Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Prompt: Wake me when I’m older (or, lost in the middle)

Becca walked in the dark room and hesitated when she saw Ms. Wilson’s figure in the wing back chair. It was early, before the first light of morning, and Ms. Wilson was usually a sound sleeper. Becca flicked on the overhead light, almost dreading what she might find.

Ms. Wilson blinked at the light and smiled at her, pulling the plugs out of her ears. “Hello, dear. I was just catching up on some of the political speeches I missed. Some of them can drone on and on, but many of them are quite inspiring.”

Becca returned her smile in relief and came over to pull up Ms. Wilson’s sleeve and check her pulse. “Who were you listening to, then? Someone recent?”

“Yes, the Neo-Liberal Party leader from the 70s, Ms. Daughtry.”

Becca nodded vaguely. She wasn’t really interested in politics, but she thought she remembered Daughtry. “The total equality program?”

Ms Wilson patted her arm. “Yes, very good, dear. It was really revolutionary, coming on the heels of the traditionalism of the 60s. It’s heartening to hear so much progress made since I went under in the 40s.”

Becca looked up in surprise. Ms. Wilson was younger than most of her charges, but she hadn’t realized how young. “Why, Ms. Wilson, you could leave here, if you wanted. Travel, see what’s changed.”

Ms. Wilson laughed with a sour edge and looked away. She glanced back and patted Becca’s arm again. “No dear, I’m already too old for that. But thank you, it’s an interesting thought.”

Becca left her and continued her rounds, checking on each of her charges as they woke in the early hours. She couldn’t shake the idea that Ms. Wilson didn’t belong in here. This place was for the elders who couldn’t live In Between anymore. She tended them day in and day out, watched them review history and advise the leaders of the present. She wondered if they wished they had lived In Between.

It was a few weeks before she broached the idea to Ms. Wilson again. They were sharing a cup of tea in the afternoon, and talking about 21st century neo-Impressionist artists like Pell and Douglas. She said casually, “There’s an exhibit of 18th and 21st century comparative Impressionism at the Louvre. I’ve been thinking about going for a long weekend. Would you like to join me?”

She wanted to continue with a persuasive argument, but she bit her tongue and sipped her tea, allowing Ms. Wilson to consider the idea. And she was tempted, Becca could tell. Finally, she shook her head. “Thank you, dear. What a generous offer. I couldn’t, I’m afraid.” Becca knew better than to push. As she cleaned up the tea service and carried it away, she suggested, “Well, just think about it. I’ll let you know when I make plans to go.”

“Why would you want to take an elder?” her friend Sarah exclaimed with a comical expression of distaste. Becca punched her shoulder across the pub table.

“She’s nice. And she’s not actually that old. Nowhere near close to a hundred. Not even 80, if I’m right. She really shouldn’t be in there yet. Can you imagine, Sarah? Sleeping you life away and then living the rest of it shut in, even if they do treat you like a queen?”

Sarah laughed and waved her mug over to where Doug and Georgie were shooting pool. “Georgie treats me like a queen now! Why would I want to wait till I’m older? We have it pretty good now.”

Becca leaned back, nursing her beer. “That’s just it, Sarah. Why would anyone? I mean, what have we done? Don’t you think it’s kind of crazy?”

Sarah thumped her beer on the table and leaned forward, looking around with an alarmed expression. “Holy hell, Becs, don’t talk like that. You’ll have them on you.”

They stared at each other for a long moment, then Becca lifted her mug and forced a laugh. “Don’t be ridiculous, Sarah. You know I was just jabbering.” She ignored the questioning looks that Sarah gave her the rest of the night, and tried not to notice how Sarah pulled out of their goodnight hug as if she were already distancing herself. She walked home deep in thought and didn’t even think to notice if anyone was watching her.

TBC, perhaps…

Dogs in house
Pop mix
Time writing:
~ 40 minutes
September word count:

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