He pulls her hands and the chair moves closer. The wheels move slowly. He keeps hold unwilling to let go until he has to and it is clear that we're no longer there.
He strokes her knucles with his thumb, "I'll be home on wednesday."
"And I'll be waiting." I can't see her face but I know she's smiling.
The repeat the words like a chant, both trying to convince the other that they mean it even though the other already knows. She doesn't want to leave and he doesn't want her to go. She is here, there is no doubt that she is here and she is his and he is hers.
Their kiss is soft and their eyes spell love with every look; they don't want to blink, to miss each other, but they know they have to. They repeat the words and whisper things that I can't hear.
It is not a goodbye, not really but they look at each other as if it is - my chest heaves. Wednesday. The word is a prayer.
They kiss again and everything is okay,
"I'll be home on wednesday."
"And I'll be waiting."
Sue wheels her out and she waves. He smiles after her from his seat by the bed. He looks up at me, eyes filled with words he doesn't say, "take care of yourself."
"I'll see you soon."
I can't help but smile as I walk down the corridors. I have seen love.
Her smile is contagious: he's coming home. She's been talking and laughing and explaining things we already know but it doesn't matter because he's coming home.
She fidgets in her chair as we hear the crutches, she wants to get up but she knows she cant, she has to wait. She hears his voice before she sees him and her smile widens. He smiles too as he moves to his chair, the one beside hers. We hear dad laughing in the hall, he's on the other crutches. They both shake their head. She says something no one understands but it doesn't matter because she's happy and he's home.
There is a childish excitement in her, she wriggles and squirms next to him, fussing over whether he's alright. He's annoyed about the doctors and the hospital and his medication coming by taxi. She hears what he says but her mind relays it differently. She speaks and he looks confused but it doesn't matter because they're together again.
She stares at the faces, smiles and clutches the yarn between her fingers. The needle is an old friend, a tool, a relic from a past life flowing with children and prams and homemade blankets. She runs a finger down the thread and on to her creation, the square is still soft in her grasp but yellowing stains crawl up its surface. It is old.
"I can still do it. I haven't done it for years but I can still do it." The thread is wrapped around the needle and the hook grabs at the blanket. The yarn slips from the metal. She smiles, "see, I can do it."
There are photographs everywhere: children, children's children, siblings, spouses. They decorate the room in mismatched frames and those that don't sit in a bag smelling of age and happiness. We look through them, thirsty for knowledge of family. I see my parents smiling, it was the day they met but already they look together. My dad tries to hide pictures of himself, silly hair and protruding ears. I see a woman and a child, my dad calls her a witch and the child Charlene. Mum and I puzzle over whether the long-haired young man in the photo is Dad or Uncle Stephen, even he has trouble. His sister sits to my side and laughs as she finds my dad's face peeking out from behind her, three brothers and another sister. I look at his siblings, my family, and try to guess which face belongs to which. She smiles at us, "Those are my memories."
She sounds far away, looks to the window and frowns. There is a cactus in the way but she sees through it past the curtain and past the glass, past the cars outside. I wonder what she's looking at.
"I have a photo of us," her hand waves towards my grandfather, "over there on the wall." The photo is enlarged and filled with vibrant colour. It sits in a gold frame. She smiles.
"That was at Micky's wedding." She looks smug.
"You're not wrong," my dad smiles and then a laugh creeps into his voice, "who's Micky?"
She stares at him, looks at us and stares again. She stays silent. He tests her again and I sink back into my seat. His question changes, "who am I?"
More silence. She blinks and wetness creeps under her eyes, not enough to spill over but the sheen remains. She's trying but it doesn't come. She clutches at her cardigan, blanket discarded.
"He's Micky. That's Micky." Grandad points. Dad laughs. You have to laugh... He can do nothing else.
"I know!" She's louder than before and she repeats the words, "I know it's Micky."
She stares at the faces and the photographs and I stare back as my family talk around me. She looks at the walls and the floor and the window.
Empty the bin. Write. Put clothes away, in proper places and not on the chair. Stop thinking about the scent of you. Go to bed early. Get up early. Have meaningful conversations. Remember the faces of strangers once met. Talk to people sitting on trains. Think about nothing. Rest.
We walk with Abandon, we travel with Neglect and hold hands with Abdication. Desertion waits for us, the fork in the road is highlighted by his form and Forsake lingers behind. Relinquish takes a sip from the stream before he joins, broken trees bow to Rejection and Renouce and the party-pace quickens. We do not meet each others eyes, fear for them what lies in mine and fear for I for what might be found. Stop halts us there, at the fork and the last figure enters.
Guilt holds out a hand and a smile, teeth crooked, he beckons: follow me...
My eyes are lenses and the world is distorted through them. Each moment is collected, archived by my retinas and sent down the nerve into my brain. Once there they settle and carve out houses in the grey matter. And wait.
Welcometo The Button Place. Yes, it is Coraline inspired. This is my Other blog. The home of the weird and the wonderful, I may spin some fiction, I may write only truth, the world is my teacup, just waiting to be filled, sipped and filled again. Who knows what might pop out of the woodwork?
If you want to see my normal, life blog, visit my website over at KeyChild. Or if you want to see my artblog visit InvadingTheEiffel.
Emma-Louise "Elou" Carroll is a student and freelance photographer who writes. She has recently completed a BA(Hons) in Creative Writing with English at the University of Chester and will be studying an MA in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University from September. Elou is mostly seen wearing a hat, often in the shape of an owl, and is known by many as 'the key girl' - she loves them a little too much. One of her aims in life is to have a small goldfish circus. She likes to keep ideas in jars and often finds herself looking upwards.