From my novel, My Beautiful Mistake, now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.
NORA SITS BY the window watching. Bright sunlight warms her face but no hint of recognition kindles in her eyes. Brilliant green, with tiny flecks of brown scattered across them like bits of wood chipped off an axe. They’ve paled slightly, grown duller over time. As have mine.
Her hair, once waves of rich copper, is now a wispy mass of white balls clinging bravely to her scalp. I try not to judge. Mine is no different. But, oh, the pride she took in hers.
She wears wine-coloured pants, a faded flowered shirt and a yellow sweater much too large for her small frame. The staff can only do so much. Perhaps it’s time for me to go through her clothes again and get something new. How odd to remember what a clotheshorse she used to be, fashionably dressed no matter how tight her budget.
Other residents sit around the common room, many alone, others in groups of two or three. A half-hearted card game is underway at one of the tables and a television blares. No one watches.
As I walk through the room, I nod or say hello to the ones I know. She’s been living here for years and every day I visit. It gives me a reason to go out.
I pull up a chair next to her, setting my cane over the arm and the grocery bag on my lap. She smiles shyly, looking sideways at me, a hint of the girl passing through the space between us.
“Hello Nora. It’s me, your Kittie. I’ve brought you something.”
Today I’ve brought a small bag of dried dates. They’re expensive, from California, but she loves them. She won’t acknowledge them or thank me – can’t even remember what a date is. Her innocent delight will be my reward.
She is ninety-two and we’ve known each other over seventy years. For the last ten or so, she hasn’t recognized me. It’s easier this way. It was all said and done long ago anyway, the accusations and recriminations, the anger and the tears. We are both spent from a lifetime of emotion. Like lovers exhausted at dawn, we’ve silently retreated to our private corners. I choose now to remember the laughter and the love, the tender stories shared late into the night.
None of the other residents or staff know her story. When she was first admitted, the senior administrator knew, but that position has changed hands countless times since then. Nora’s background is long forgotten now. If anyone cared to look, it’s all in her file but all they see now are two old women at the end of their lives. The poor old lady with Alzheimer’s and her faithful friend.
The doctor says she’s stopped eating. They simply can’t coax food into her anymore. She’s given up. “If she keeps it up, we’ll have to put her on an IV,” he says. “Or eventually she’ll just...”
“Perhaps she’s had enough,” I say.
“Perhaps,” he replies, but he looks cross.
I suspect even without her being able to remember much, she’s seen her future in the flickering flames. Truth be told, I too, have had enough. I’m ready for it to be over, my sentence served. We are joined by an invisible umbilical cord. Her blood, her nutrients, keep me alive. Bringing her treats is all I can do for her. Most of all, I miss my friend.
My beautiful, ruined Nora.
NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon