This story was entered into Writing Magazine’s 750-word short story competition in 2015 and went on to win first prize.
She came to see me again yesterday. That nice woman. She keeps telling me her name but I can’t remember it. I think she’s one of those do-gooders. She’s really kind though, comes twice a week to see me, reads to me, brings me chocolate and magazines. I wish I could remember her name…
I don’t know how long I’ve been here. I keep asking them, the nurses, but I forget what they say. I should write things down. I think it must be at least a year because the Christmas decorations are up again, like they were when I first came here. Or could it be two years? I’m not sure. When you get to my age, Christmases all merge into one.
It was different when I was young. Oh, yes, Christmas was a magical time then, especially when my Fred was still alive and our Susan was little.
Ah, Susan! My lovely daughter. I wonder what’s happened to her. Haven’t seen her in months. She used to be such a good daughter. Maybe she’s moved away and forgotten to tell me. Or perhaps she did tell me and it’s slipped my mind – I really must start writing things down. Perhaps her car’s broken down and she can’t get here. Yes, that’ll be it. But she could get a bus, couldn’t she? They stop right outside the door of this place. I can see the bus stop from my window. Sometimes I spend hours watching people getting on and getting off the bus.
When she came to see me yesterday, that nice woman, she seemed a bit sad. Kept holding my hand and looking concerned. I said to her, my daughter Susan used to look at me like that sometimes, like there was something on her mind that she didn’t want to talk about.
In my day, girls looked after their mums. I certainly did. My mum eventually went into one of those awful nursing home places. I can still remember the sound your footsteps made on the lino and the stench of cabbage and disinfectant. You wouldn’t catch me in a place like that, full of old people drinking weak tea and shuffling about in cardigans and slippers! I visited my mum every day, sat with her, sometimes washed her hair, even did her laundry – well, there’s no way I was having her knickers washed with everyone else’s! No, I looked after her until the day she died. Bless her.
But not my Susan. She’s obviously got better things to do than to visit her old mum once in a while. I do miss her.
I said to that nice woman yesterday – you know, the one who visits me – I said, you remind me of my daughter Susan. Same smile, same hair. My Susan has lovely hair, thick and shiny. Doesn’t get it from me with my lanky locks! There’s a young girl who runs the hairdressers in town, comes in on a Tuesday to do my hair. I think it’s Tuesday, or is it Thursday? I don’t like the way she does it – she puts the curlers in too tight – but I don’t say anything, I don’t want to hurt her feelings.
When my Susan was little, I used to love doing her hair. On bath nights, I used to wash it for her, then plait it, so when she woke up the next morning and untied the plaits she released this golden cascade of curls. Beautiful it was!
She was only seven when her dad died. Got knocked off his bike on his way home from work. Susan was inconsolable. I should have re-married really – a girl needs a father – but instead we just clung together and tried to get on with life, just the two of us. We were close, though, always very close. I do miss her.
That nice woman who visits me told me she lost her father when she was young, too. Oh, I said, just like my Susan.
She looked so sad…
Oh, I’ve just remembered! It’s the nice woman’s birthday next week. That kind nurse, the fat one, reminded me this morning. I must get her a birthday card and give it to her when she next visits. But I can’t remember her name! Oh, what is it, what is it?
Ah yes, I remember it now. It’s… Susan.