Beams of sunlight shone through the blinds hanging at the windows lining the hallways, so that fine particles of dust could be seen floating in the air.
Personal care workers dashed in and out of the bedrooms, armfuls of laundry clutched in their arms and occasionally looking around to check that everything remained calm.
Glancing up from the open charts balanced precariously on the medication trolley, Maria lifted her glasses and rubbed her eyes. All the figures and slanted handwriting scrawled over the charts were starting to blur.
Sighing, she slowly stretched her arms above her head, ignoring the clicking sound coming from both shoulders.
A slow, squeaking sound from the far end of the hallway made her turn her head sharply. The lady pushing the walking frame appeared uncertain, pausing at each doorway that she passed, and looking inside briefly, before moving laboriously to the next. Maria could see her forehead puckered in a frown.
“Morning Susie’ she said brightly, as the lady came closer to her,’ how are you today?’.
Peering at her through thick rimmed glasses, the frames scratched, Susie mumbled a reply.
Frowning herself, Maria stepped towards her,” Sorry, what was that?”.
Opening her mouth slightly, Susie mumbled a few words.
“What?”, Maria asked, abandoning the trolley and looking at her closely.
Taking one hand off her frame, Susie pointed at her mouth and then grinned, saliva dripping from her gums.
“Susie, where are your dentures?’ Maria asked as she noticed their absence,’ you know you need them for eating”.
Shrugging, Susie gripped the frame again and started strolling down the hallway once more.
Locking the trolley but leaving it by itself in the middle of the hallway, Maria hurried to Susie’s bedroom, tucking a strand of her hair back behind her ear.
The sunlight was shining through the open window and a warm breeze blew the curtains. The care workers had already tidied, placing Susie’s teddy on the neatly made bed and emptying the laundry hamper.
Fumbling in the slightly darker bathroom, Susie checked the containers and boxes stacked on a shelf, finding a bottle of denture cleaner and an old toothbrush but no dentures, the cup where they were normally stored, empty.
“Are you alright, Maria?”, a voice asked from behind, making her jump.
“Oh, don’t sneak up on me like that! You made me jump, Sasha”, she said, turning to face one of the care workers.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize you were in here, I was just replacing these”, Sasha replied, lifting up the clean towels she had in her arms.
Breathing slower, Maria smiled,” Have you seen Susie’s dentures?”.
“Hasn’t she got them in her mouth?”.
“If they were in her mouth, I wouldn’t be asking, would I?”.
“Alright, it was only a suggestion. And they were in her mouth when I left her only a few minutes ago”.
Sighing again, Maria walked back to the trolley. Susie was standing next to it, waiting for her.
“Yes, Susie’ Maria said as she reached her,’ I’m trying to find your dentures”.
“What? They’re in my mouth”, Susie mumbled, her lips bulging, a pair of dentures too large for her mouth visible.
Maria stared as Susie grinned, the extra large teeth gruesome in her face.
“Whose dentures are those?”, she asked.
Opening her mouth to answer, Susie coughed and the dentures shot out, landing on top of the medication charts, saliva dripping onto the paperwork.
“Oh, that’s nice”, Maria said, her nose wrinkling as she pulled on a pair of gloves and gingerly picked them.
Looking at her, Susie held her hand out for them.
“No these aren’t yours Susie’, Maria said,’ why don’t you go to the dining room and I’ll bring yours to you, and make you a cup of tea?”.
Shrugging once more, Susie slowly walked back down the hallway, the wheels of her walking frame still squeaking.
“Maria, are these Susie’s dentures?”, Sasha asked, appearing next to her holding a smaller pair of dentures in her gloved hand.
“ They could be but they all look the same. What has happened overnight?”.
“Oh you know how it is, they take them out and put them down wherever they are”, Sasha replied. Glancing down, she saw the dentures Maria was holding,” Oh those belong to Dennis, I saw Susie walk into his room a little while ago”.
Rolling her eyes, Maria handed them to her,” Can you give them back to him please? At least we know why all these dentures are missing! It’s Susie, trying to find her own”.
Chuckling, Sasha disappeared with the two dentures, leaving Maria with the trolley.
Breathing deeply, Maria tried to focus back on the charts.
“Urm, well that pair belonged to Dennis but the other didn’t belong to Susie”, Sasha said, walking back to her a few minutes later with a bemused expression on her face.
“Well who did they belong to?”.
“Mary, in the next room. I think Susie has been trying on every pair she could find”.
Locking the trolley again, Maria laughed,” They have to be somewhere. Why don’t you check the general bathrooms and toilets and I’ll look in the kitchens, just in case”.
Nodding Sasha went to look, whistling to herself softly.
The kitchen was spotlessly clean, the counter tops scrubbed after breakfast finished.
Opening drawers, Maria found a ball of knitting wool, the pen she’d lost last week and a silk scarf that she was unable to place.
“Excuse me!”, a voice called from the dining room.
Maria glanced into the room. Everyone had moved into the lounge or back to their bedrooms, leaving all the tables empty, except for Susie, sitting with her hands folded. She coughed delicately as she saw Maria look at her.
“I’m still looking for them Susie”.
“Looking for what?”.
“Your dentures, they’re missing”.
“Are they?’ Susie asked in surprise, standing up and reaching for her walking frame, the chair legs grating across the floor,’ well, I’d better look for them, hadn’t I?”.
“No, it’s okay, you don’t have to….’ Maria started to say and then stared at the back of Susie’s woolen skirt, hanging past her knees.
Attached to a neat darn were her dentures.
“Susie, are these yours?”, she asked with a smile, pulling them free.
“Oh there they are’ Susie said,’ it’s the first time one’s taken a bite out of me!”.