STARTING AGAIN The old lady smiled as she looked through her pile of fancy get-well cards. One by one she arranged them neatly on the bedside table in her up-market private ward. But there was one she folded into a paper plane. She grinned as she flew it out the open window into the fading sunshine. "Gran, that's not nice. Please go and see her before it's too late." Susan had come to terms with the idea that the old lady was running out of time in this world. The time for tears was long passed and they could talk more openly than ever before. "You go and see her if you like." said Gran. "She's your grand-daughter too," said Susan. "You're in the same hospital and her ward is just a couple of floors away. Go on, go and see her." "Well, I've got cancer and she's only having a baby with that toy-boy thing of hers," Gran spoke quietly in case someone might overhear. "Oh Gran, I seem to remember Grandfather was a good bit older than you but I suppose that was different." "Yes, it was different. He could speak properly. He didn't wear a silly red baseball cap. He didn't eat all that foreign stuff and he didn't have any other strange habits either, at least not any I'm going to tell you about," said Gran. She said more, "She can do what she likes with her life but I think she's wasted all that expensive education and thrown away any chances of a good marriage. What's more, I've made sure none of my money will go to these two and their brat-to-be. Maybe I can't take it with me but I sure-as-hell can decide how to leave it behind." "Oh Gran, please be nice. That's my sister you're talking about. She's got a new baby on the way and she is your grand-daughter too." "I don't need to be nice. I'm old and I'm rich," said Gran. "Anyway, it will mean lots more for you and I don't want to hear any more about it. Let me sleep now." Hours later, alone in the antiseptic half-dark of the hospital at night, the old lady awoke from the unnatural dreams that painkillers bring. She reached out for the lifeline of the bell- push for she could sense something new about her grasp on life. As she waited for the ever-so-slow nurse to come she felt peace and contentment drifting gently over her. But, this was soon gone. In its place came a ringing in the ears that grow louder with every passing moment. The nurse arrived and gently lifted the old lady's wrist to check her pulse. Gran thought at once that something was different about the nurse but couldn't quite understand what it was. Then she saw it wasn't the nurse that had changed but herself. She was watching the scene not from safe-in-bed where she should have been but from high up, floating near the ceiling. What's more, she could see a strange other-self lying in her bed. She waved and called out. The ringing in her ears made her voice sound faint and far away. Neither the nurse nor the other-self paid any attention. After a little while, Gran discovered that she was already becoming less interested in the nurse or even in the other-self as if what they were doing wasn't really important any more Now she was in a dark tunnel moving at speed towards a light that had a special quality about it. At first, it was far off but soon she was close and could feel what the light was radiating. It was love. She glimpsed a movement beyond the light. It was the figure of her husband who had gone before her all these years ago. He was waving as if to tell her to go back but she didn't want to go back. "Why should I go back," she said in a voice that didn't need her to move her lips. See this and you will understand." The words came out of the light itself, so gentle but so firm that there could be no place for any thoughts of dissent. She was shown her life as if in an instant. It was all there, what she had done, what she had not done, and what remained to be done. There was so much still to learn. "You are to go back now and start again." The light spoke and then was gone. She felt herself falling back and got a glimpse of where she was going. She struggled hard to hold onto her memories of this life now ending. But she knew she could not take them with her. They were beginning to fade away, soon to be forgotten like old winter clothes put aside with the turn of the seasons. So an old soul came down to live again in the body of a newborn baby with a mother who loved her and a father with a strange foreign accent and a red baseball cap. A hastily summoned doctor joined the nurse at the bedside of the old lady for whom this life had now run its course. The nurse looked up as she said quietly, "She was struggling so hard to speak with her last few breaths. It was as if she had just discovered something important to do before she went. Something about wanting to change her will." end Starting Again was published in the ABCtales Competition Anthology, 2011 and Cherry-picked by the Editors.
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Copyright  Colin W Campbell A Sarawak based writer. from a sarawak based writer