by Abigail Shepherd

I’ve never seen a dead body before now. It isn’t all that bad. I don’t have to shake or poke her to make sure. She’s just slumped in the bed, her skin paper white. The worst part is I’m not sure what to do. Do I call 999? It’s not exactly an emergency. I mean, she’s not going anywhere. I phone the emergency services anyway and they tell me to wait for an ambulance and the police to arrive. Why the police? It’s clearly natural causes. But I do as I’m told and sit down in Effie’s earthy living room to wait.

At least she’s not suffering anymore, I think. But it’s sad she’s been found by her home-help. She had no family. I’ve always pitied her for that. I can’t wait for my Prince Charming to come and sweep me off my feet and give me lots of cute babies. Well, I’m in my early thirties now, so I suppose I’ve actually been waiting a while. It hadn’t ever happened for Effie. She’d been all alone and now she was dead.

The cottage is a rural one, so I know the ambulance could take some time. When Effie was admitted to hospital a few months ago she’d complained it took half an hour to arrive.

“Disgraceful,” she’d said. “I could’ve died. They should have sent the helicopter.” It was a big thing among Effie’s friends to have the air ambulance out to them. They’d get bragging rights for months—if they came back.

“Maybe next time,” I’d answered. “Now, have you taken all your pills for today?” And she’d said she had, so I’d ticked that off the list and moved on to the next item. Effie could chat for ages but I’d always tried to keep it brief, otherwise I’d be late for my next client. Well, I’d be late today for sure.

Turns out it’s a bit eerie being all alone with a dead body. Too quiet. I feel the need to do something normal, something that makes noise. I head to the kitchen to brew a coffee. I’d often done so whilst I fixed her a sandwich or a piece of toast. Funny, this is the last time the chipped mug and white plastic kettle will ever be used. I look round while it boils. On the table is Effie’s scrapbook. These last few weeks of being completely housebound she’d amused herself by pasting all her old photos into a book. I turn a few leaves. They’re nearly all pictures of Effie with her three best friends. It seems they used to get together for Bridge every week. And here’s one of them at Bingo. Now an OAP lunch. A party. I smile at their narrow little lives. But they seem happy enough.

The next page is a little different. Is that a luxury liner? I didn’t know they’d been on a cruise. Around the Mediterranean by the looks of it. And here’s another. Up the Nile this time. There’s a picture of Effie in the Valley of the Kings. There are about six different cruises in all. I’m glad they had some fun.

I turn a few more pages and here’s Effie and her friends standing outside the Eiffel Tower… And the Taj Mahal… And The Leaning Tower of Pisa. And now they’re taking a hot air balloon ride, white water rafting, skiing. In the minimal gaps between the photos are pasted tickets to various famous shows and attractions.

I can’t believe the old lady in that bed did so much. I no longer pity her. No wonder she never had a family, she was too busy having fun. Maybe she would have liked one, but she never let it’s absence stop her from living a great life. No wonder she’d chosen to spend her final weeks looking back over her past. She had some amazing memories.

And I start thinking. Maybe next time I have a holiday I’ll go somewhere. Stop waiting for my Mr. Darcy to come along and do something exciting. And maybe he’ll come one day and maybe he won’t, but it won’t matter, I’ll have lived a full life anyway. Like Effie.

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Abigail Shepherd
Abigail is 28 years old and currently living in the Highlands of Scotland. She most recently been published in Mystery Weekly, Platform for Prose and Whim online magazine. Her hobbies include fishing, napping, and drinking very good wine. You can find her at bewritingblog.wordpress.com and on Instagram under the name @bewriting.

8 thoughts on “Waiting

  1. I take this to be a kind of conversion story, but I find myself wondering about the extent of the suffering referred to at the outset. What is the classic saying? “Count no one happy until their death.” Does past pleasure cancel cancel/outweigh present pain? Who knows? AGB

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