A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

Forever Love
by Jayme Howard (Feb 2012)


Today started like every other day at Meadows Retirement Center, except that it was Wednesday. Nurses and aides bustled about, the muffled roar of a television was easily heard from the back of the main dining hall and Zeke, a graying old yellow Retriever, sat sunning himself in the foyer, lying near guests, comforting them as they left.

“Games at 2 o’clock,” resounded the volunteer’s cheery voice over the loud speaker. “Join us for some fun today.” Wednesday is bingo day. Everyone loved bingo, everyone, except Edwin.

Edwin was a confirmed bachelor, and disliked bingo almost as much as he disliked “the weaker sex,” except for Mona. Unfortunately for Edwin, Mona loved bingo. Bingo was an imbecile’s activity, but every Wednesday he found himself daubing numbers in little rows and columns, just to be close to Mona. He treasured being near her, her petite voice completed his heart, while his head filled with her delicate perfume, reminding him of his mother’s rose gardens.

At precisely at 1.50 pm, every Wednesday, Edwin took one last look in the mirror, as he slowly licked his two first fingers to wipe back the few stray hairs on his balding head before leaving his room. This had been Edwin’s habit for almost seven years, but today his mind was consumed with thoughts of Mona. With eyes cast downward in earnest concentration as he stepped into the hall, he mindlessly crashed into the lunch cart still left out.

Like a drunkard, he staggered, but his old wobbly legs couldn’t find balance and he fell with a sudden crash, knocking his head squarely on the corner of the massive metal box. As he thudded to the floor, Maeve rushes over, “Mr. Melton! Mr. Melton! Are you all right laddie?” Crouching down, she immediately sees blood oozing from above his eyebrow, where an unsightly gash now resided. In her strong Irish accent, she repeats, “Mr. Melton! My Gawd man, are you O.K.?” Residents craned their necks from around their room doors to inspect the commotion.

“Man down,” hollers one of the male residents. “Send for backup. We gotta’ man down.” He yells again.

“Thank you Captain, but we’ll take it from here.” Edwin was limp; his frail body lay lifeless on the stained carpeted floor. Maeve tenderly props him up against the wall. “Randa, bring me a compress dear, he’s bleeding a wee bit here. Mr. Melton, wake up dear. Mr. Melton, wake up.” Maeve continues to gently urge him until he begins to rouse.

“What in damnation is going on here?” Edwin chokes out. The screech of a siren could be heard, getting louder as it bore down on the Center.

“Easy does it Mr. Melton, you’ve taken a bad fall laddie.”

“What’s happened?” Edwin grumbles as he shifts his weight to sit up. “I can’t see a damn thing!”

“You’re bleeding a bit Mr. Melton. You can’t see because the blood has run into your eye. Let’s clean you up and get this compress on your forehead.” Maeve wipes the blood from his eye and places the gauze across his eyebrow. They slowly stand, as Randa brings in a wheelchair, Edwin collapses into it exhausted.

The ambulance had arrived, its siren still blaring. Seeing that Edwin would survive and hearing the commotion, Maeve quickly wheels Edwin back to his room. “Let’s take a closer look at that cut me’ boy.”

“I hear that blasted ambulance. No hospitals for me! And that’s final. Patch me up and let me out of here! I gotta’ get to bingo! ” Edwin cusses at bit, then settles down as Maeve cleans and closes the laceration with butterfly adhesives.

Maeve smiles at her handiwork. “I’ve looked ya’ over and think you’ll be fine, but perhaps ye’ need to rest a bit before heading off to bingo, ‘eh, Mr. Melton?” Maeve chides.

“Bingo’s cancelled today. All residents are to remain in their rooms until 3:30pm to allow staff time to complete their rounds,” comes the command of the charge nurse as she moves from room to room.

Edwin puffs his cheeks in disappointment, but before Maeve made it to the door to leave, she hears his gentle snore.

Mona’s rose perfume fills Edwin’s room. Inside his door, she tiptoes to the chair near him. Her heart pounds in the dark room, as she suddenly feels a desire to lie close and comfort him. Then as if the world was a void, unexpectedly the words, “I love you Edwin,” slip from her quivering lips.

Edwin’s eyes gently blink open as he begins to stir. “Mona, is that you?” But before Edwin fully awakes, Mona’s shadow is gone.

Outside in the hall, Mona winces and disappears into the foyer where she sits alone. Old Zeke struggles through his arthritis to be near her.

In the dim corner of the room, Mona’s eyes glisten with loneliness. Zeke whines and leans his head on her hand, then lies down to comfort her. She misses everything already. With sad resolve she quietly walks back into Edwin’s room, “Edwin, my family has come for me,” she murmurs.

The room is silent, but filled with thoughts of rose gardens. Edwin turns toward Mona; he sees her outline. “Is it too late, to say I love you?”

“It’s never too late, to say I love you. But I still have to go,” she sadly smiles.

“But you can’t go.” He moves, but feels a weight pressing down on his chest.

“I’ve already gone Edwin. The ambulance was for me, not you Edwin, but I had already left this world. My mother and father and many friends are waiting for me now.” Her voice was weak, “I love you Edwin.”

Zeke slowly hobbles in and with a soft whine, gently leans his head on Edwin’s hand hanging from the edge of the bed, slightly cool, now slightly grey. The scent of roses still linger. Zeke lies down to comfort Edwin as he leaves….to meet “his forever love.”

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