Birthday by Jill Waters

‘Not again!’ said Vi, hearing the unmistakable sound of the front door closing. Her heart sank and tears pricked her eyes. How many times was it now? Had to be five or more this week. Hopefully today she would reach him before he climbed aboard a bus.

She grabbed her handbag, shrugged on her coat and laced up her shoes. Her back creaked as she straightened. ‘Soon be needing slip-ons,’ she thought, ‘How depressing.’

Automatically checking her appearance in the hall mirror, Vi lefi the house. She was relieved to see people still waiting at the bus stop. At least he hadn’t done that again. She strained her eyes - no sign. She tried putting herself inside her husband’s head. Where would an eighty year old man, his mind ravaged by dementia, decide to go?

Vi thought back to breakfast. What had Stan been muttering about? She’d been so busy ducking his fists as she offered him toast that she hadn’t paid attention. It was easier to block out his meaningless chatter than to respond in a meaningful way. And then she remembered. She’d mentioned Richard’s birthday. His fifty-ninth. She knew where he’d gone.

Walking briskly, Vi saw him, sitting on the wall of the primary school. She took his hand.

‘Stanley. What are you doing? You’ll freeze without a coat.’

‘Came to see my boy. Brought him this.’

Vi saw a battered toy car, a kernel locked within the shell of his gnarled fingers. ‘He’ll like that, love, but he’s at school. Let’s go home and give it him after,’ Stanley stood and took her arm, ‘We can make a cake.’

‘Who for?’ asked Stan as he shuffled beside her. Vi choked on her reply and knew, in that moment, that enough was enough.

Published in Issue #25

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