Goodbye. A short story.
June 10th 2010, 20:00pm
Dusk was finally settling as I drove towards the gates. Winding down the window I reached my hand through the drizzle and pressed the intercom. The gates reassuringly clicked and opened, throwing themselves back against the brick pillars with a loud clang; the haunting sounds that only wrought iron gates can make. I went forward slowly, dipping my lights. The rain was coming down heavier now. The grounds surrounding the ornate house were extensive and I imagined them in the daylight hours, the visitors with their loved ones roaming the lawns, admiring the stonework. It was a comforting scene to believe in. The lights hit a wall in front of me, growing from small ellipses into large circles that blinded my vision. I had reached the building.
I leaned over and turned off the lights. The dashboard clock read 20:15. It winked at me with red eyes, daring me to leave the car. I resisted the urge to turn and drive away. Except for the pattering of rain, all was silent. There were puddles and tracks left by my tyres in the gravel. I tried to steady my breathing. It was a shallow artificial wheezing. Feeling light headed I braced myself against the steering wheel and pushed hard back into my seat. I closed my eyes, it all led up to this moment; goodbyes are the worst sort of conversation. I pulled myself forward, opened the car door and got out. Having no hat to wear, my ears tingled and grew cold. Standing in the rain I fumbled with my coat; either my hands were shaking or my fingers too numb. I gave up with the collar buttons and pulled my gloves over my wet fingers.
I fumbled with the keys. Finding the lock was always difficult and I heard the low groan as I scratched the paintwork yet again. Only the rain and the vapour of my breath moved. The house was ablaze with lights, yet each window barred from opening far. In the night the house looked a prison fit for the most dangerous and wicked of criminals, yet it was here I had come to see her.
June 10th 2010, 22:00.
Angie was propped back against the pillows, blanket up to her chin. She was staring hard at the flower pattern that adorned the walls opposite her. Each flower was the same, each repeated pattern perfect. Her vision blurred and Angie saw his smiling face, deep within the blue petals. She shivered violently, but she wasn’t cold. She hadn’t been cold for months now and had forgotten what it felt like. She was thinking about her visitor. She had known the man before her, she couldn’t place him though and presumed him to be some sort of doctor or new staff, though he wore no badge or carried no clipboard. He had spoken to her at length, yet Angie found his words confusing and simply smiled. She had admired the flowers he had brought with him, similar to the ones on the wall opposite. Her gaze had stayed on the flowers, eyeing each one with a soft smile. After a while she had turned to look back at him. He had tried to reassure her that everything would be ok; she patted his hand as he had clenched hers tightly. Smiling as he had finally let go and nodding as he had buttoned his coat, she had asked if he had anymore visits tonight. To which he shook his head. She was being given the special treatment of being the only patient on his list and this pleased her. Turning to leave he gave one last glance towards her bed, his pale bottom lip had twitched and the tears came. Angie stared into his eyes, she kept staring at that spot long after he had gone and she felt her own eyes moisten. From where did she know those eyes?
June 10th 2020, 18:15.
I clutched my plastic cup, though its contents were long gone. I tried to remember the warmth it had contained, it’s bitter taste that had burnt my tongue and filled my insides with fire. I felt cold, the clouds had moved in and the trees were swaying behind me. Slithers of grass wound around my legs, rooting me to the spot. The wind blew my hair to one side and made the trees creek. The grass was untrimmed and the flowers grew wild, forcing themselves high and tall into the world above. The mound before me had grown abundant with them, a fitting tribute. I felt my self-loathing turn to regret. I could have stayed; there would have been more time. Better doctors and better procedures. I whispered an apology to the inscription before me. Its simple bold letters a statement to you.
Gone but never forgotten.
I stared hard at the horizon, seeing your face there, in the last of the suns rays. They stroked my face and blinded my eyes as the sun passed from view and suddenly died. I felt reassured, the brief warmth gave me a new understanding, that everything was okay, that I could leave this place and not worry. That I could leave this place and not return.
Whispering goodbye I walked back to the car.
“Goodbye Mother, rest in peace.”