An old woman's deepest desire

Submitted into Contest #34 in response to: Write a story about a rainy day spent indoors.... view prompt



Leonora slowly opened her eyelids and let her eyes observe the surroundings. She lay in a fluffy bed, with a whirlwind of soft fabrics comforting her. The airy room was furnished with a combination of faint turquoise and deep brown. Leonora’s heart began to pulsate fast, both inside her chest and loudly in her head. Panic crept in, even if she didn’t want it to. Where was she? How did she end up here?

She continued to lay paralyzed beneath the mountain of quilts and cushions. And then the memories slowly started to flood back to her, like puzzle pieces being combined to form a complete picture. Leonora suddenly recognized the comfortable queen sized bed and the murky wardrobe and the sweet smell of fresh lilies, coming from a tall vase filled with purple flowers. This was her bedroom. Leonora slid out of bed and into the small bathroom just outside the door. The lights flickered for a moment before deciding on staying lit. Leonora leaned in to inspect her face closely in the partly shattered mirror. Tired watery eyes stared back at her, surrounded by wrinkly skin and a mess of tangled white hair framing her sunken face. It was a funny feeling, not entirely recognizing your reflection when standing in front of a mirror. Of course Leonora knew that the person looking at her through the glass was simply herself, but still the face was not thoroughly familiar. The old lady Leonora didn’t remember much nowadays. Every morning it took a few moments before she could distinguish her surroundings and come to the conclusion that she was in her own home. Names of friends and family could no longer fit into her limited memory and to always ask for someone’s name had become a habit of hers. Faces had also begun to fade away from her brain. Sooner or later Leonora would remember basically nothing. And that thought was daunting. It was a fact, but she couldn’t imagine the fact becoming reality. Leonora left the room, the lights still shining brightly, she had forgotten to shut them off. 

On the way to the kitchen, she passed a stand with multiple pictures placed on it. Some were in black and white while others sparked with vibrant colors. One picture was larger than the others. In the photo a handsome man dressed in formal wear was passionately kissing a woman with an elegant white dress. A sheer veil decorated with lace was buried in the bride’s braided hairstyle. Leonora loved to watch that photo because it always awakened memories. That day stood out in her head, clearly. She could even remember small details, which happened extremely occasionally. The tears spilling down her rosy cheeks as they read the vows. The feeling of his lips against hers after the priest had announced them husband and wife. The guests applauding with great eagerness. But above all, the happiness. Even though it had been more than forty years since that day, it felt like only yesterday. The joy Barney had brought into Leonora’s life was probably the main reason to why she still remembered him with an intense clarity. Five years ago he passed away in lung cancer. Leonora thought about that every single day. Her deepest wish was to return to him and be with him forever. 

The entirety of her house was covered in post-it notes. Leonora didn’t look at them anymore, because the reminders didn’t prevent her from forgetting. Many of the green ones had fallen to the floor because the glue had dried out, but Leonora couldn’t bother to pick them up and throw them away. She opened the refrigerator and looked at its content with as much enthusiasm as a person looking at a white wall. Leonora poured some yoghurt into a bowl and topped it with some granola she had received as a gift from one of her kids. What was her name now again? Miranda? Or maybe it could’ve been Madison? Perhaps Maria? She sat down at the spacious dining table with chairs for six. Leonora sleepily stared outwards. Fat raindrops fell from the cloudy sky and splashed on the large windows. It was a rainy day. Nowadays everyday felt like a rainy day according to Leonora. Even when she sat on the porsche with sunlight washing over her and a warm breeze hugging her petite body, it still felt like a rainy day. 

