Friday, February 7, 2014

Fiction Friday: Spoiler Alert, Take Two

If you're like me, you sometimes skip to the second-last chapter of a book, just so you can find out how it ends. I always go back to where I've left off, because I'm interested in learning how the author gets to that climax, but I have NO PATIENCE.

Last week, I wrote a violent death for Agnes. This week, I'm taking a stab at the first scenario: a peaceful death as an elderly person. 

So here we go: The Death of Agnes, Take Two

Agnes slid into Glen's old, moth-eaten sheepskin jacket. It was miles too big for her and in dreadful condition, but it was the warmest thing she could find. The fleecy inside nuzzled against her sweater like a benevolent cloud. She imagined she could smell him, but more likely it was just the smell of the fur itself. Regardless, she had a flash of him on cross-country skis, gliding with long strides down a gentle slope, trees on either side of him, the sun low on the horizon, casting long shadows. He'd been breaking the trail for her, and she'd followed with a full heart.

The warmth of that memory and of the jacket warmed her inside and out as she grabbed some kindling and laid a fire in the woodstove. In minutes, flames were leaping and dancing toward the chimney. She shut the stove door and placed the kettle on top of it to boil some water for tea.

She heard boots stomping on the porch.

"Morning, Mom!" Gisela called from the kitchen door, placing Mara's safety seat on the floor before popping back outside for her bags - so many bags! Babies certainly didn't travel light, and the groceries added to the load. These days, she thought twice about leaving the house, but this was one excursion she wouldn't miss.

"Want a hand?" Agnes offered, but was already reaching into the safety seat to release Mara from the air bags that would protect her if there were ever an accident. "Well, hello there, sweetheart," she murmured as she nuzzled Mara's soft neck.

Mara giggled and grabbed a fistful of Agnes' grey hair. Agnes carried her to the rocking chair near the woodstove and grabbed one of the books she always kept handy. She wrapped the sheepskin around Mara as well, nestling her like a mother bird. Mara calmed and sucked her fists as she listened to the nonsense rhymes about ducks and trucks.

"Sorry it's still chilly, Gisela," Agnes called. "I only just got up, if you can believe it."

"No worries. We're bundled up. I see you've got the kettle on for tea. I brought Rugelach for a treat!"

"Oh! Haven't had that in years! Did you make it?"

"Hah! Who has time for baking pastry when you have an infant in the house?" Gisela continued putting the groceries into the fridge and cupboard, then brought a plate of pastries to the living room.

"Thank you for this," Agnes looked at Gisela as she took a bite. "It brings my mother very much to mind. Good memories."

"You're not going to wait for the tea?"

"Oh, I suppose I should, but I'm feeling like a naughty child today. And I have a bitter headache, so maybe it's low blood sugar."

"Can't argue with that."

Mara began to fuss and arch her back.

"Gisela! Take her!" Agnes' voice was suddenly sharp and commanding.

Gisela took Mara, who calmed instantly, then looked at Agnes questioningly.

"Thank you, dear," Agnes said to Gisela, still shaking. "I thought I was going to drop her. I'm all cloudy today."


"No. Clammy. No. Clumsy. Yes, that's it," Agnes stumbled for the word. "Or maybe 'cloudy' was the right word after all!" She forced a laugh.

"Mom? Do you want to lie down?"

Agnes nodded and tried to rise, but fell back into the chair.

"I'm feeling a little weak just now. Could you give me a hand, dear?"

Gisela placed Mara in her seat (where she fussed because she'd thought a feed was coming), then helped Agnes to the bedroom.

"Here, let me get that jacket off you," she suggested and began pulling it away from Agnes' shoulders.

"No," Agnes pulled away from Gisela's hands. "Glen," which seemed explanation enough.

Gisela helped her lie down, then pulled a warm blanket over her. "I'll just get Mara then come in and join you. Can I get you anything?"

Agnes shook her head and squeezed her eyes shut. If she could just sleep until this headache went away.

Gisela settled into the reading chair beside Agnes' bed. Mara took a minute to stop her hiccup-crying, then settled in at Gisela's breast.

Gisela looked at her mother as the baby's rhythmic suckle calmed her.

Agnes seemed to have fallen asleep, as had Mara. Gisela lay down beside her mother, baby on her chest. Surrounded by the light snores of her loved ones she started to drift off.

"Glen," Agnes stated.

Gisela waited for more, but there was nothing, so she allowed herself to drift back to her dreams.

Gisela awoke to Mara grunting herself awake. She loved watching the baby let go of sleep. She resisted waking almost as much as she resisted falling asleep, poor thing.

She sat up carefully, worried she would wake her mother, and carried Mara to the other room where she could soothe her. Then she went back to the bedroom and sat in the reading chair.

It was only then that she really looked at Agnes. She was gone. Gisela knew it at a glance.

She panicked. How could she not have known? What had she been thinking?

She pulled Mara up against her chest and she wept. There was nothing else to do.

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