The Final Course
The Final Course
She noted with pride. as she slotted the second pearl earring in, how much she now resembled her grandmother. The original owner of the pearls she was now wearing was looking back at her from a small faded photograph at the base of the mirror. A strong woman. She felt strong today and resolute.
Everything had been planned in fine detail for her Special Day - no, it wasn’t her birthday or Christmas Day, in fact it was a rainy November day during a National lockdown to halt the spread of Covid. A Thursday - the day her food parcel from those wonderful people at the Church arrived and her medication from Singh’s. Back in the first Lockdown she , like the rest of the nation, had cried with joy and gushed with pride as our Heroes arrived weekly to support the vulnerable - banging her pot too on a Thursday at 8pm. But not leaving home for months had taken its toll and she now tired of her visitor’s energetic positivity and boundless enthusiasm. She began to dread Thursdays until she hit on the traffic light system to communicate- Red Card in the window meant I need to talk whilst Green meant OK. She only ever left the Green one in the window.
She had not spoken to anyone face to face for nearly three months now as she collected her parcels once they had gone. But she didn’t mind, she was so much happier she thought as she entered the kitchen to check on her meat pie and vegetables bubbling away. Smells wonderful she thought as she opened the fridge to check on her second and final course - The Sherry Trifle. She shook it and it wobbled stiffly the scent of sherry and raspberry invaded her nostrils. Just like mum used to make it she intoned as she reached for the hundreds and thousands from the very back of the cupboard that would be sprinkled just before serving.
On she went into the living room where the dining table had been set for a party of four- place names and poppers and a sprinkle of mini-stars were the restrained but appropriate decorations. To the left was a television with a gap opposite where an armchair would be expected to sit- but no longer. She scolded herself once again for cutting the plug off the television and now placed a vinyl album on the turntable in the other corner. Juli London soon was crooning “Cry me a River’. The Chair was once occupied daily by her husband of thirty years- Barton bus driver and shite horse better, She had wanted children, he read his paper. She begged him to go to a specialist when it didn’t happen, he smoked more in front of her. She gave up, he went off with Pat the brassy barmaid in the Crown, three years ago. Bastard.
The Chair now lived behind the shed covered in Tarpaulin after a Captain Moore inspired Clear-out in May. Why she had kept it there so long she hadn’t known, she never sat in it - ever. How she had wept softly watching the Captain complete his daily lap. Why did honour and grit finish with his generation and her mother’s? Loyalyty these day- you must be joking! She had loved watching the inspiring people and the Key Workers but she tired of the constant briefings and data and the endless increasing uncertainty. Her hope soon ebbed, she didn’t trust others - that man Cummings ruined it for everyone she had snapped as she cut the plug off it finally. How she missed the wildlife programmes and Countdown she thought ruefully.
But she rediscovered Vinyl. With music, she had found that she could lift her mood and she was so glad that her father’s collection had been stowed away in the spare bedroom. The Sounds of Cab Calloway and Bix Biederbecke carried her through dark mornings whilst Julie London and Frank Sinatra mellowed her desperate evenings. Alone no more. She was in control.
The chicken buzzer from the kitchen announced the pie was ready. It was time for the them to come and eat. Soon Lizzie and Belle were sat obediently at the table whilst she had to go and collect Eddie from his upstairs bedroom. They ate quietly yet happily as Bix danced on his coronet to Manhattan Ragtime- tapping their toes and swaying their heads. Eddie was first to finish as always but Belle left some of hers. She soon cleared the plates and was readying the final course when she looked into the room and saw them all laughing and chatting merrily. How lucky she was to have such a wonderful family. She brought the Trifle in to huge acclaim. Eddie tried to scoop a finger of cream but she swerved to avoid him and the large, heavy cut glass bowl landed heavily on the table. The hundreds and thousands shimmered like dancing fleas. Soon she was scooping it out into flowered print bowls and, as she gave them out, she added three extra toppings to each one. A present from Mr Singh’s - little blue Benzodiazepines.
After three years she had grown to love them - they stopped the hard, cold sharpness of living from injuring her. Life had become too much pain… and the emptiness. There were days when all around her was dark, all within her was dark. The only thing keeping her from evaporating into the amorphous cloud was the thickness of her skin. The Blue pills soften, cushioned, helped her to walk the even path rather than ride the rollercoaster. And today they would help her to relieve the pain forever. On her terms.
After she had savoured her portion, each spoonful reminding her of Christmas and Easters celebrated many years ago - laughter and false teeth, she found the children needed help finishing theirs. She swept silently and purposefully to the turntable where she ran the needle on a song that a lodger had left behind but had always fascinated her. As she reclined on the couch, the darkness slowly dissolving the walls, she hummed along to Asleep by The Smiths until that faded softly as well. She felt finally, finally free.
And that how she was found a week later, when her food parcel was not collected and the police officers broke in. Two dolls and a teddy bear sat at at the table in front of emptied bowls whilst the scratchy refrain from the speakers proclaimed “There is another world, there is a better world. There must be”.
“ Well there is no more Covid, Lockdown or Misery for her is there!” announced the Officer as he switched off the music.
Truth was, she had left this world of ours a long time ago and created a better one of her own. Can you blame her?