“Did you hear that Amy got her ticket?” Bella asked.
“Really?” Sarah tutted, “When is she going?” Sarah held onto her frame as she lowered herself onto her chair in the residents lounge. She landed in her chair without grace, and looked over at her companion and co-lifer Bella.
“She’s already gone, and her replacement got booked in last night.” Bella continued to look straight ahead. Sarah took a minute to digest this information; The thought of a newbie was exhausting, most of them didn’t last longer than a year and if they did, well, they would wear themselves out eventually. They all did. Sarah took a deep breath and tried to settle herself in her chair.
“It’s alright for Amy then, but unless I hear otherwise it looks like another dream-filled winter for us. Her family must have won the lottery or something. Lucky bitch!”
“Oh come on now Sarah, you don’t know that, and you might get a call from your family, giving you the ticket. They said they were saving up for you this year didn’t they?”
“Yes. But looking at the latest status’ I don’t think that he got his bonus. Besides, what would you do without me?” Sarah asked.
“I meant to tell you I got a message through yesterday. My final application has been rejected. So it looks like I am stuck here. Just hope it’s not forever, you know?”
“Oh Bella.” Sarah sighed. “We don’t live forever. Besides it’s not all bad. We have our comforts for the most part. It would be nice to spend our last trend in Thailand though.”
“Can you imagine it? I hear that they treat people like family, like they used to I mean. It’s always warm and there’s no winter dream.” Bella closed her eyes and Googled the images, sighing softly.
“Do you really think that’s all true?” Sarah asked.
“It must be, surely?” Bella was smiling as she mentally flicked through the images she could see in front of her.
“You know, I saw the other day that it’s actually a euthanasia farm.”
They both laughed, and Bella opened her eyes.
“No, it’s just that sometimes I get so jealous, being stuck here, I want the grass here to be greener.” Sarah said with a faraway look in her eyes. “I’m just hoping it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Really, the only thing to hope for, is that I don’t wake up from… well you know.”
“Do you remember before the Winter Dreams?” Bella asked.
“Yep. I remember the snow. There used to be so much of it. Now we don’t know if it even gets all that cold anymore. I remember I went sledging once, I fell off and did something to my back. It still hurts now.” Sarah rubbed her back, her memories awakening the pain.
“I remember ice skating. Can you imagine, actual blades on your feet and the possibility of falling at anytime. The excitement. It’s no wonder they don’t let the kids do it these days.”
“Oh Bella, your beeping, don’t go getting all worked up. They’ll just pump you full of drugs again. I didn’t get much conversation out of you after last time.” Sarah tutted and Bella took a deep calming breath.
“Thanks Sarah, you know I hate those damn pills.”
“Did you Google what they were?”
“No, I couldn’t, my image bank was playing up, or they didn’t want me to know.”
“Oh hang on, I’m vibrating. Why can I never find the damn thing?” Sarah was fumbling about trying to find her Glass.
“The Glass is on your head Sarah. Get it, or you might miss them.”
“I know, I know, hang on. Hang on! For the love of…” Sarah found the glass and put it on. Her vision dimmed for a second whilst it connected. Then she could see her daughter, Edith and her two lovely grandchildren, Harold and Peggy.
“Hello love, are you ok?”
“Yes, not too bad, just thought I would check in for our weekly visit. Say hi kids.”
A whisper of awkward hello’s.
“So how have you been mum?”
“Fine, same old, same old.” Quite literally, thought Sarah.
Sarah looked at Edith, polished and lovely as always, but Sarah could see the tension underneath it all, and she knew immediately what the issue was.
“Listen mum, erm…”
“I’m not going to Thailand am I?”
“Oh mum. I’m sorry but no. Dennis is working so hard, but he… well the costs of commuting are so high and with his job he can’t work from the portable office. Most of our money seems to be spent on the cars.”
“Oh right. So it’s another deep sleep winter for me is it? This is the last visit until spring then?”
“Mum, I – hang on. Kids why don’t you go play on the other headset for a minute. Mum look, I really am sorry. If we could afford anything better for you we would. You know that. Right? It’s not that bad there is it? It got the best inspection reports out of all of them.” Edith had tears in her eyes as she stared at her mum willing her to understand.
“Yes,” deep breath, “Sorry love I understand. It’s not all bad. I barely notice it these days it goes by so fast.” Said with more than a hint of sarcasm, unnoticed by Edith.
“Thanks for understanding mum, and yes this will be our last visit until spring, but maybe we can be there when you wake up?”
“No, no. I had a bad reaction last time I came round. I don’t want you here for that. But maybe after that. That’s if I wake up.”
“That’s not funny mum.”
“You would laugh if you were here.”
“But maybe next year we can get you to Thailand.”
“Love, if you can’t afford the commute to work you will hardly be able to afford to get me to Thailand will you? Let’s be realistic, I’d rather not have any false hope.”
