When I arrive at her room, she’s sitting at the table, grey head in hands, her opal ring winking at me like a ghoul’s eye. Her bony shoulders are hunched beneath her dressing gown. I tuck her tag in and rest my hands on her shoulders. Only then do I notice they’re shaking. Bending down beside her I see wet cheeks and eyes muddy with tears.
When she opens her mouth, her tongue presses against her bone white teeth but no words come out. Her fingers stretch towards my face and paw either side of it. I pull them down and fold them into my own hands, squeezing tight. Where do any of the four intertwined hands end? Each is freckle-speckled and wrinkle-folded. But her nails are frosted pink, mine chipped and yellowing. She’s better preserved at eighty than I am at fifty.
“Mum, what is it?”
“Your father’s been in a car accident.” Her voice is twig-thin.
I wrap my arms around her like a shroud. On the table is a file of newspaper clippings, worn and shredding after all this time.
I whisper I’m sorry over and over again. I’m sorry she doesn’t remember Dad died forty years ago but I’m even sorrier I didn’t burn the file the last time I visited.
Damhnait Monaghan is a Canadian now living in the UK. Her short stories have been published in The Incubator, Spelk Fiction, Still Point Arts Quarterly and Brilliant Flash Fiction. She’s on Twitter @downith.
Image: Cristian Newman