The snow had begun to melt, though it was only February, global warming had screwed with the seasons, causing winter to only last a few months.
The insomnia had brought me awake just before three in the morning. Maybe it hadn’t been the insomnia, maybe it had simply been the nightmares, maybe a combination of both. Most of the nurses were still in the breakroom, using stupid ghost detector apps or playing cards for the spare change they kept in their purses and fanny packs. The nurses who were actually doing their job were trying to calm residents back to sleep. I had given up on complaining about the nightmares; no medications that they provided had seemed to help me sleep.
“Quentin?” a familiar voice called, coming from just outside my doorway. I got up out of bed, using my walker to keep the small amount of balance that remained within me. It took me quite some time, but when I reached him, he greeted me with a wonderful smile. “Jackson,” I said happily, opening my arms to embrace him. “What are you doing up?” he asked, giving me a tight hug, careful not to hurt me. “Nightmares.” Jackson knew that the medication didn’t soothe my issues, so he didn’t report my sleeplessness on the nights that he worked, jeopardizing his honesty with his boss.
I led him into the chair in the corner of my room, hoping he’d stay for a while. “I actually am scheduled to monitor the halls right now, I just stopped in to wish you a happy birthday.” I stared at him in confusion, “it’s my birthday?” I had no idea; since my step-daughter stopped visiting, I’d been having trouble keeping tabs on which day was which. “Yep, do you know how old you are?” he asked, I shook my head. Was it ninety? Ninety-two? “One hundred.” I gasped out of shock, “really?” Nodding, he began heading for the door. “Wait, wait, Jackson? Is anyone coming to visit me today?” I gave him a hopeful look, ever since I’d been admitted in the Pique Nursing Home, I had become so lonely. He looked at me sadly, I already knew the answer. “Not that I know of, I’m afraid. Marie-Ann said that a package was dropped off for you last night though. Would you like me to have someone go get it for you?” I nodded, curious as to who the mystery giver had been. “Now try and go to sleep, you have bingo later this afternoon and you don’t want to lose, especially on your birthday.” “Alright, I’ll head back to bed,” I lied, waving him goodbye.
I approached the scene; it had been blocked off not even an hour before. My partner, Jeffery Kennedy stood beside me, motioning for me to remove the sheet that covered the body. I did as I was told, lifting it gently so I wouldn’t disturb the body. She was mangled all right. We had found the missing body of Katherine Welsh. She had gone missing two weeks prior. Suspected cause of death; she had been stabbed brutally multiple times in the stomach, possibly using a large kitchen knife. She wore a violet dress, torn just below her breasts, where she’d been stabbed. “Detective Garner?” a female detective from the city asked, her blond hair had been tied up in a tiny bun. “Yes,” I responded, “and you are?” She gave me a small smile, shaking my hand, “Detective Hannah, unfortunate circumstances but still a pleasure to meet you.” Leading me over to a marked spot of evidence, I filled her in on the…
I sat up, drenched in sweat. My chest hurt, pain shooting throughout my heart. I was short of breath, the dream- no, nightmare, the nightmare had come again. The nurse watching over the hall I belonged to must’ve heard me struggling to breathe. She rushed into the room, right over to my bedside. “Just breathe, it’s just a dream, just a dream,” she repeated, holding my hand. I was in tears, blurring my vision.
I must have passed out from the stress of the dream, that was a first. Sitting up slowly, I realized that the nurse had left me, alone. With my eyes adjusting to the dark, I noticed a bottle on the swivel table at the end of my bed. After grabbing my glasses off of my nightstand, the grease of my fingers had rubbed most of the gold colored edges, the text on the label came into focus. I stood up using the side of the bed, making my way bowl of ice holding the bottle of wine.
Roodeberg red wine, my favorite. A tag had been attached to the screw-cap, one that would normally be used on a Christmas gift. I unfolded it, seeing a messy interpretation of cursive covering the entire tag.
I hope you are doing well, I’m sorry I couldn’t come to see you but I didn’t have the courage. Please enjoy the wine, I know Roodeberg has always been your favourite.
“Christine,” I whispered to myself, she had been the daughter of my second wife, Caroline. She had been visiting me consistently up until halfway through last year, when her mother had passed away from an infection in her chest.
I read the tag over and over again, tears welling up in my eyes. This had been the first time in over a year that she had been in contact with me, that any of my family had been.
It wasn’t long before the slow stream of tears turned into a sob, waking residents down the hall. A nurse, that I could not pin a name on, rushed in, making sure I was okay. I surely was not, but I lied, saying that I had just experienced another flashback. She nodded, walking me over to my bed, still holding the bottle of wine.
Long after the nurse had left, I read over the note card yet again.
“Yes, happy birthday to me.”
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