“Oh mum.” Edith was crying now. Sarah took a deep breath she had never liked to see her daughter cry.
“It’s ok, maybe me and Bella will run away.”
Bella was laughing as she joined the conversation, in the dark gloomy space she appeared next to Edith.
“Hi Edith love, ignore your mum she’s just upset because one of the residents got their Thailand ticket through. She knows that you would send her if you could. Don’t let her upset you. She’s just a moody old b-”
“Thank you Bella.” Sarah cut her off before the swearing started. Edith smiled now.
“How are the kids Edith?” Bella asked.
“They’re lovely thank you,” Edith laughed, “Harold nearly broke his wrist yesterday but we managed to get it fixed in time.”
“Oh my what happened?” Asked Sarah.
“Oh nothing, he was playing with Peggy and ran from her and fell over and landed funny on his arm.”
“Oh my goodness. Is he going to be ok?” Sarah started beeping as her heart monitor picked up her shock.
Edith laughed, “He is already, like I said we got it fixed up in no time, it’s nothing to report really.”
In the residents lounge, Bella nudged Sarah to make her calm down, giving her the same warning about her heart monitor as Sarah had done for her.
“Is he in a cast, did he have x-rays?” Sarah asked, trying to get her blood pressure under control.
“Oh mum. You do show your age sometimes you know.”
“People haven’t had x-rays and casts for years. They take a course of tablets that re-knits the bone. It’s expensive though.” Sarah took another deep breath and the beeping stopped.
“Bella, that sort of care would’ve been free in our day.”
“Too right.” Bella agreed.
“Yes mum, but you also would have had to wait four hours to be seen, another two for x-ray, another two for a cast that would have to stay on for six weeks. That’s barbaric. Harold was seen straight away and was only in pain for the minute it happened.”
“Yes my love, but it was all free. If you needed urgent medical attention it was there and it didn’t cost anything other than taxes. How much did it cost to get the tablets for Harold?”
“Lets not talk about money mum.”
“So what will you be doing this winter then whilst I will be sleeping?” Sarah asked.
“Do you have to say it like that mum?”
“Like what? I am sorry, do you think I look forward to being put in a bed, hooked up to wires and bags so that my biological needs are sorted, whilst I miss three months of a year in medicated sleep? What a way to live hey? Not to mention the nightmares.”
“What nightmares?” Both Bella and Edith asked.
“Oh nothing, I am in a bad mood, I must be ready for my sleep hey?” Sarah tried out a smile but her heart wasn’t up for it. “Forget about the nightmares, put Harold and Peggy on so that I can say good night.”
“I told you not to worry, it’s just sleep. Put the kids on.”
Edith vanished, to get the children.
“Sarah, what nightmares?”
“It’s nothing I was just being grumpy, don’t worry about it.”
Edith reappeared with the children beside her.
“Right kids, say bye to Nanna.”
“Bye Nanna.” Said Harold the younger of the two grandchildren.
“When I’m older will I sleep as long as you do?” Sarah froze. The only thing she wanted to say was ‘Hopefully not’.
“Of course you will Peggy, you’ll get old, even older than us and you will have a lot of fun on your way. Won’t she Sarah?” Bella asked with perfect diplomacy.
“Of course, see you in the Spring darling.”
“See you in the Spring mum yeah?” Edith asked.
“Of course dear take care whilst I am gone.”
“Ok, love you.”
“Love you too dear.”
Sarah raised the glass off her face, back onto her head and bent her head down. Bella reached across and patted her arm.
“We used to hug and kiss you know. Years ago I remember visiting my gran and I would hug and kiss her. I might not have seen her as often as they can see me. But a hug. We lost a lot of things along the way, didn’t we?” Sarah raised her head.
Bella didn’t say a word just held onto Sarah’s hand, what more could she do? They didn’t talk of hugs and kisses, it was too difficult to comprehend, to devastating to think about.
“You ok over there?” Sarah rolled her eyes, oh great, one of the carers had spotted them, it was only a matter of time until they were pumped with anti-depressants, mood stabilisers, and catheters and god only knows what else.
“Hi Trixie. We’re fine thank you, we’ve just had a visit.” Bella swiftly answering, so Sarah could get herself together once again.
“Oh did you? Last one before your big kip?”
“Yes. What time are we put down?” Sarah asked.
“Do you want to go together?”
“Ok, I think we can make arrangements for later this afternoon. No point in waiting till tonight?” Trixie asked.
“No, I guess not.” Sarah mumbled.
“Do you need some tablets Sarah,” Trixie looked down at her screen, “Your Serotonin levels seemed to be a bit low?”
“No I am fine, nothing the big nap won’t fix.” Sarah tried for a smile, Trixie fell for it.
“Well Ok, I will go and make the arrangements, we’ll have you visiting the land of nod in no time.”
“Thank you.” Said Bella.
Sarah and Bella held tightly onto each others hands as they waited until it was their time.