An Alzheimer's patient in a nursing home experiences the ultimate wish fulfillment in this paranormal short.
First appeared in February 2002 Issue #17 of Awe-Struck FLASH, official newsletter of Awe-Struck E-Books, Inc.
Gracie C. McKeever © 2001
"Melly, wake up. It's time to go."
Melora squeezed her eyes tight, even half asleep realized she was being a coward, but she couldn't help it. She didn't want to open her eyes and confirm her dementia.
She wanted to believe he was just a manifestation of her hankerings when she'd seen him in the dayroom during her last few therapy sessions. But she had a feeling her wishing had become a full-fledged nightmare. The deep male voice in the dark was proof of that.
Today had been such a lucid day for her too, a good day. One of those rare twenty-four-hour periods of clarity that made her look forward to tomorrow with optimism instead of dread. She should have known better, especially at this stage of her illness. At eighty-eight with one foot on a banana peel and the other one in the grave, and this Alzheimer's eating away at her, every day presented a surprise--not always pleasant.
Melora had days where she remembered all twenty-two of her grands' and great-grands' names and birthdays, remembered where she and Oscar first met, their first date--everything down to the coarseness of his jacket against her cheek when she'd lay her head on his shoulder. Other days, she'd be lucky if she could tell you what she'd had for breakfast fifteen minutes previous.
She balled her hands, frustration a tangible spasm behind her breastbone. It wasn't fair. She'd been such a spry young thing in her day, full of kick as a cancan dancer, bright as the full moon in a black sky.
Melora smiled at the memory of Oscar's poetic horse hockey, holding onto it, tasting glimmers of recall like a well-enjoyed feast. She wanted those again--youth, strength. She wanted Oscar, but he was gone now. And she had doll therapy, three times a week.
She flinched at his touch, dragged her eyes open to see the life-size figure standing at her bedside.
She never realized before now how much he looked like Oscar. Or was it that Oscar looked like him? Melora didn't know anymore what had come first, just that she had chosen him as surely as he had chosen her.
He nodded, the gleam from his perfect white teeth contrasting against his dark-chocolate skin as he smiled at her in the dark.
So forceful and green, as when they first met.
He put out a hand, but Melora clutched the front of her nightgown, not ready to trust him. Pretty face, true . But pretty face told pretty lies. She had to be certain, and in her condition, this state was few and far between more often than not.
"Come with me, Melora. I'll take care of you."
"You left me." She immediately regretted the accusation in her voice when she saw him dip his head, a sheepish look on his face. She shouldn't fault him. Cancer snatched him from her less than a year ago, no choice. Like her Alzheimer's.
She had a flash of Connie, her cherished grand-baby just graduated from college spending another day helping granny look for Oscar's pocket-watch dangling from a chain around Melora's neck.
The child hadn't wanted to get too close her last visit, uneasiness clearly written across her face as she'd moved in for a tentative hug. She couldn't imagine what she had done or said to fright the girl so. Then memory kicked in, evil like life, a view of how she'd accused the girl of hiding her things from her, how the child had cried when Melora kept asking why Oscar hadn't come to visit.
She didn't want to hurt her people anymore.
"Come Melly. I promise it'll be all right."
It had been such a long time since anyone had called her Melly. She felt the tears, first in her eyes then against her cheeks and lips, hot and salty.
She'd miss them. Her grands, her remaining three of seven children (t'wasn't fair for a parent to outlive her kids no-way). She would especially miss Connie. Reminded her so much of herself at that age--giving and unafraid, except for that last visit.
What would the child think when Melora turned up missing? Would she mourn or breathe a sigh of relief?
"It's what you want, isn't it, Melly? Us together?"
Melora reached out at his unsure tone, pat his hand gripping the bed rail, and grinned. His skin was blood-warm and supple, not lifeless and stiff as she'd expected.
Oscar released the railing to take her hand. She looked at his dark skin against her café au lait complexion as he gripped her fingers, secure and right.
"It's..." Melora swallowed hard, still a little afraid of what he had in mind. "It's what I want," she whispered.
Oscar lowered the railing, helped her from the bed with his free hand. Her feet barely touched the tile as she walked across the bedroom with him to the open window.
* * *
Confidence opened the cardboard box her mother had brought back from the nursing home, still numb from the unlikely news, a week later, that her grandmother had taken her own life.
She wasn't ready to sift through the remnants of Melora's last several months on earth, would have given anything to get back that day, erase the desperation and pain on her grandmother's face at her rejection.
Connie pulled back the final flap on the box and saw her grandfather's gold pocket-watch nestled against the folds of one of Melora's much-loved cardigans. She picked it up, didn't know whether to laugh or cry, finally did both when her fingers touched smooth precious metal. She slid the watch's chain over her head, comforted by the weight of the timepiece against her breasts as she dug further in the box, brushing fragments of history--framed portraits, knitted booties and sweaters, patchwork quilts.
She reached the bottom of the box, saw the female and male dolls huddled side-by-side in a corner. Frowning, Connie lifted the figurines from their perch, saw "Property of Highland Rehabilitation Center" tattooed across the bottom of each doll's left foot, then gasped at the intimate features of her grandparents staring up at her from each doll's face.
Connie closed her eyes, cradled both figurines against a shoulder, and rubbed her cheeks against their outfits. Once she recognized the familiar tangy scent and soft satin material of her grandmother's favorite nightgown, the cherry pipe redolence and rough tweed of her grandfather's favorite brown jacket she knew these dolls belonged to her.
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