The Object of Pursuit of an Inner-Saboteur


“Somewhere in Time” (based on “Hearing a Piano”)

Filed under: fiction,shorty story — Monika Thornton @ 11:44
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Roman walked into the main lounge and without hesitation approached Grace. She was sitting near the window in her tatty recliner chair staring at the outside world. Her bony, wrinkled fingers were busy folding and unfolding worn flowery handkerchief. Roman noticed that her hair was neatly arranged in a bun and that she was smartly dressed in a paisley pattern green dress. On the table next to her chair there were two china mugs and a tray with shortbread biscuits.

            ‘Gracie, your tea’s getting cold.’ He lifted one of the mugs and gently placed it in her trembling hand. She nervously glanced at the empty chair opposite her and reluctantly took a couple of tiny sips. Then her shaking hand placed the mug gently back on the coffee table.

            Roman hated to see her like that, fading away like the stars in the morning. She reminded him of a porcelain doll: pale, delicate and ever so fragile. Only one year ago she was full of life and her smile regularly spread sunbeams on her cheeks.

            The first blow came so suddenly. Theo passed away only three months after they had both come to live in the Sunnydale Residential Home. One sunny morning, Grace woke up with a song on her lips, only to have her whole world crash down the next minute. Theo’s tired heart stopped beating and her own refused to follow. It was broken into million tiny pieces but still fully functional despite its unwilling owner.

            The next months saw Grace slowly removing herself from the world around her. Roman remembered too well watching her struggle to walk through the narrow corridors, every day that little bit slower and with more difficulty, shuffling aimlessly from door to door. The worst were the days when she’d become confused and delusional. Sometimes she screamed her husband’s name at night, other times she spoke to him with her tender loving voice. The diagnosis was simple yet cruel: Dementia with Lewy Bodies.

            Roman sat down in an armchair opposite Grace. The strong smell of urine was only just bearable. As her key-worker he was able to spend a lot of time in her company. He supported her independence for as long as her body and mind were willing to cooperate. She had a passion for classical music, just like her husband, so Roman arranged a loan of cd’s from the local library. Grace felt a connection with him and was always pleased to see her favourite nurse. Roman was the only one who listened to her stories about Theo’s daily visits.

            ‘What’s it going to be tonight, Gracie? One of Chopin’s Waltzes you like so much?’

            ‘Well, I’m hoping for Rachmaninoff’s “Somewhere in Time”, but he likes to surprise me,’ she said. ‘I wonder why he’s so late today?’

She scrunched the handkerchief in her fidgety hands. Her legs were trembling so Roman took the blanket that was draped over the back of his armchair and placed it on Grace’s lap. Her lavender perfume reminded him of his grandmother. 


Grace refused to go to bed that night. When Roman had arrived on his night duty, he was told that she insisted on waiting for her husband to play her bedtime tune. The fireplace had been left on and Grace was allowed to stay in her usual spot. Roman ignored the ringing telephone and concerned went in to see her. The loud steps made her look in his direction.

            ‘They keep telling me I’m crazy. They want to keep us apart, just like he said they would. I won’t let them, I won’t!’

            ‘It’s okay, Gracie. Please, don’t get upset. Theo wouldn’t want to see you sad.’ Roman kneeled down in front of her. Grace’s hair was messy, her pyjama top buttoned up wrong, her cheeks wet and red.

            ‘They broke my necklace, look.’ Her opened palm revealed that the string of pearls had its fastener missing.

            ‘Oh Gracie, I’m sure we can fix that.’ Roman looked up and saw her face lightening up with the most enchanting smile.

            ‘No need, my dear. Theo is finally here. He can take care of my pearls now.’

            Roman felt the shivers down his back. He wasn’t quite sure whether it was the sudden cold breeze that caused them or the sound of one of the most beautiful piano pieces – Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”-that suddenly filled the lounge.


“All in One Day”


It’s nearly 6 am. I don’t know why but I can’t sleep these days. I wake up a few times every night and lie there, wide awake, with a strange feeling that something bad is going to happen.Cole’s up already. I can smell the aroma of freshly ground coffee and hear him pottering around the kitchen. That reminds me that I also have to be up soon. There’s an inspection at my school this morning and everything has to be ready before the school opens at 9 am. Another ten minutes and I’ll drag myself out of bed.

            I feel so lucky sometimes. One day, I looked at Cole and realised I had walked through my life blindfolded until I met him. I kept bumping into people who would either knock me down or ignore my existence. I had no idea where my life was going until fate navigated me onto Cole’s path. I was surprised that he proposed so soon. We’d known each other for about 3 months. He was in his last year of law school and was planning to travel before settling down. So when I saw an engagement ring in his hand I had to ask:

            ‘Are you sure? What about your plans?’

            ‘You can have roots and wings, Em.’ 

