Copyright©April. 2016 Suzy Stewart Dubot
Originally part of the Top Writers Block Collection ‘Sharp Edges’
Published at Shakespir
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Cover Design Credit:
Suzy Stewart Dubot
Copyright©April. 2016 Suzy Stewart Dubot
An Anglo/American who has been living in France for over 30 years, she began writing as soon as she retired. She recently spent seventeen months in London, UK caring for an aged relative. She is now back in France. Writing follows her as easily as her laptop. With her daughters, she is a vegetarian and a supporter of animal rights. She is also an admirer of the British abolitionist, William Wilberforce, who was also a founding member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (S.P.C.A.).
Ivy woke in a fog and reached for the glass of water on the nightstand.
Although the water was room temperature and flat, it rehydrated her mouth so she could swallow, despite her thick tongue. Once the glass was securely returned to its original place, she pushed herself up into a sitting position, wanting to see where she was.
She knew that the bed with its pile of covers was hers, and she’d known that a glass of water was within reach, but the room was not one she remembered. As she slowly took in the pretty pastel wallpaper and the white wood furniture, the fog began to lift.
This was the bedroom on the farm. She remembered her mother putting up the wallpaper with a mixture of flour and salt dissolved with water in a bucket. So, she was in her room at the farm. She relaxed and smiled, relieved to have discerned where she was after a restless night filled with fragmented dreams.
The smile faded as she looked down at her hands. She was scared now. They couldn’t be her hands, could they? They were wrinkled, skinny and with dark blue veins.
She moved them, and they did as she wanted, so they were hers, but what had happened?
The ruffles around the cuffs of her nightdress looked familiar. The soft winceyette material was warm and reassuring but she wasn’t able to rise completely above the haze that clouded her senses. Perhaps if she went back to sleep, she would awake from this murkiness.
A movement in the corner of the room caught her attention before she could snuggle down under the covers.
It was the door opening.
She rubbed her eyes with her thin hands in an attempt to clear her vision. It helped marginally, as it took away the congealed dust caught in the rims of her eyes. Everything, however, remained slightly blurry.
“I wondered if you were awake,” said the middle-aged woman, who had entered the room. “Did you sleep well?”
Her tone was pleasant and the shape of her face familiar, although Ivy couldn’t quite remember who she was.
“Mummy?” she asked hesitantly.
The woman laughed.
“They do say I look like Grandma, but I’m your daughter Rose, and I’ve brought you your morning medicine.”
Somewhere in her mind’s eye, Ivy remembered her little girl, Rose. Was this her girl all grown up?
She thought no more about it, because she saw that the woman Rose was also carrying a tray.
“I’ve boiled you an egg this morning with slices of toast. You always enjoy that.”
The boiled egg with slices of toast the size of fingers took her back to when her mother prepared the meal.
Was this her mother after all? If only the haze would lift, so she could see her more clearly.
“Do you want me to go to the bathroom with you?” Rose asked Ivy.
“No, thank you, dear. I went earlier this morning.”
Ivy didn’t want to leave her warm bed and the woman did not insist, because she knew Ivy wore protective pants.
The tray was placed on a small table as the woman now busied herself with plumping up the pillows behind Ivy. When the woman leaned forward, Ivy could smell soap and see how shiny and tight her skin was. She decided that she liked the person.
“Comfortable?” the woman asked with a smile.
Ivy nodded and the woman placed the tray, which had sprouted legs, across her lap.
“Grapefruit juice this morning, for a change,” she told Ivy.
Did she like grapefruit juice? The pale yellow liquid in a plain glass jogged her memory. Yes! In fact, she preferred it to orange juice.
“Wash your medicine down with the juice,” the woman told her.
Medicine? Could she trust a strange woman who was bringing her medicine?
“I’m rather hungry,” she told her. “I’d like to eat a bite first, if that’s all right?”
“Of course, Mum. Just don’t forget. I’ve got to go down now to hang out the washing, but I’ll be back right after that. Okay?”
Ivy nodded as she picked up the small spoon to eat her already decapitated egg.
The woman smiled again and left.
Ivy promptly put the spoon down and picked up the small plastic container with the pills she was supposed to take. The night stand had a drawer, so she dumped the three pills in it and replaced the container on the tray. She made sure the drawer was shut tight before she began her breakfast. She was pleased to see a fair-sized cup of tea waiting for her too.
The egg was done exactly as she liked it, and the buttered toast tasted wonderful once dipped into the egg yolk.
The woman returned about the time she’d finished.
“Thank you, dear. That was a delightful breakfast. I’m just going to doze again for five minutes and then I’ll get up,” Ivy informed her.
“No rush, Mum. I’ll be up a bit later to help you get washed and dressed.”
It was strange that the woman called her Mum, like she was her mother, but Ivy didn’t dwell on the thought because the warm room, along with a full tummy, made her want to sleep again. Perhaps her dreams would make sense this time. Perhaps things would be clearer when she woke.
It was the sound of voices and crying that woke her.
She didn’t move or indicate in any way that she was awake and listening.
As she took in her surroundings once again, she was startled to see just how crisply clear, how precise, everything now appeared.
She sat up and saw her daughter wiping her eyes with a tea towel as she listened to a man in a suit talking to her. She couldn’t see if he was someone she knew, because his back was turned to her, but she hoped that he wasn’t the reason Rose was crying.
“Rose, dear, what’s the matter?” she asked her daughter, but Rose didn’t hear her, so she cleared her throat and asked again.
To no avail.
She really must be upset if she is so absorbed with what the man was saying.
Just as she was preparing to leave her bed and go to her daughter, Rose came over to her bedside, without acknowledging her.
She pulled open the drawer of the nightstand and said in a broken sob,
“Just look, Doctor Lewis. She hasn’t been taking her medicine for weeks.”
Ivy glanced rather guiltily at the drawer, which had somehow collected an impressive pile of pills.
“I should have been more attentive. I should have made her take them while I watched.”
She began sobbing into the tea towel again.
Ivy wanted to scold her about using a tea towel, but now it didn’t seem important.
She looked about her and saw just how well-defined each little flower in the wallpaper had become. She realised, too, that this wasn’t her room on the farm, although the wallpaper was similar. The fog had finally lifted and all the blurriness, the bluntness that had blighted her these last days, months, perhaps years, had gone. Everywhere she looked had clean, sharp edges. She saw the twill in the carpet, the design on the curtains and the shine on her nightstand top. Each tiny geometric design on her bedspread stood out, no longer part of the mass of colour. She was grateful to see it all again, when her eyes had been failing her for so long.
She now heard the doctor speaking distinctly in that authoritative manner given to the medical profession.
“It doesn’t make much difference in the long run,” he began. “Dementia manifests itself in so many different ways, and your mother was already in a steep decline.”
Ivy saw her daughter nod as she herself took in the sense of what he was saying.
“From what I have found from my examination,” he continued, “I would say she died in her sleep from a cerebral embolism. What better way to go? In her own room, surrounded by people who cared.”
“And the medicine?” Rose questioned.
“Not anything that would have saved her in the end.”
Ivy now understood.
She was dead.
She stood effortlessly, freeing herself of the blankets on the bed, and looked down on the small frail woman she had become. Any sadness she might have felt was overridden by the feeling of release, of freedom, of clarity.
“Thank you, Rose,” she whispered to her daughter, knowing she wouldn’t be heard no matter how loud she spoke.
She looked around the charming room one last time before fixing her gaze on her daughter. How lucky she had been to have her loving care.
She breathed out heavily as she blew her a kiss — and then was gone.