'Do You Come Here Often?' by Angi Holden
‘They’re nice here,’ said Molly. She turned towards the young woman seated next to her. ‘There’s always a good lunch.’
The woman finished writing on the papers attached to the clipboard on her knee. She clicked the top of the pen a couple of times.
‘Do you come here often?’ she asked. The old lady looked at her and then averted her gaze, picking up the magazine that lay open on the table beside her. She turned a few pages and stopped at a photograph of the Duchess of Cambridge.
‘Pretty girl, isn’t she?’ Molly said, holding the page for the young woman to see. ‘My sister has long hair like that, only she wears it in a ponytail.’
‘Do you know what her name is?’
‘Of course I do.’ Molly laughed. ‘Her name’s Peggy. She’s two years older than me – very bossy!’
The woman sitting in the armchair opposite leaned forward.
‘No Mum. She doesn’t mean what’s your sister called,’ Harriet said. She tapped sharply on the photograph with her index finger. The nail was frayed, the skin chewed around the edges. ‘Who is this?’
Molly looked at her daughter and clucked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. She held a frown for a moment before turning pointedly to the younger woman next to her.
‘They’re nice here,’ she said, her voice simpering. ‘Most of them anyway.’
Harriet took a deep breath and sat back in her seat. They had to go through this, she supposed, even if these conversations only established what she knew already.
The sound of a radio from a nearby garden drifted through the open window, part of a tapestry of disjointed sounds: snatches of birdsong, a baby crying, the distant rumble of traffic on the A14. Harriet stared through the patio doors across the neatly mowed lawn. At the far end of the border she saw an old lady lean down to smell the open heart of a scarlet rose. The woman with her steadied her as she straightened up, talking as she did so, her mouth moving rapidly in the dappled light. Harriet wondered what she was saying, whether the woman was describing a shared memory, or explaining something, as if to a small child.
She tuned back into the conversation between her mother and the young woman from social services. Already Harriet had forgotten her name. Was that how it began? Would her memories soon start to dissolve as her mother’s had?
‘Well, I think I must go now Molly. It’s been a pleasure to meet you.’ The woman shook Molly’s hand gently before gathering up her clipboard and standing up. She straightened her shirt and smiled at Harriet. ‘No don’t get up,’ she said. ‘I’ll be in touch.’
Harriet watched her walk away.
‘They’re nice here,’ said Molly. She turned to Harriet. ‘Yes, very nice.’ She paused. ‘Do you come here often?’
FlashFlood is brought to you by National Flash-Fiction Day UK, happening this year on 27th June 2015.
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