All the Time in the World
A short story
Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash
Hello and welcome to Rosy’s Reading Room.
Today, I bring you a poignant short story about growing old, reminding us that we should live in the moment and enjoy life to the full, while we can. I hope you can find a comfortable, quiet space to settle down and enjoy.
Thanks for reading.
Droplets of rain trickled down the windowpane like giant tears as Gladys sat staring blankly out into the wide-open space of nothingness.
A tartan blanket was tucked around her knees and a plumped-up cushion provided her small frame with some much-needed padding against the back of the care home chair. A faint whiff of stale urine mixed with the odour of boiled cabbage permeated the air.
Her mind drifted back to happier times and she smiled as she recalled her wedding day. It was June 1968. She and Bob were so in love. They didn’t have two pennies to rub together but they had each other. That’s all they needed. And they had all the time in the world, just like the lyrics in Louis Armstrong’s beautiful song that she and Bob used to listen to in their tiny, two-up-two down on the old radiogram that Bob’s mum and dad had given them as a wedding present.
“Come along, Gladys. Time for your pills.” The young carer proffered a small, plastic cup containing a selection of multi-colored tablets and Gladys moved her head slowly round in response. Her grey-white hair needed a trim and clusters of white whiskers covered her chin. Her sapphire blue eyes were rheumy and sad.
She raised her bony hand as the carer patiently waited as Gladys shakily popped them one by one into her mouth, washing each down with a sip of water. It was a laborious process but one which Gladys had accepted without question.
If only she could talk to Bob. Tell him how unhappy she was. He would sort everything out, just like he used to. He always told her he would look after her. ’Til death us do part. His smile had melted her heart. An icy finger of pain stabbed her in the heart as she remembered his touch, so gentle, so caring, so protective. It was what Gladys loved about him the most, his tenderness. He wouldn’t harm a fly.
The day the policeman knocked on her front door, he ripped a hole in her heart that had never healed.
“What sort of accident?” she had barked at the young officer, her voice trembling.
She turned to get her coat, thinking she would accompany the policeman to a nearby hospital but the look on the young man’s face told her everything she needed to know and she dropped her coat in the hallway before crumpling, just like the coat, in a heap on the floor.
The policewoman stepped forward when the banshee howl broke free from Gladys, an eerie wailing sound that pierced the small suburban cul-de-sac on that quiet Monday morning when Bob had left for work at his usual time of eight o’clock. He had pecked Gladys on the cheek before he left, just as he had done every morning for the past twelve years.
They had never been blessed with children. They had both wanted them, desperately, but it just hadn’t happened. They accepted their lot and contented themselves with having each other.
The morning Bob had crashed his car into the back of a №12 bus, he had been distracted by a letter he had received from the adoption agency. He had wanted to make certain that he had read it properly. He and Gladys had been accepted and they had been asked to attend a meeting with Social Services the following Monday at 10.00 am at their offices on Highfield Avenue when the adoption process would be set in motion.
Bob’s funeral was well attended at Bletchingley Parish Church. The vicar spoke beautifully and Gladys felt as though she couldn’t breathe and was floating above her body. It was all so surreal. Any minute now, she thought, Bob would come bursting into the Church, apologizing for being late and touch her arm tenderly.
“Mum! Are you okay? You look so sad.”
Shirley took Gladys’ hand and knelt beside her.
Gladys turned her head and managed a weak smile when she saw her daughter.
“Shirley! Where’s Bob? Why isn’t he here?”
Shirley bit back the tears as Gladys strained her frail body towards the door in the hope of seeing her beloved husband.
Shirley had never met Bob. Gladys had sacrificed everything for her and with the help of family and friends, had managed to provide a good home for her. It hadn’t been easy for her to convince the Local Authority that she would make a good mother; being a single parent back in the seventies was frowned upon but Gladys had proved them all wrong.
Dementia had started to set in when Shirley was married with a family of her own and it broke her heart to put Gladys in the Local Authority care home but she’d had no choice. The fees for the smarter care home had eaten up all the proceeds of sale from the house that she and Bob had scrimped and saved for all those years ago and it was only when Shirley could no longer cope with Gladys wandering off in the middle of the night that she had had no choice but to put her into a nursing home.
As the rain continued its relentless pounding on the windowpane, Gladys drifted off into an afternoon slumber. After all, she had all the time in the world.
If you missed last week’s Rosy’s Reading Room, you can catch up here. You can read more of my work in my book, which you can buy on Amazon and if you are kind enough to buy a copy, please leave a review.
This was my last review from FeedMyReads: A truly delightful collection of poems and short stories that read beautifully and show an author who is not heavy handed in their feel for their poetry and instead aim to make for emotion driven writing that enables for the reader to be drawn into the narrative and find themselves not sure on what will come next but looking forward to finding out. A collection which is very much worth checking out and hopefully just the start for this author.
(This short story was first published on Medium).