Too Late

It was all a long time ago yet the image in Gloria’s head seemed as clear as if she’d seen it yesterday. Imprinted, she couldn’t un-see it. The green was greener, the red brighter, the blue crisper, like a technicolour movie.

A red coat, a green meadow, a blue sky.

Her new doctor dismissed her with a prescription for Valium. She put them in the drawer along with the other tranquilizers she’d accumulated from all the other doctors over the years. She never told them of course, she just said she couldn’t sleep, had panic attacks, wished she was dead. She couldn’t tell them it was getting worse, that it was harder to block the image out these days, now she lived independently, now she was on her own every day, now there was nobody left.

She’d never told anyone, the nuns at school, the nurses in the hospital, the woman who came in daily to help, it was a secret. A secret she’d kept for forty years and now it was too late to tell anyone.

She lay on the narrow bed listening to the wind in the apple tree outside the window, watching the ominous clouds rushing across the sky, picturing the waves crashing onto the beach below the garden, the smell of a scented candle burning on the bedside cupboard, anything to erase that scene from her memory. It was one of the techniques she’d been taught, a meditation to replace an image with another, and another until the original disappeared, but it hadn’t.

A red coat, a green meadow, a blue sky.

Lately if she was out somewhere and caught a glimpse of a red coat in the distance, she’d cross the road, go into a shop, turn around. Now she lived in a town she never saw open fields and the sky was rarely ever as blue as the image in her head but a red coat was an ever-present threat. She reasoned that the answer was not to go out, she didn’t need to anyway but they’d encouraged her. The groceries were delivered, a woman came in to help with the cleaning and the laundry so if she stayed inside she’d never have to catch a glimpse of a red coat.

She’d be safe.

The scented candle gutted itself out in a pool of its own wax and she watched the smoke twist and curl until it disappeared but in that instant the image appeared again, but this time it was different. This time the scene included a column of black smoke. She sat up, grasping for the picture, why was there smoke?

A red coat, a green meadow, a blue sky and a column of black smoke.

She closed her eyes, hands over her face, willing the image to appear. The irony, after years of trying to push it away, of struggling to bring the full picture to the forefront of her mind. Yes, there had definitely been smoke. She watched as it rose up, billowing, black, smuts falling onto her red coat as she lay on the green grass, the smoke rising into the blue sky.

The muffled screams of Uncle Joe, his face pressed against the window before the cabin went up in flames, the sound of butane cannisters exploding. His hands tied, his ankles tied, a scarf pushed into his mouth.

The taste of him in her mouth, the smell of him on her blouse.

A red coat, a green meadow, a blue sky, a column of black smoke.

© Nita Lewsey 2019

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Categorised as Stories

By Nita Lewsey

I'm a writer of short stories, flash fiction and am currently working on a novel. I've had stories published in anthologies and self-published a collection on stories on Amazon. I have long dreamt of writing full time & this dream is now a reality.

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