Marjorie’s hair was neatly set, as it was every time I stopped by. She woke up early every morning and put on her rose pink lipstick and some blush. Even in her eighties, she insisted on keeping up her appearance. Today she wore a dress with a thin belt, an elegant beaded necklace and in the cool weather a knitted cardigan. She was elegant and graceful, but very sharp for her age.
Her room was meticulous and in perfect order. Clothes were arranged in her wardrobe and shoes neatly organised on the shoe rack. She loved flowers, roses in particular. A vase always sat on her dresser, the perfume was delightful. A patchwork floral quilt lay on the bed, and her crocheted blanket sat neatly on her armchair. I enjoyed my work and making my rounds. I looked forward to my visits with Marjorie the most.
“Good morning Marjorie. Would you like your cup of tea now?” I had it already prepared. English breakfast tea, served in a white china cup with a shortbread biscuit. The tea was always served in a teapot, with a knitted tea cosy to keep the tea hot. Marjorie didn’t care much for teabags.
“Thank you dear. Just place it on the coaster on the table.” She shuffled over from her armchair and sat down at the small table. She wasn’t as nimble as she once was, but Marjorie wasn’t one to complain.
“Sit down dear, I’ve got some things to show you today.”
I often made time to sit with her, even though the matron on duty urged us not to become too familiar with our patients. I noticed a rather old photo album on the table. The leather was well worn, the cover embossed with an intricate filigree pattern. I pulled up a seat next to her, as she opened up to the first page of the album.
“Who’s this rather smart looking young lady in the nurses uniform Marjorie?” A rather striking lady stood to attention. She wore a fitted grey tunic, very austere but well fitting around the waist and hips. She was standing to attention in a row with similarly dressed women. There was a familiarity in the eyes and the posture, but it took me a minute to realise that it was her.
“That was me dear. Back when my mind and body were both willing and able.” She had travelled far and wide for a lady in her twenties. Marjorie regaled me with her exploits. She served on a hospital ship that saw action in the Middle East. I listened for what seemed like hours, every photo told a different story.
For the next week, I’d hurry through my rounds and make my way to her room. The tea was always hot, and Marjorie eagerly waited to share with me another story. She was compelling, her stories were both vivid and tragic as she recalled the horrors of treating the wounded men on the ship. On this particular day however, her eyes told a different tale.
“Who’s this dapper young fellow here Marjorie?” I say, pausing on his photograph. He was tall and wiry, a thin moustache rested easily on his top lip. Oblivious to the tragedies that he’d come to witness, he smiled for the camera. Marjorie tenderly stroked his photograph, a single tear fell from her eye.
“I’m so sorry dear,” pulling a handkerchief from her pocket and dabbing it away.
“He was my one true love. This was the last photo I have of him.” Her voice quivered as I reached for her hand. She grasps it tightly and her eyes avert my gaze, embarrassed at the sudden rush of emotion.
“I think I need some rest. You will excuse me dear.” I help her up and into bed, covering her with the crocheted blanket to keep her warm. She wanted to be alone. I’m sure he would visit her in her dreams.
“I’ll be back next week, but I’ll make sure you’re well taken care of” Making my way out of the room, I close the door gently and let Marjorie rest.
“Goodbye dear,” she said as I left the room.
* * *
I had some time off, but Marjorie was constantly in my thoughts and I was eager to return. I’d prepared a special surprise for her, some freshly baked fruit cake and aromatic leaf tea. I made my down the hall, but the door was already open. I paused, forlorn and emotional. Her room was empty, except for an envelope on the dresser. My name was on the front, written in beautiful cursive font.
I sat in her armchair and opened the envelope through the tears. Inside was a letter, her precious war medals and the photograph. Written on the back of the photo, the message read:
“Your kindness warmed my heart. I’ll forever cherish the memories and the moments we shared. Marjorie.”
© T. Zerafa 2023
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed my writing. If you haven’t read any of my other pieces, take a look through my blog and listen to my podcast ‘Flash Fiction in five‘ on Spotify or iTunes.
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