I hope she doesn’t fuss, said her mother slipping free of her grasp.
She’s no bother, said Auntie Ada. Not a real aunt, a woman who minded the street’s bairns and toddlers. A woman who held tiny hands over the fire when they broke a cup.
See now, no bother at all, said Father Sinclair who took her into his school class. He let the older boys take charge when it was time for his mid-morning smoke. They took her into the dusty back office, where one boy cupped his hand over her mouth to stop her crying out.
Let’s have no bother from you, said Sister Bernadette. The starched upright nun scuttling away with the baby. A beautiful baby girl.
Never no bother to anyone, said widower, Eric Matthews. Recalling his first wife who drowned in the bath, drunk and befuddled. You’re cut from the same cloth, he told her, and you’ll no’ bother me. She heeded the warning for thirty more years.
She’s no bother, said the manager of the care home scrolling down his spreadsheet. Your mum’s a darling. One of our favourites. Her step-son, Charlie, rang the home once a fortnight, when he remembered. That’s good, he replied and hung up.
Alone in her stuffy, airless room the plastic beaker of water slipped from her bent fingers. Her lips were cracked. Her throat parched, dry as kindling. She couldn’t reach the buzzer.
DNR said the chart at the bottom of her bed, written beside someone else’s name. No one queried the oversight. All she had left was the voice screaming in her head. It broke out, spilled into the night. Filling her tired lungs with a final breath she wailed like a banshee. Shouting her name. Over and over.
[Originally published on Write Invite website (June 2016) as the weekly competition winner]