Old Tosca tries to get the one hundred pieces to fit
‘Sunny Views, Retirement Home’ said the sign. A dark entry with two old chairs and a table with a pot of daffodils. Pictures of ugly old men on the wall, a desk with a nurse sitting behind a counter, busy taking calls. A few old men in pyjama are passing her by, eyeballing her with funny smiles; an old lady with a walker entering the elevator. It all was very spooky and she didn’t like it one bit.
“I think I will go home now, “ she touched her daughter’s arm. “I’ve seen it and I don’t like it at all.”
“No, ma,” her daughter said, trying to keep her calm. “This is the fifth home we have been visiting this weekend, this is it. You are going to live here.
I will sign the papers as soon as she has settled in,” she turned to the nurse. “We have spoken about it for months now, she is just silly, she will get used to this new place I am sure.”
“I know nothing,” Tosca said with a tight voice, “I just don’t like it here. Take me home, please?” Tears welled in to her eyes as she turned and slowly walked towards the exit.
But the nurse grabbed her gently by the shoulder and spoke with a warm voice.
“Now Mrs. VanderBosch, can I call you Tosca? I will show you your room first, and then we are all going to have a cup of tea. Pete? Paul?! “
In an instant, two males came out of a passage way, each held her by an arm and directed her into a small corridor. There they opened a door leading into a room with a view.
Tosca felt overwhelmed, but the view was beautiful so she walked to the window. Trees were in full bloom, birds were singing and the sun was shining bright.
Within minutes she felt more comfortable, a little smirk on her face. When the nurse offered her a cup of tea in a nice china cup she almost smiled. Her daughter looked at her, a sigh of relief exited her mouth. “You see ma, you love it here in no time.”
And it was true, within weeks Tosca felt like she had lived in Sunny Views for years. She had befriended a Mr. Baldwin and a Mrs. Tilton, she made jokes to the male nurses Pete and Paul and enjoyed her room with her own bed, two cupboards and a sofa with a round table. A picture of her daughter and the two grandkids stood on a pedestal next to her chair near the window.
That morning she had taken her walking stick and wandered around in the big building on her own. With the elevator, she had gone to the top floor where she found an attic. Dark brown wooden panels, lots of cobwebs and stacks and stacks of piles of furniture, probably from residents that were deceased. It was a gloomy sight and she would have turned and left when her eye caught a pile of boxes on the floor.
“Well, what have we got here, “ Tosca moved closer and saw they were a pile of jigsaw puzzles. Since she loved puzzles she went through the pile to see if there would be anything of her taste.
She gasped suddenly, number three of the pile, underneath a funny kitten and a house with trees there was this jigsaw puzzle with the photo of a woman. She looked at it again, it almost seemed…but that could not be..it almost seemed like a picture of herself! She took the box and looked carefully at the photo of the old woman portrayed. Yes, definitely, she saw a lot of resemblance to her own freckled head. With a smile, she took the box with her and descended with the elevator. This had to be examined more closely in the confinements of her own room.
She put the jigsaw on the table and looked at the photo once more. In the bright morning light its resemblance was striking. It could have been a picture taken a few months ago. She opened the box and put the pieces in front of her. By the look of it it only was a hundred pieces so that would not be difficult to make. As she was a fervent player of puzzles she immediately found the pieces at the side and made a grid.
For the next half hour she was busy combining and looking and piecing together the jigsaw. Strangely enough, she didn’t get anything done; it looked like not one of the pieces would fit into the frame. So she stopped and joined the others for morning coffee and lunch, leaving the jigsaw on her table.
The following hours she would sometimes stop by her table to examine the puzzle and try to make sense of the pieces, but she never was able to put the puzzle pieces together.
That evening after a final try she shoved every piece back into the box and left it there. Maybe another time. The woman looked at her from the photo at the top of the box. Smiling. Tosca smiled back and went to bed.
That night she tossed and turned in her sleep. Night terrors would fill her dreams of daffodils, sunny weather, and grandkids. Once or twice she woke up, sweaty and afraid, not her usual self at all. She couldn’t remember what she was dreaming, but it felt dark and definitely not comfortable.
In the morning she woke with tears on her cheek and a hollow feeling in her gut. But the sun was there to greet her, the nurse welcomed the day with a smile and in no time she forgot about the night and was drinking her morning tea, enjoying herself.
The box with the jigsaw was still on her table when she sat down. “Let’s try once more, “ Tosca spoke out loud and opened the box. The woman was still smiling at her, or was she? Tosca couldn’t remember if she was laughing or smiling, but this morning she almost seemed to laugh, teeth showing and eyes sparkling. The resemblance with her own face was even more striking.
The first ten pieces seemed to fit and enthusiastically Tosca continued. Five pieces at the side, ten pieces in the middle, twenty pieces in the upper left corner…suddenly she was working the whole puzzle and the front of the woman grew and grew quickly into a photo covering her whole face.
Then in an instant the picture turned into a mirror, showing the woman’s face and Tosca’s face as one and the same. Tosca froze.
Two hands came out of the picture frame and pulled around her neck. She could not breathe. The hands wrapped around her shoulder and she was dragged into the jigsaw.
Within minutes the room was empty.
The box on the table showed a frightened Tosca, mouth wide open, fear in her eyes. The jigsaw lay beside the box, finished.
The following hours everybody at Sunny View was alarmed by her disappearance, but she was never to be found.
The jigsaw found its place in the attic again, on top of the funny kitten and the house with trees. Waiting?!
Word count: 1260
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Published in June's 2017 issue of The Sirens Call eZine