            Two years after the wedding and backpacking across Europe I got pregnant. We were ready, scared but so ready. Cole decorated the nursery and I sent cute handmade cards to everyone to announce the good news. We lost the baby at twelve weeks. I got pregnant again. This time we decided to wait till sixteen weeks before telling the family, but the baby died at fourteen weeks. Then another one, and another. After my fifth miscarriage we stopped trying.

            I have boxes, somewhere in the attic, full of scan pictures and good luck cards. We never stopped hoping that one day we’d bring a healthy baby home, but we did stop expecting it.


Emma screamed in her sleep again last night. For the last three months she’s been having nightmares which she never mentions in the morning, as if she doesn’t remember them.

            ‘Good morning,’ she says and sits down on one of the wooden chairs, grabs a hairpin from the table and twists her black hair into a knot. I pass her one of the coffees and lean across the table to kiss her head. Her hair smells of evergreen and mint.

            ‘How are you feeling, Em?’

            ‘Oh, you know,’ she looks exhausted. ‘Crap,’ she says and smiles. ‘You?’

            ‘Why don’t you stay in bed today? Ring the school and tell them you need a break.’

            ‘No, I’ll be fine. It’s just a headache,’ she says and takes a sip of coffee.

            ‘Okay, but please ring me later,’ I say and grab my briefcase off the floor. ‘I love you.’

            ‘Will do,’ she says calmly. ‘Good luck with the hearing. Love you, too.’


I hear his car drive away. Another day, another dollar. I drag myself to the bathroom for a shower. I wish this headache would cease. I’m rummaging through the medicine cabinet for painkillers when the phone starts ringing. The caller display shows my mother’s number. Now, that’s a whole different kind of pain.

First, there was the issue of Aunt Selena’s house. She was mother’s only sibling but they had never been close. Selena died two weeks ago and to my complete and utter surprise she left her house to me. I guess it made sense to her. She didn’t have children and must have known that Cole and I had been trying for a baby. We outgrew our flat years ago. Selena specifically requested in her will that the house goes to Mr & Mrs Cole Perry and their family. We haven’t decided whether we would actually move there as the house is on the other side of the island. Needless to say, as soon as my mother found out about the will, all hell broke loose and she embarked on a mission to talk me out of accepting it.

On top of that, five days ago, she and I had a huge fight and I’ve been avoiding her since. She said some horrible things at Selena’s wake. We were standing outside the pub, smoking and wondering who the hell were all those people that attended Selena’s funeral. There must have been at least fifty of all of us and apart from a few family members I didn’t recognize anybody. There were mainly women, two of them heavily pregnant and I remember thinking that it must have been important to them to say goodbye to Selena.  My mother was very quiet. She looked fragile and tired and kept staring at her shoes. I suggested we speak to some of the other guests and ask how they knew Selena. She caught me off guard when she got so angry.

‘Just let go, Emma! Why the hell are you trying to ruin everything?’

My mother lost it completely and called Selena a witch and a psycho. In that moment I knew that whatever it was that came between them, it was a secret that she was not prepared to share with me.


I take my cup of tea out on to the patio and sit on one of the plastic lawn chairs. I feel restless.

            I managed to keep this from her for over 30 years, so that she could have a normal life.

            ‘Damn you, Selena,’ I murmur to myself and go back inside to dial Emma’s number for the tenth time this morning.


I get the mail as I am running out the door to catch my bus to work. I look through the letter, some bills and one large envelope from Selena’s lawyers. I can feel my phone vibrating in my coat’s pocket. I answer it and before my mother can utter a word I say:            ‘This isn’t a good time, mother, I’m a little busy.’

            I switch the phone off and open the large envelope. They have sent me all the documents required to finalise Selena’s will and invite me to collect the keys to her house.

            The headache is trying to split my head in halves and a wave of sudden nausea creeps up on me so I turn my attention to the little girl sitting with her mum two seats away from me. I listen to their chatter about her upcoming fourth birthday party.

            My firstborn would have celebrated his or hers seventh birthday next week. 

            As soon as I step into my classroom I feel the need to throw up. The room starts spinning round and a moment later I can smell the sour stink of vomit and I realise it’s mine.

            The kids suddenly go quiet and then I hear Mandy’s thin voice:

            ‘Miss Perry, are you alright?’

I look over my shoulder and see her concerned little face.

            ‘I don’t know,’ I admit.

            Thirty minutes later, I’m in a taxi with instructions to go home, to bed and not to show my face till I’m better.

            The taxi driver has his radio on. I’m beginning to relax and catch myself humming to ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. I make a snap decision.

            ‘Excuse me, sir. I’ve change my mind. Please, could you turn round and drive me to Provence Avenue instead?’

            I collect the keys from Selena’s lawyers and ask the taxi driver to take me straight to her house. I need answers.

