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(A short story of 2317 words)



by Tracey Emerson

A woman begins an affair with a man she meets while visiting her mother at a residential care home.

Grace sees him for the first time on a Sunday afternoon at the Seaview Residential Care Home. He is wrestling a magazine from a shrivelled, silver-haired woman in the TV lounge.
‘Let go, Mum,’ he says. ‘Please.’ He is tall, and his full head of black hair contains only a few streaks of grey. Fit and muscular in his jeans and navy blue sweatshirt, he radiates vitality amongst all the weakness and demise. Grace hovers in the lounge doorway, forgetting she was on her way to the garden for some fresh air and a break from her own mother.
‘It’s mine.’ A man with a long, white beard points at the torn magazine from the prison of his beige armchair. Lisa, one of the care assistants, pats him on the shoulder.
‘She doesn’t know what she’s doing love. She doesn’t mean it.’

The mother lets go of her shredded prize and strikes her son’s face.

‘Get off me, you little cunt,’ she screams. Then she stops, as if her batteries have run out and falls to her knees. She glances around the room and seems shocked to find herself there. The sobbing starts. Frustrated, childlike sobbing.

‘It’s okay. I’ve got you.’ Her son reaches down and scoops her up. Grace steps aside as he carries his mother out of the room, accompanied by several longing sighs. A warped version of the famous scene from An Officer and a Gentleman.


She returns to her mother’s room.

‘I’m back,’ she says.

The boxy room is a pharaoh’s tomb, a stop-gap between worlds, crammed with treasured possessions – family photographs, a stack of Daniel O’Donnell CDs and a collection of crystal swans. A brass carriage clock provides a loud, second by second reminder of lost time from the bedside table.

Her mother lies motionless in a narrow single bed. Eyes closed, mouth open, each breath accompanied by a frothy, gurgling noise, as if she is drowning. The chest infection she developed three days ago might still result in an admission to hospital, but so far, so good. Grace has slept on a fold-down bed beside her mother for the past two nights. She is tired and fragile and longing to get back to London. She is dressed in the same jeans and black polo-necked jumper she arrived in on Friday. Her armpits are sticky and odorous. Her dark, curly hair is greasy and tied back in a ponytail. All she wants is a hot bath and a large glass of red wine.


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