwasher, she rolled her eyes. “I could have done that myself you know.” “Nonsense. You’re a guest here now.” He sat down across from her, he wouldn‘t meet her eyes and kept licking his lips, quick swipes of the tongue. She frowned, he always got like this when he was nervous. “I’ve a bit of bad news love. Something’s happened to your mother.” “I thought you said she popped out for a few minutes.” “She had a bit of a fall not too long ago, she passed out again.” “What did the doctors say?” “They said she was fine, remember?” “What about this time?” “Well, I don’t know. I didn’t know what to do, you know how she hates a fuss.” “Where is she?” “She’s in bed, in the guest room” “You didn’t make her go to the hospital? Jesus dad, you should have made her go.” “She’s fine, she is. You can see her if you like.” Abby got up from the table, her father swallowed, he didn’t know how to tell her, what to say. He knew she’d be angry at him. She went up the stairs to her old room, already planning what to tell her mother. It was ridiculous, not only that, it was dangerous. She opened the door to her old room and froze.
Her mother lay in Abby’s old bed, her skin dry and leathery, her hair had fallen out in clumps, her lips were pulled back into a rictus grin. Abby looked at the body of her mother and started to scream, behind her she could hear her father shouting, but it seemed far away, so very, very far away.
“It’s alright love, don’t panic, she’s only sleeping.”