The final chapter.

Gladys put her scented handkerchiefs in last. She clipped together the small leather bound suitcase and sat heavily on the bed. It still looked the same. The girl in the photograph on the dressing table, faded from the sunlight of eighty years, upright and formal with a slight hint of a smile. The clock ticked heavily in the still air. She breathed in the fading scent of summer. Gladys picked up her stick and inched slowly towards the window. She knew the lawn still stretched like a bowling green down to the old willow. In her mind she could see “Zeveran Druin” cascading it's pink blooms over the archway into the field. The lilac lining the path, and the bird bath would be busy with dusty sparrows outside the patio doors. Her dull eyes creased and smiled at the memory. She heard the door creak and the breezy voice of her eldest daughter. Gladys picked up the picture and put it in her handbag. She was ready. She had to be. Her unseeing eyes knew every step, but it was time to go. She didn't look back, but heard Katie turn the key in the heavy lock for the last time. Gladys' stooped figure brushed against the lavender lining the path. The life she once knew was now locked away forever and she faced a daunting new world of care and noise and strangers. She had visited the home once and was overwhelmed with the bustle and chat and the smell of cabbage cooking in the kitchen. She was silently dreading starting again, but her family were worried and she had to accept the inevitable decline in her health. Gladys had seen a film on the BBC. An undercover investigation which had unearthed some terrible happenings in a Care home in Leeds. It had quietly and stealthily terrified her to the core. The manager had seemed very welcoming and pleasant, but what would it be like when her daughter had left and she was alone and vulnerable. She was now a shadow of the strong defiant and fiercely independent woman that her beloved Bill had loved so deeply. A lady called June took Gladys to room 12. Her departure lounge she thought silently. Waiting for God. Sun shone in brightly around the freshly painted walls and disturbed blue tits flew rapidly off a bird feeder outside the window, leaving it swinging violently in their wake. June chatted pleasantly enough and then bustled off to make a cup of tea. Gladys sat on the edge of her bed. A tear threatened to form in her opaque eyes. She opened her handbag and took out the photograph of the girl. Strong, young and naive. Her whole life awaiting her. She placed it carefully on the small wooden bedside table, ready to watch over the final chapters of her life. Jan Millward©