© Elena Elisseeva
The first kiss from the man she wed. The children at play, at school, growing up to their own married lives. The scent of heather on Highland hills, the brush of icy wind; soft sand between her toes on a Cornish beach; the Pink Hotel no longer her summer hideaway. No longer a hotel. Boarded up and crumbling, much like the last days of her life.
She talks to me about her day, but it is not today. She lives with a smile as she recounts standing there, waving her union jack as the Coronation Coach passes by, hoping the Queen would turn and smile in her direction. And when she did, she waved her flag with even more vigour in response to the Queens gentle raise of her Royal, gloved hand. She looks up at me at her bedside, but I barely hear the words. ‘Thank you for taking me, Mummy. Today has been so wonderful. I’ll treasure it always.’
She lapses into shallow slumber, then starts, eyes blinking rapidly. ‘Where’s my cup of tea. We’ve got to get away early. We’ll miss the first race, Fred, if you don’t hurry and I’ve got to get a bet on Double Delight, before the odds shorten.’ She loved her horses as much as she loved Fred; her late husband, passed away, some eight years ago. She looks bewildered. Stares at me. ‘You can go now. Your cleaning money is on the sideboard, under the green vase.’
I smile. I remember Violet. She only cleaned the bare spots: never moved an ornament, book or paper, to polish underneath.
Just the breathing now. Slow. A slight arch of her back, in a spasm of pain, eyes crunched tight, then opening wide. ‘When my daughter comes, give her this, dear.’ She wrestles her thin gold wedding ring over her knuckle and holds it out. ‘Tell her to look after it. It holds all my memories.’ She coughs, her chest rattles. ‘I will Mum,’ I answer, as I take her dry-skinned, bone-thin hand in mine, ‘I’ll treasure it always.’ Her eyes blink, as if in surprise, perhaps recognition, a last look of love, and movement ceases, colour draining from already pallid lips, her face, her life. And tears fill my eyes.