A Reclaimed Short by B.A. Erickson
Chapter 1 Home
The sickening scent of disinfectant turned her stomach. She would have turned to investigate the source except, so enveloped in its odor, she knew to do so would be futile. So pervasive, the sterile nature of her existence paled in comparison to the expansive, spacious home now transformed into a convalescent unit.
Continual pain and constant aches were now her daily companions. Minute by minute, hour by hour, the incessant, unpleasant sensations nearly drove her mad. Routine and boredom blended one day into the next creating a dull mosaic. Her only escape? Him.
Her mind wandered, transfixed on understanding how she found herself in such an odious situation.
It happened gradually; she supposed. It’ll happen to everybody, eventually. The brutal march of time systematically erodes everything. Riches mean nothing. Beauty sags. Everyone who mattered disappears, one by one, into an abyss of memories.
The overwhelming pain of her reality overtook her for a moment, catching in her throat, nearly taking her breath away.
Then a hand touched her shoulder. A pimpled face slid into her visual field.
“Are you sure you don’t want to join us for bingo?” The face’s concerned voice intoned. “We’d hate to see you miss out on the fun.”
She didn’t reply. The thought of “winning” a sugar-free mini chocolate bar turned her stomach.
“Who do they think I am?” she snorted. A bubble of spittle formed on the edge of her thin lips.
She couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the virile specimen of a woman she once was, the type of female who elicited leers and envy from everyone around her.
Today she sat stuck in her bulky wheelchair, awaiting a lover that may or may not arrive.
Eventually, the perky face disappeared into the nothingness of the surrounding room. “If you decide to join us, just let me know.” Her voice trailed off.
She felt her wheelchair glide away from the sunbeam that warmed her bones. “We don’t want you getting too hot.” The distant voice faded as her blood cooled.
But none of that mattered.
Continuing to stare into the middle distance, she listened for his voice, ready to join him the minute he arrived. She hungered for his touch. She knew he would come. At least she hoped he would. Her parchment skin tingled at the thought.
“It won’t be long,” she whispered. “I can’t give up the faith.”
She closed her eyes, silently summoning his arrival, pleading for him to come one last time.
Darkness enveloped her. The river of time surrounded her. The currents of dreams refused to cooperate. Nearby sunbeams shrank into nothingness and the warm tones of afternoon evolved into the cool hues of dusk.
She wasn’t sure how she got back into her room, but the clinking of dishes outside her door told her that the supper hour had passed. She wondered if she’d eaten.
She raised one gnarled hand to her chest. Judging from the crumbs peppering the surface of her sweater, she had, indeed, attempted to eat.
Damned if she could remember it, though.
She shrugged. The utter fatigue of the gesture drained every ounce of energy she possessed.
“Where is he?” she wondered. For the umpteenth time, doubt began to cloud her hope.
Perhaps he wouldn’t arrive tonight. Maybe he found a way to escape.
What if she was actually alone? In this godforsaken place?
That thought struck the fear of God within her.
She couldn’t imagine life without him. He’d been her only rope to sanity all these years. Without him, she wasn’t sure she could hold on.
Resigned to her lonely fate, she pressed her bony skull into the raised back of her wheelchair and closed her eyes. “Don’t leave me,” she prayed. “I’m sorry. Have mercy on me…”
Within moments, her psyche drifted onto the warm currents of sleep, and she found herself swimming in memories.
So many memories. So many familiar faces, every one of them gone.
That’s when he finally saw him. Her heart skipped a beat.
That face. That beautiful smile. His arrival lit up her dream. Tousled hair, laughing eyes, a perfect specimen of a man. Relief flooded where her greatest anxiety once thrived.
“It’s about time you showed up,” she said, trying to conceal her doubts. To her delight, her shaky, aging voice had somehow been replaced with the competent vocal stylings of her youth.
Confidence poured into her body.
He leaned close to her ear and whispered, “You know I never miss an opportunity to see my lady.”
Electricity buzzed down her spine as she placed every hope she possessed upon that particular string of words. Anxiety diminished, instantly replaced by the warm glow of his presence.
He grasped her hand and pulled her to her feet. To her surprise, she felt as light as a gazelle, painless as a teen. She closed her eyes, waiting for the inevitable moment when she would taste his lips again.
“Take me,” she breathed, hoping, praying this perfect moment would last forever. Wishing reality would dissolve into nothingness and she could stay in this magical place forever.
She clung to the hope that fate wouldn’t dare interrupt this pristine moment, take him away from her before they could consummate their love once more.
His face neared her, his breath brushed her cheek, her heart pounded as she awaited the exact moment she’d been craving all day… all week… forever.
“My love,” she whispered.
“My goddess,” he replied.
She felt his arms pull her closer. His warm hands evicted every ounce of cold in her bones. His fingers tickled her ribs.
She felt electric. She felt whole. Everything fell into place. And at last, life felt good.
She involuntarily arched her back and, without realizing it, she groaned. Aloud.
Then, a most unpleasant sensation pierced the moment. She felt a foreign hand on her shoulder. It jiggled, grasp tightening, rattling her brittle bones.
“Are you OK, Mrs. Shaw?” She couldn’t believe her misfortune. “Are you in pain?” The voice continued, “Do I need to call the nurse?”
Frustration rose within her. “Not now,” she groaned.
Sadly, her slurred speech alarmed the aide even further.
“Mrs. Shaw. How can I help you?”
She tried to ignore the voice.
“Mrs. Shaw. I heard you. You OK? Do you feel pain?”
“This happens every time,” she moaned.
“What happens? I don’t understand.”
“Go the fuck away. Leave me alone.”
The aide shrugged, stepping away from her wheelchair.
Disappointment flooded her psyche as she realized he once again slipped into the shadows of her memories. A lone tear slid down her cheek.
“Why does this continually happened to me?” The crushing defeat of yet another rendezvous sabotaged by a very unreasonable reality nearly broke her spirit. Again.
“How was I supposed to know how things would work out? Why didn’t you tell me about her?” The silent sob wracked her fragile body. “What did I do wrong?”
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