Summer’s Child

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This story takes place forty some odd years after the events on Summerisle, and is not endorsed by the heirs of Lord Summerisle.

© 2018 Robin D. Ashe

Miss Mary’s house was tall, narrow, and gray. It had none of the charm of a Victorian. The only things that saved the facade were the balcony and French doors. The porch was stingy. The old rosebushes were cropped to the height of the windowsills. I loved the lace curtains, but I wasn’t allowed to open them.

Miss Mary was not officially a relative by marriage, but we treated her as such. She would have been my great-aunt if my great-uncle Neil hadn’t disappeared while working on a missing person case. She had inherited her parents’ home and lived alone for decades. She was seventy-five, and we were starting to talk about what to do about Miss Mary. I hated that, what to do with her, as if she was a very old tree that shaded the yard but lost a branch to each storm.

The day nurse opened the door. I didn’t have to knock. She knew that I would arrive at half past five with bags in hand. The laptop bag irritated Miss Mary. I stowed it away in the guest bedroom and set my phone to vibrate. I didn’t use electronics until she went to bed at eight o’clock. She still had a working rotary phone.

“She’s been agitated today,” the nurse said. She was a young woman with blonde streaks in her dark hair. She was so young that I could have easily been her mother. She seemed to be competent. Her notes were meticulous: vital signs, medications, diet, and lately, mental clarity. “She’s talking in that heavy accent again.”

Miss Mary was Scottish. So were we, but our Howie ancestor had come to the United States before the Civil War. Mary Sangster’s family had immigrated in the mid-1970s, before I was old enough for kindergarten. My first memories of her were of a woman with pale blue eyes, pale red hair, and almost colorless eyebrows. I thought that she was a ghost. I screamed, she screamed and ran away, and now over forty years later, we were constant companions.

I stood in the guest room opposite Miss Mary’s, taking notes on the nurse’s notes. The nurse had been unable to persuade her to eat today. I had brought a whole chicken, cooked in my crock pot last night. I listened to the droning list of medications taken and refused, and looked past the nurse at the wallpaper, gray, on top of a pattern of black roses and thorny vines.

“Sign here, here, and here, miss,” the nurse said. I blinked. I held a clipboard in my hand. I signed and initialed. Helen Howie. H.H. My close family called me Nell. Miss Mary called me Helen. The nurse gave me my copies of the paperwork, tucked hers into her nylon tote bag and left me the clipboard. I saw her downstairs to the door and watched her as she walked down the sidewalk to her sedan. Her shoulders visibly lifted as soon as she stepped down to the sidewalk. I closed the front door and locked it, and turned around.

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