“What did you say, Sandy?”
“I didn’t speak, my love.”
“Then who said that about the light?”
Please don’t tell me I’m hearing voices. That’s what happened to mum. Although she was much younger than I am now. She claimed a soldier came to her every night, it was a secret she said, he talked to her about the great war, how they got buried in the trenches, stumbling in the dark amid the stink and smoke, and them clawing at the mud trying to free the wounded, moaning and praying to God, without the least medical help and all the while shells showering them in sods of earth and broken bones, threatening to bury them amongst the dead…
“You look deathly pale, dear.”
Why do people go pale when they are afraid? Blood drains from their faces. Where does it go? Bet I went pale at the mention of her ghost soldier. Not her. She was scared of the hospital though, with its smell of disinfectant, a bit like here, and the white coated men and nurses in blue and all those wires snaking from the machines, wires they hooked up to her moistened temples, and the whirring that announced the impending shock… I saw it once. Peeked round the screens. Fool that I was. Can’t forget her scream or the gruesome grimace on her face. Never.
“Should I call the nurse?” she asks.
“No. Tea and biscuits will do the trick, my love.”
How long have the two of us been in this home, pottering old codgers finishing off our life together? There was a time when a whole house was ours with rooms to spare, a car of our own and a well-tended garden to roam in. Now all we’ve got is a single room, chocker with washed out memories, a load of useless trinkets, and us surrounded by other shrivelled folk biding their time, breakfast, diner and tea with a stroll in between, for those who still can.
“I put two sugars.”
She knows what I like. Haven’t got many secrets left from her. Nor she from me.
What did that voice say? It’s fading fast. Something about the light. Light of my life. Pretty idea. But it wasn’t that. The knowing light. Not quite. Something to do with secrets.
Sandy sits next to me on the sofa and lays a wrinkled hand on mine. I sip my tea now it has cooled.
A knock sounds at the door.
“Come in,” we say in unison.
The door opens and a nurse strides in pushing a trolley. “So how are you two ladies today?”
This flash fiction was first published in Off Shoots 13.