“She’s going soon. You should come quickly if you want to say goodbye.”
The matron’s rather abrupt message having interrupted his morning shave, Nathan dressed quickly and ran out of the house. As he started the car, he suddenly caught his breath, overwhelmed by a rush of warmth and a feeling of safety and contentment, just as though someone he cared about deeply had just wrapped their arms around him in a loving hug. His hands gripped and then slackened on the wheel, then tensed again as he put the vehicle into gear and pulled out into the dawn-lit suburban street.
He didn’t make it in time, of course. As he stood by the white, silent bed, one hand touching hers, it took him several seconds to realise that the inappropriately chirpy little melody was coming from his own jacket. He drew the mobile phone from his pocket – the face of the ward nurse showed a reflexive flash of irritation before she smoothed her features into a more sympathetic expression – and accepted the call from his brother. It took a while to start the conversation because of all the background noise at Tony’s end, which was so often foreground noise on those early mobiles.
In Tony’s flat on the other side of London, his eldest daughter Zoe, then only sixteen months old, stood trembling in her cot and screamed “Nanny, Nanny!” through hysterical tears. She would not be consoled, and frantically turned her head this way and that so she could continue to stare into the far corner of the room while her mother paced up and down with her in her arms, sobbing and not understanding.
And in a bungalow several miles from there, unreachable because he had unplugged the phone, Nathan’s elderly father looked up in surprise as the net curtains shifted before the unopened window and the air filled with the distinctive scent of his wife’s perfume.
– Gem Caley
Gem writes speculative fiction and articles on things of interest; the latter can be found archived at therudebrick.com, alongside a blog she sporadically updates. You can contact her via Twitter @GemCaley if you like.