She’d sat in the pub with them. Her son, now sixty, and his wife and two daughters. They’d insisted on bringing their golden retriever dog with them, even though Janice had made it plain by the face she pulled that she didn’t like the idea. And she’d been right. The dog had sat by the table all the way through their meal, his big puddle eyes staring and flicking from the food to the people, and back again. It made her uncomfortable, she didn’t like it, and she knew her son, and his wife especially, were tired of that, but still she didn’t like it.
Janice sat and listened to the way these people talked while they ate. A lot of it she either couldn’t comprehend or she had no idea why they would say such things. Her son’s wife was talking about someone called Bandit Bob and how he won the jackpot on the fruit machine last week and did they ever think he’d win even though he played it and played it, hence his name? And her son said he knew Bob was in a good mood cause he played a trick on everyone, well the men anyway, by leaving a fish in the urinals… And that was when Janice had looked away in disdain and had actually made that sound with her tongue behind her teeth. They’d all looked at her, and she knew what they were thinking, but she didn’t care, that was one of the great things about being this old, she just didn’t care what they thought.
They walked back to the house by the river, her son’s wife slowing her steps to walk with Janice, the impatience in her body fizzing in the air. The ground was uneven below Janice’s feet, but she didn’t mind that, it reminded her of being young and walking through wide open fields and through over grown trails. She walked so much when she was young, much more than they do now, she thought, much more than her son’s two girls ever had. The trees overhung the walkway, the river fingered stones in its way as it passed over them, and a slope of land to their left was freckled with bluebells. Janice almost gasped. She hadn’t seen a sight like that since…well, she had no idea when, time was a dream to her now, but it was a long time. Her son’s wife was talking, but Janice wasn’t listening. So much yabber, so much meaningless chat. Janice didn’t have the breath left in her body to join in, or the care.
They reached a path and a road beyond it and her son’s wife stopped and motioned to the right where Janice saw a wide gate and a horseshoe of houses.
“That’s the retirement village,” her son’s wife said. “Isn’t it lovely?”
Janice looked back at the bluebells, a flurry of purple like her thoughts sometimes these days, everywhere scattered but rooted somehow, in some time, somewhere. She was like them, she thought, now. She could still live, she still felt the breeze on her skin and the sun on her face and if she didn’t like it she would say so. But she had to root where she found herself. She knew that. She would open her eyes where she was and she would live while she lived there. Her son’s wife, this woman talking to her, she didn’t know yet. But she would. One day
Samantha Priestley is the author of the Folded Word short-fiction chapbooks Dreamers (2014) and Orange Balloon (2016). She’s a novelist, playwright, and essayist who spins words into gold from her home in Sheffield, UK.
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