Jacky Fowler's Stuff

July 15, 2010

The Visitor

Filed under: FridayFlash — jackyfowler @ 9:40 pm
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This is the second story I’ve got for #fridayflash. Hope you enjoy it.

To all intents and purposes she was asleep. Slumped slightly sideways in the winged armchair, her head drooped forwards and her hands lay slack in her lap. I’d be willing to swear I hadn’t made a sound, but suddenly she was bolt upright, her hands grasping the armrests and her eyes wide and fixed squarely on me.

Swiftly, she stood; one hand smoothing imaginary creases from her dark navy skirt and the other reaching up to be sure that no stray hair had dared to displace itself from her careful coiffure. She smiled and proffered her hand to be shaken.

“Marion Sinclair,” she said “proprietor and manageress of Greenbrae.”

Her grasp was cool, but firm.

“I’m afraid you caught me napping – literally. It’s that time of the afternoon unfortunately – a mixture of lunch and lethargy. I don’t usually give in to it, but today…” Her voice trailed off and a tiny frown appeared between her eyebrows. She gave a slight shake of her head and continued brightly, “Are you visiting someone?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

Her eyes assessed me rapidly, taking in my nondescript ‘office’ suit, plain white blouse and slightly scuffed shoes. My face was scrubbed clean, bare of make-up, a flush to my cheeks thanks to the warmth of the room. I felt that only my hair, tightly pulled back into a neat French pleat, met with her approval.

My assessment of her was far more favourable. A well-preserved woman in her late fifties, she was managing to look as if it were possible that she was still only in her late forties. She was immaculately turned out, from the tips of her shocking pink nails and blonde-highlighted hair to her kitten-heeled shoes with the flirty bow.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you before.” The tone was still overtly friendly, but I sensed a certain wariness.

“No, we’ve never met, but I’m a regular visitor here – have been for years.”

“Oh. Well, I suppose I’ve been so busy with the refurbishment these last few months since I took over …”

“Yes, I’ve been very impressed with what you’ve achieved. It’s so much brighter and more cheerful.”

She glanced around the large lounge, a smile of real pleasure on her face.

“Thank you. It’s very nice to know that all the hard work we’ve put in is appreciated. I really don’t see why a retirement home should be dismal and depressing – do you?”

“No, not at all, but it isn’t easy to achieve, I know.”

“True, but all our residents have the time now to sit back and enjoy their surroundings, so we should make them as pleasant as possible.” It did sound as if she meant what she said, rather than it just being part of her ‘sales patter’.

I looked around the room. Many of the chairs were occupied, but whether the occupants were ‘enjoying their surroundings’ was a moot point. Most of them seemed to be sound asleep and a soft snuffling sound filled the air. Still, I was pretty sure that those of them in a position to notice would much prefer the bright new décor to the old, dark, flocked wallpaper that had preceded it.

“So, who did you say you’d come to visit?”

My gaze snapped back to her. “I didn’t say. And I’m not so much here to visit someone, more – to collect them.”

The tiny frown reappeared. “Oh, I wasn’t aware that anyone was going out on a little visit.”

“Well, it’s not just a visit. They’re leaving permanently.”

The frown became deeper. “That’s most unusual, our residents are all so happy with us, I’m sure no one would choose to leave us. And I’m quite sure one of my staff would have let me know if someone was moving out.”

“Ah, let’s just say they haven’t chosen to leave of their own accord.”

“Oh, I see,” the tone of relief was just perceptible now she’d found a much more palatable explanation, “family moving elsewhere then?”

“No, that wasn’t quite what I meant. I’m afraid I was trying to break it to you gently.”

Understanding dawned. “Oh, of course. I’m afraid it’s not an unusual occurrence in a retirement home. Some of our residents are very elderly indeed, and many of them aren’t in the best of health. You’ll be a relative of dear Yvonne’s then.”

She stepped forward and clasped one of my hands in both of hers. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“Oh, no, it’s not Yvonne I’m here for.”

Her puzzlement was obvious. “But I could have sworn I’d just closed my eyes for a minute or two, and everyone was fine after their lunch. Surely someone would have woken me if anyone else had …”

She rallied. “I’m so sorry. This is a very difficult situation – for both of us. Do please accept my apologies, but I don’t know the name of your relative here.”

“No need to apologise. It’s not a relative I’ve come for.”

My hand was released summarily.

“You’re from the funeral director’s then? I do wish you’d said so at the outset.”

“No, I’m not from the funeral director’s either. I did tell you that I was trying to break it to you gently.”

“Well, I’m afraid you’ll need to be a lot less gentle then, because I still don’t have a clue who or what you’re here for.” The pleasant tone was becoming taut.

“Okay. I’m going to have to spell it out for you I’m afraid. Mine’s not an easy job you understand. Some people catch on pretty quickly; others simply don’t want to know. I think I’ve just taken you by surprise. Please take a deep breath. Then turn around and look at the chair behind you.”

The gasp was loud and despairing and the tears followed swiftly. “But, that’s …………”

Finally, the penny had dropped.

“Time to go, Marion.”

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6 Comments »

  1. Everybody’s penny drops eventually. If only the toll taker were always so polite about it.

    Comment by John Wiswell — July 16, 2010 @ 12:45 am | Reply

  2. I do love this story. Creepy with a real sense of sadness. Marion comes across as a likeable, tired lady. I almost feel glad she’s getting a rest!
    Another good one.
    Nx

    Comment by nettiewriter — July 16, 2010 @ 7:45 am | Reply

  3. Great story. I wonder if the end is like that for everyone?

    Comment by Melissa L. Webb — July 18, 2010 @ 3:37 am | Reply

    • I guess, one way or another, in the end we’ll all find out. Thanks for your support. Jacky

      Comment by jackyfowler — July 22, 2010 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

  4. Beautifully crafted, a very poignant piece – love it!

    Comment by Nell — July 22, 2010 @ 2:54 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for your kind comment Nell, much appreciated. Jacky

      Comment by jackyfowler — July 22, 2010 @ 4:29 pm | Reply


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