General Fiction posted July 17, 2017

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An aged woman goes to meet her love

Opposites Attract

by Mabaker

Opposites Attract

Contest Entry.

The aged woman stumbled slightly, as her foot tangled in a twist of grass. Pausing just long enough to ease her foot clear, she continued on her trek. She had somewhere to be, and no damned grass would slow her down.

She cast a furtive glance over her shoulder, all clear. Good, let's hope it stayed that way just a little longer. What she had to do would take at the most an hour or if this turned into a waste of time, fifteen minutes.

Her name Harriet had been shortened to Harri by her friends as a child in the early forties. That's the name friends knew her by and anything else official, Lawyers, Doctors, Nursing Home Matron, Act's of God, it was Harriet. Damn fool name to tag on a squalling half pound of humanity. Whenever the Harriet bit got too overbearing, she conveniently turned deaf, making them sweat a bit before she would answer whatever they were asking.

Because she was financially well-off, 'Rest Inn, Aged Care Facility,' sure Hell was hot, didn't want to lose her custom. They allowed a little leeway where Harri was concerned. After all, she was a snotty old biddy at the best of times and a right bloody handful when she was displeased.
Hence, the need for speed and the constant backward glances.

Going AWOL on a Sunday morning would be considered very naughty indeed.
Her slim gold watch with the four diamonds on the face, showed nine fifteen. All the faithful in their wheelchairs, plus staff would still be dozing in the Chapel as Pastor Jemison droned on and on about something or other.

Harri didn't do Chapel. This ticked Matron off no end and made Harri, smile. Damn all that brainwashing mumbo jumbo. Harri would meet the Maker her way, warts and all. She hoped the 'old boy' upstairs enjoyed a beer or two, that should make for some enjoyable conversation.

She hurried along and was getting a tad puffed out when her destination hoved into view.
Harri stopped to catch her breath also to give the venue in front of her the once over and run fingers that shook, ever so slightly through her hair.
She reasoned while she had hurried along, the dab of lipstick, she had furtively applied was by now chewed off and mixed with her breakfast cereal, hell, if her idea were correct, it wouldn't matter a tinker's curse whether she had 'lippy' on or not.

She remained rooted to the spot undecided. Barge right in yelling 'Hello', or act the casual viewer? Feign a look of surprise and the hand to the heart in disbelief?
Or be up front and act like any seventy-eight-year-old woman? After all that's what she was, and that above all else hurt the most. She knew damn well she wanted to race inside and...
However, her information might be incorrect, and if she pushed ahead, she'd feel a right git and no mistake...So,
She joined the short queue and slowly shuffled along. God, how old were these people? This was extremely painful. Shuffle, shuffle. Stop. One or two sideway steps, then again more shuffle.
If this queue didn't hurry up, Matron would have her tracker dogs, named Miss Kennedy and Mrs Smith hot on her heels and that would be 'it' for a week or more. Then it would be too late for Harri.

Harri felt a gentle push in her back, her brain responded, Ah, the line had moved, and then she placed the 'gold coin contribution' in the tin provided took up the program, and walked inside. Stopped dead in shock.

The paper said this collection was named 'Echoes' designed, to please the senses. Yeah. Right on. Oh, holy Hannah. God, if you take me now, so help me I'll spread a rumour about you and that blonde bombshell. You remember the one in the Confessional her always having conversations with you?

Her breathing was as ragged as old Fred's up at the Inn. His had stopped, one summer day last year, Harri's kept going. Pity the feet didn't get the message? Like real professionals they stayed six feet inside the doorway, rooted to the spot.
"Oh, fer heaven's sake, Harri they are only figments of the artist's imagination, they're not real." Like Hell they're not.

She heard the plaintive tone in her voice, and glancing around found a bench and sat down before she fell. Her heart-rate had definitely had to be over the hundred and eighty klicks, and juddering a bit.
Deep breath, slow down.

Right, that got that under control, no heart attack in sight. Good.
But, the rest wasn't so balmy, and she knew this was as close to a panic attack as she'd ever been.