            It’s a two hour journey, right through the centre of the island to its other end. I look out the window and absorb the beauty of this beautiful place. I have been so wrapped up in my problems that I forgot how much I love the Eyvinder Island. Stunning hillsides lovely draped with steep woods, the clay cliffs and the farms surrounded by fences that in summer are decorated in blossom. The wonderful species of birds, tracts of heather and blueberry, tall lighthouses and wild upland streams rich in fern. Cole fell in love with this place as much as I did. He laughs that it were the lamb sausages that sealed the deal for him.

            It starts to rain as we are pulling up outside the house. It looks just as I remember it, but the garden has changed a lot. I’m instantly hit by the powerful aroma of wild thyme and yellow bedstraw that seem to have taken over one of the fences. The garden has been divided by a number of willow hedges and each section has something else growing in it, mainly herbs, some of which I don’t recognize.  As the rain becomes heavier I hurry towards the building. Something is preventing me from opening the front door enough to let myself in. I push as hard as I can and to my surprise I find lots of letters that got stuck under the door. They are all addressed to Selena. I pick them up and make my way to the kitchen which is just on my right. There is a large pile of letters on the breakfast table. I wander around the living room and then down the hallway that opens into a small room. It resembles a healing room. I have seen some of those before when Cole and I did our research on alternative medicine and pregnancy. The room is light and there’s an aroma in the air that reminds me of hot summer days. The furniture is minimal. On the left there’s a corner unit containing lots of unlabelled bottles and jars, and a single medical-style bed with white sheets. On the right there is a small writing desk with an old wooden stool. There are no pictures on the walls, no curtains, no plants. I’m just about to leave when I notice an envelope on the desk. It’s addressed to me. I open it and my heart starts racing, fluttering as fast as hummingbird’s flight.


‘Diane? It’s me again. Any news?’

            I have been trying to contact Emma since lunchtime. It’s nearly 7 pm and her mobile is still off. Her boss said they’d sent her home in a taxi, but when I arrived here a couple of hours ago there was no sign of her. I should have stayed with her. I should have stayed home.

            ‘No, nothing, I’m afraid,’ Diane replies slowly. She sounds tired and depressed. I know she feels bad about her recent fight with Emma.

            ‘Cole, I think I know where she is. But you need to hear something else first as I can’t keep it to myself any longer.’


I often wondered how it would feel to get this off my chest and now this moment has arrived I feel nothing. I have rehearsed this conversation with Emma over and over again. Perhaps it’s better that she hears it from Cole.

            My sister promised to keep the secret but it seems like she changed her mind on her deathbed. That’s why she left the house to Emma. No doubt there would be a post-mortem letter somewhere between her magic trinkets. Selfish, misguided and manipulative woman! She must have known what she was planning to do would change everything. Now Emma will learn that Selena was her crazy birth mother and that I adopted her soon after the birth.

            It all started when Selena had her first nervous breakdown. She couldn’t sleep and claimed that she could hear voices. Our parents were still alive and they let her move in with them to keep an eye on her. They paid for a private treatment but Selena kept refusing to take her medication. She insisted that the voices told her she was special and had power to heal others. I’d spent weeks poring over psychiatric texts trying to understand the nature of her illness. Soon after that, we found out that she was pregnant and her condition worsened. We had no choice but to have her sectioned under the Mental Health Act.


I’m so happy to see my mobile phone showing an incoming call from my wife. 

            ‘Emma, thank God, are you okay? I’m coming to get you.’

            ‘How do you know where I am? Oh, it doesn’t matter. I have so much to tell you.’

She sounds excited but her voice is trembling.

            ‘I know, Em. I know everything. Diane told me.’

            ‘No, you don’t understand. You can’t possibly know… this is huge.’

            ‘Yes, it is. Are you okay?’

            ‘Come straight over, Cole. Bring me some food, I’m starving.’


I hang up the phone and sit down on the floor next to the pile of letters. I can’t wait to tell Cole about this. I chose one letter to show him first. It explains Selena’s incredible gift and tells a story of a couple, just like us, who nearly lost hope to ever have their own baby. Luckily, they heard about my aunt and her healing power. All those letters, thank you cards, photographs of newborns have blown me away.

            I look at an unstoppered blue bottle that stands on the coffee table together with Selena’s instructions for the use of her medicine and think of the future. According to the letters from other women I should be able to feel the baby a lot sooner this time.


“Is there a prince in there?” K. Blixen

I have decided to create a blog purely for my creative writing projects. I want all of my stories and poems in one place. Some of them I am happy with, some still need work… I used to hide my unfinished projects in a drawer promising to come back to them, but I never did. This is my virtual drawer, my compost heap, a place where I’m hoping my work will mature 🙂  I’m also hoping for a boost of motivation and inspiration, you can never have enough of that!

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