Too Late


The air in that little living room. Stale, hot, smelling faintly of fruit drops. I turned my head and looked at my mother, hoping to see something in her face, signaling that we were about to leave.
But there was nothing. Instead she leaned back on the couch a bit and smiled at Cecilia. ”So, how is Magnus doing? And his children?”

I eyed the old woman. Her thin lips, watery eyes, all the wrinkles. She was as wrinkled as the small green grapes in the delicate glass bowl on the table in front of us. ”Why doesn’t she throw those things out?”, I had whispered to my mother earlier, as we sat down . My mother gently slapped my hand. ”Hush! Now you be quiet! Old people, they don’t discard things just because there may be a spot or two on them. ”

Cecilia smiled. ”Oh, Magnus. Well, he is as busy as ever with work. I don’t think he ever will retire. He is so loyal to his clients. It’s hard work you know, being a lawyer. And his daughters are doing so well. You know Anna works as a newspaper reporter? Still hasn’t settled down. Very adventurous she is, always traveling to foreign countries. Maria on the other hand – you know that she is a teacher? – well she has three daughters of her own now. Imagine that!”

Cecilia happily nodded her head and looked at me. ”And you, little one? How are you? You must be hungry! Please, have a danish pastry! Or some grapes!”
I was in fact hungry. But the sight of those wrinkled, pale grapes, and the danish pastry, overflowing with bright yellow cream that smeared the plate, made my stomach turn. ”No thank you. Thank you very much”, I said, as politely as I could. I felt my mother’s disapproving look. It burned on my cheek and made my stomach feel even worse. I just wanted to run away. Out in the fresh air.
”Can I go out in the garden?”, I asked.
”Of course, little one”, Cecilia said.

I stood up and went out as fast as I could, without seeming impolite. Oh, that burning, burning glance of my mother that I now felt on my back. My face turned completely red.

Outside, the afternoon rays of the sun were still warm. That peculiar kind of intense warmth that only the autumn sun produces. Somehow you just know that the intensity is foreboding.
I didn’t find anything to play with in the garden, so I ventured out on the silent village street. After a while, I came to a small playground. There were probably no children living in the village since the playground was almost overgrown and much of the equipment rusty. Cautiously, I sat down on a swing. It creaked and screeched. Slowly, I began to swing. I closed my eyes, swinging higher and higher. Losing track of time.

”Maja, it’s time to go. Please come and say good bye to Cecilia.”
I flinched and opened my eyes. My mother was standing in front of me, with that blank look on her face. It always made me uneasy. I jumped down from the swing, and we went back to Cecilia’s house where I said goodbye as politely as I could.

”Come and visit me again soon, little one. Then I will show you the newborn kittens. They live in the stable. I could have shown them to you now, but your mother insists it is time for you to go home.”
”Oh, kittens!”, I exclaimed. I so much wanted to see them.
”Well, if you had chosen to stay with us, maybe you could have visited them today”, my mother said, her hand firmly placed over the string of pearls around her neck. ”But now it is really time for us to go.”
And I knew there was no point in arguing.

That night, I cried silently in my pillow. Then I made a decision. And finally went to sleep.

The next day, after school, I got on my bike and rode back to Cecilia’s village. To her house.
I leaned the bike against the tree in the yard and slowly, trembling, went up to the house. In front of the door, I hesitated. My heart pounded so hard. Just as I was about to knock on the door, it opened.
”Hello…?”, said the woman who opened the door. She was my mother’s age and eyed me with a somewhat distraught look on her face.
”Hello”, I said, wondering who this person was and why Cecilia didn’t answer the door herself.
”And…who are you?”, asked the woman.
”I am … I am Maja. I came to see Cecilia.”
”Oh”, the woman said. ”Well you see … well I am the district nurse. I come here every week to deliver her medicine, and make sure her leg is healing properly, but today, well, you see…”

Instinctively, I put my hands over my ears. Then I slowly turned around and walked back to my bike.
I didn’t have to hear.
I knew.
It was too late.

Copyright © 2016 Annie Weibull