The street inhabited a dead look. The gardens of the matching houses had not been managed well and the muddy grass grew in all directions, including Leonora’s. Nobody was outside, even though the hour hand was ticking towards 1 pm. Once, this had been a lively neighbourhood. Leonora remembered the days when her three kids were playing in the backyard, with rocks and sticks and plastic toys they’d gotten for Christmas. She and Barney had sat on the veranda, drinking tea and discussing unimportant matters while watching the small children play, fight and then make up. But those times were over now. Now, Leonora was alone in the enormous building, her husband dead and her kids living in three different cities, one in Paris. Those sorts of things, she could recall, because her brain classified them as important. But eventually, she wouldn’t even remember that. Alzheimer's was the worst! Sometimes the amount of hate towards the disease would overwhelm her and even decrease her, already small, space for memories. The amount of things she remembered varied from day to day, today was a pretty good day. She didn’t like to think about when the days would be all bad. 

 She directed her eyes to the untouched bowl of yoghurt. It would remain untouched because Leonora was no longer hungry and began the strode to her bed again. Her version of living was not quite living. More of merely surviving. Her kids would come for visits once in a while. But their unrecognizable faces and the deep topics being discussed made the visits depressing rather than cheerful. Leonora liked to sleep, because in slumber, she could not feel the heavy weight of everything in her brain slowly disappearing. During sleep, she could just lie there and not have to worry about a thing. Additionally she was always fatigued. Her energy levels were low and her body’s competence continued to weaken. 


The floor creaked under her miniscule weight. Every step up the stairs felt burdensome. On the sixth step, her foot didn’t lift high enough and she collapsed. A loud thump was heard as her head collided with the edge of a step. Everything began to spin furiously and the pain spread like wildfire. The edges of her field of sight blackned and the little she saw was blurry like frosted glass. The sight reminded her of her memory, like a huge frosted glass with a few holes here and there to see clearly through. Anguish took over her old, fragile body and she could feel herself slipping away from reality and all its suffering. Soon, Leonora felt nothing at all and the world became still and quiet. 

Voices. Distant. Panicked. Hands everywhere. Cold fingers touched the side of her neck, searching for a pulse. 

“Leonora Wellingham. Can you hear me?” A voice said. A male or female one, she couldn’t identify. Nor did it matter. Then, she experienced a very strange sensation. It was like drifting away, but not quite. Because she was not floating away, she was actually floating towards something. A man. He had curly grey hair and deep wrinkles appeared around his eyes as his lips turned into a ginormous smile, showing all his straight white teeth. His arms were outstretched, his green eyes inviting. It was Barney. 

“Leonora, come to me darling.” And she wanted to, she wanted to so badly. She wanted to flung herself into his arms and stay there forever. But before she had the opportunity to, she drifted again. Through her half opened eyes and thin eyelashes she could glimpse multiple people sitting hunched over her. Their eyes investigating every inch of her body. Their voices calmly begging her to wake up. To open her eyes. But Leonora realised that she didn’t want to. The real world was too much to bear and she’d rather stay somewhere else. And her conscience began to drift again until Barney’s open arms was everything she could see. Leonora was alternating between both worlds, the image constantly switching back and forth. Reality and Barney. 

“Stay with us, Leonora. Stay alive. Focus.” 

“My love, come here!” 

Leonora walked forward. Or floated, it wasn’t easy to tell. And into the soft body of her husband, before real life could intervene again. She closed her eyes and let his arms hold her steady. 

She was safe here. She knew that for certain. Somewhere, far in the distance, she could hear a concerned voice say “Her pulse is gone. We’ve lost her.” 

But the realisation of being dead didn’t upset Leonora, not in the slightest. Because if she could stay in Barneys loving arms forever, she was just where she wanted to be.

March 26, 2020 19:10

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21:47 Apr 01, 2020

The topic felt a bit like an afterthought in this story, something added in for the sole benefit of the prompt. However, the concept--spending one's final day of life indoors on a rainy day, surrounded by what few memories are still recognizable--is really beautiful, and I would have loved to see the story explore that idea a bit more.


Lilly Isabelle
21:38 Apr 03, 2020

I can truly see where you're coming from. This story was written in a rush and I would have liked to focus on some elements more. Simply didn't have the time with this one :) But thanks a lot, I really appreciate your constructive criticism!


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