Project 52: Toppling Atlas

1 short story a week. 52 weeks a year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Week Fifty Eight: April 11th - April 17th

"And a Brief Scent of Roses"

     On a window ledge sits a pot full of flowers, long since having wilted from lack of water. Despite their withering attempts to do so, they do nothing to change the sterile smelling air of the hospital room. Gloria Mayweather sits in her bed, propped up with two pillows, and joins them in staring out of the window. The flowers came from a son, who is much too busy with work to come and see her every day. Years of being a mother have taught her to bare the brunt of disappointment, and just hope that he is happy with what he’s doing. Dearest Gloria, how strong your heart must be.
     This night, as with every other for the past month, goes by without event. The nurses call for a “lights-out” around 8:00pm, and after a few minutes, she props herself back up to watch the cars drive by from her hospital window. When she finally finds sleep, it rushes towards her fitfully, full of dreary dreams about all of the regrets in life she has ignored up until now. A stack of papers on a wooden clipboard reading “cancer” at the end of her bed falls to the floor as she thrashes herself awake. Her husband wandering around a long stretch of hallway, asking where she went, and why he feels so tired fade away as she blinks her eyes back to the hospital room.
     Mr. Mayweather was a wealthy man, from a strong family lineage of engineers. He was also known as a very generous philanthropist, and was well liked by all that he met. He would be taken only two years prior to this story; heart attack they suspect. Although Gloria knew that death would come at anytime in their age, she had trouble ignoring the pain of not being able to say goodbye. The thought seeped into the cracks of her dreams, and haunted her every night until she finally just wished death would come to her. Gloria Maribel Mayweather knew the adage for wishing, but didn’t much care to be careful.
     Several days passed, and while staring out the window, she was surprised one afternoon as cold fingers set themselves onto her shoulder. “How did a nurse get in here,” she wondered to herself, having heard no footsteps to alert her. She turned around, preparing to dismiss the nurse, when her eyes fell on the most gorgeous man she had ever seen. “Robert… I… I can’t believe it, how are you here?” she asks the nurse looming over her. With a roguish grin and a hand dragging through his hair, the man – almost a boy in fact – clears his throat and says “I think you have the wrong person. My name is Brian, and I’m your new nurse,” He tells her.
     Holding a hand up to her blushing face, she tries to break her eyes away from his, and mumbles an apology. “I’m sorry child; it’s just that you look just like my late husband.” Throwing on a charming smile, the man sets down a glass of water next to her pills, and says “I’m sure he was a great man, perhaps at another time we could talk about it,” he says, as he turns to walk out of the room. Silence hangs suspended in the air above her, being pushed away by the heavy beating of her heart.
     For several weeks these friendly interactions would continue, and soon began to boarder onto flirting. “What am I doing!” she asks herself. “He’s young enough to be my grandson, I have to just stop being nice to him is all. He’s not being intentionally flirty, he is just a kind boy, trying to make an old lady happy.” Finally resolving herself to speak her mind on the subject to the boy, she started to become irritated when every footstep announced a different nurse. Six nurses would present themselves in the weeks that followed, but none of them would be Brian. Where had the boy gone to? Finally asking one of the new nurses about it, only got a peculiar look as she answered “there is no nurse named Brian on staff, are you feeling alright dear?” Confused, and moreso angry, it wouldn’t be until the next night that she would see him again.
     Light’s-out had been called, and for several minutes Gloria had been watching her cars outside the window, when a knock came at the door. Brian walked in without making a noise, and sat at the foot of her bed, watching with her for a time. Together, they sat there in silence, watching the speeding lights fly past each other without ever looking back. The solitude is broken as she turns and says “why is it you come here and talk to me so often? What is it about this worn-down old woman that you so desperately seek friendship with?” “I know you don’t work here, I already asked, so what is it you want from me?” she says. Brian throws on a fake smile, and replies in a calm voice “I may not be registered, but I assure you I do a lot of work around here.”
     Turning his smile to the window, he notices the flowers in the vase, and comments “pretty flowers”. “What are you going on about? They are dying old roses, nothing more than ugly reminders of their past beauty” Gloria responds. Plucking a rose from the vase, he holds it in his hand and starts to speak to nobody in particular. “To me, a rose is only perfect when it has finally shown its age, and to that effect, its true colors. It has been beautiful its whole life, but it’s not until it shuts in on itself that we can see how gorgeous it has turned out to really be. The way it finally shows its flaws, the way it finally drops its guard. That is how you are Gloria, you are still as beautiful as the day you first met your husband on that dock in northern Michigan,” the nurse says to her.
     Holding up her arm to rest it on his shoulder, she tells him “I appreciate your kind words, but I am no longer than eighteen year old girl playing coy on a dock in the Michigan summer, I am old and-” she stops talking as she sits and starts to shake. Something terrifying dawns on her. “I never told you where I first met Robert, nor were you alive to see me back then. How… how do you know these things?” she asked him. “Because it was the last thing he told me before I took him” Brian said solemnly; black eyes reflecting the dancing white lights of the cars on the highway.
     Gloria felt as if she should be screaming for help, for fear of her life, but somehow she couldn’t. The only thing that mattered to her was what Brian had just said about her late husband. “He… he said those things about me before dying?” she asked. “Yes” he replied, a sad smile showing itself on his face. Shaking softly, she turns her heard towards him, and whispers “then are you here to kill me as well?” “Yes” he replied, that sad smile losing what little warmth it had, “but I’m not here to necessarily kill you. It’s just that it’s your time, that’s all”.

“Wh-who are you?”
 “I refer to myself as Absolution, but many call me Death.”
“Was all of this just so that you could take my life?”
“Did you do all of this so that I could pass in peace?”
“Thank you. I assume yours is a thankless job, but for what it’s worth, thank you.”
 “You’d be surprised. But all the same, you’re welcome.”

     “I’m ready” she says as she closes her eyes. She hears his fading words in the form of “it’s already over” as she falls into a deep sleep. Her body felt warm as she drifted off from consciousness. A smile bloomed on her face – completely genuine – anxiously awaiting to see her husband. A chiming melody softly reached her ears, the scratch of a record player barely letting itself be known over the music. Letting loose her final breath, she thought to herself “I’m close darling”, and with that she let go.

Also, there is one last thing I forgot to mention; she smelled a brief scent of roses.

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