Harri had never had a panic attack, but Mrs Jones had them all the time, so Harri knew the symptoms. Harri didn't feel to put out with her body going all haywire, after all, she'd had a hell of a shock. Ask yourself, what were the odds this coincidence happening.

She sat and breathed, and when she felt up to it, she stood and walked to the nearest painting, while bare-faced disbelief zoomed into the stratosphere.

In shock, Harri most certainly was, but being a strict disciplinarian, she pulled herself together and acted like everyone else. She could 'do' interest down to a fine number. Why, you just nod and mutter platitudes of either sympathy or praise, whichever one fit the occasion.

However, something was wrong today, she was saying the words okay, they should have worked, but instead, they resonated flat.

Harri knew she had to be honest, in this place at least. Here she was surrounded by honesty, and there was no way she could introduce a lie. Not here.
Moving from one painting to the next, she listened to the comments that drifted softly to her ears, words 'excellent... original thinking... unique application of colour... why you can almost see... they say the artist is self-taught. Amazing.'

On the last whispered comment, Harri agreed. Amazing. Oh yes indeed. Then one painting above and beyond the rest, had her stop short and a startled gasp left her mouth.

It was titled "Self Portrait circa 1967."

The price tag in impossibly small numbers discretely positioned at the back was of no consequence. Harri moving fast through the crowd of snooty art critics and straight to the table where the artist sat autographing paintings. Oh, heavens, she'd not meant the moment to be so common, she didn't do commonly. Before her turn came, she turned away and headed for the toilet.

It was empty, which was a blessing. Fishing around in her handbag Harri located a Biro and her cheque book, plus a note pad. The cheque was for the amount asked, the notebook she wrote, "Thank you for the compliment. Sincerely H." She included her address.

When the two Nursing staff ladies who'd been sent to find her, she was slowly dragging her feet homeward bound. Plus, they were startled to see tears running down the soft papery cheek, and surmised correctly, Miss Harriet had walked too far and had gotten a fright.

They were almost correct, the walking was somewhat far in bedroom slippers, but there was something else, something, so tremulous and fragile, never to be tarnished with crude questions. That was theirs alone, so frail which was nobody's business but her's.

Harri had this dream from 1967 when she had been twenty-five, married with four children. She had loved her husband until the day he got notification to move to an isolated place for work.

There were other families living there and one indigenous family with twelve children. Eleven boys, black as coal, very polite and somewhat shy. Then the eldest boy sixteen-years-old black and beautiful with gently curved eyes the gift from his Chinese grandfather.
His name didn't matter in Harri's memories just the touch, and the gentleness.

He was a natural artist and Harri, was the only white woman ever given the privilege of seeing his art book.
One peaceful afternoon he came to her house his sketch book under his arm. She made a cup of tea he sat watching her.

"Could I draw you?"

This was said with him halfway to standing almost ready to run if she laughed or refused outright.

So she sat with her back to the window that let in a band of natural light.

His fingers were nimble and when he had finished he asked for time to 'tidy it up' before he showed it to her.
She didn't mind.

One night she sat on the porch trying to catch a breeze when out of the darkness, he materialised.
He was being sent away to a cattle station way up on the Gulf. He carried only tears. His father would travel to the big town of Port Augusta with him. This was to check out the man who was to take him on his journey.

She held his sobbing body close to her and she never drew away when he kissed her so softly. Then he was gone. Gone but never forgotten and not by him either if his paintings were anything to go by.

Thirty paintings called Echoes.

Either painted at dawn in muted tones of soft pink and grey, the red rocky landscape predominant. Or sunset with all the red fiery navy blue of the sky, shadows black and hidden. Every one exquisite, with the wild rough country as its background.
Some had the huge kangaroo dog he called Two Dogs or a Rosella parrot. Two or three early stars succumbed to the fire and majesty, of that outback country.

A train in the background or men carrying the heavy wooden sleepers, that went under the steel rail, every painting different, and everyone featured her. He had drawn her as he had seen her, to him she had never aged, and it was that which had made her hurry away.
She would never be twenty-six again, so she must let him have his 'echoes' and she her silent tears.
The End


Romance Writing Contest contest entry

Two people drift apart, but something draws them together again.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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