Home is Where the Heart Stops

Part one

The smell hit her the instant she opened the door. A mix of cats, geraniums and cigarettes. Isabel hated smoking and potted geraniums in equal measure. She didn’t own a cat. She shoved the mountain of accumulated mail out of the way with her crutch. The paramedic placed her bags inside the hall and disappeared down the overgrown path without saying goodbye, still grumbling about how you were only allowed one piece of luggage in an ambulance.

Isabel closed the door behind her and locked it. Her hands shook and her heart threw summersaults of joy to be home, in her own private space, finally away from the prying eyes and probing fingers of the white coats. She’d thought this day would never come. She’d thought it was over, the end of the road, kaputt, finito, nothing left except bedpans, pain and humiliation. No future except days lying in her own stink, face down in a bowl of hospital porridge while the fat lady sang.

Panting with exertion she shuffled slowly into the living room and sank into the cane chair by the French doors that faced onto the garden. She’d missed her mountains, the light and emptiness of the vast sky. Her solitary room on Ward 3A looked out onto a brick wall. She couldn’t see the sky at all, not even a sliver. The only way she could tell if the sun was shining was by the light reflecting in the brickwork, the changes in hue. On a bright day the bricks gleamed like tiger’s eye. On a grey day they were a dull flesh pink.

Now Isabel surveyed her garden, still marvellous despite the weeds and rampant lawn. The hollyhocks blazed magenta. The roses drooped with lush scarlet blooms, the honeysuckle smothered the archway and on the horizon Morven and Scaraben glowed purple in the evening sun. She sat there for a long while, just breathing, in, out, in, out. She was alive. She was home. No one could hurt her now.

And then she saw the boots. Dirty workmen’s boots placed casually in the middle of the kilim rug she’d brought back from Turkey. They were caked with mud, one boot tilted as if they’d been cast off in a hurry, the soles worn, the brown leather wrinkled with age. Her chest tightened in panic and she scanned the room for other signs of disturbance. Everything seemed much as she’d left it the day of the accident other than a layer of dust and a few cobwebs. There were books and magazines in a tidy pile on the coffee table, logs stacked by the wood burner and dead daffodils in a stained glass vase on the window sill. Her grandmother’s vintage clock had stopped at five to five.

Isabel couldn’t bear to touch the disgusting boots with her bare hands so she nudged them closer with her crutch. One of them tipped over and a tiny square of paper fell out. Leaning unsteadily from her chair she picked it up and unfolded it with trembling fingers.

Written in red biro on a torn piece of graph paper was just one word, ‘remember’.

To be continued…

image by the author

8 thoughts on “Home is Where the Heart Stops

  1. I Guess partly written from experience? Very descriptive. What is wrong with potted geraniums? Mine have been flowering continuously since May last year!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Concise and realistic action and excitement, setting a contrast with the detail and unconventional beauty, and then the unexpected violation, followed by that note. A real page-turner, a pleasure to read, Nikita.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s the magazine on a previous post? Actually I’m so far behind you may have posted something else. Anyway, if it is, it looks very interesting, a good thing to participate in.

        I didn’t attend the show 😝 but I got some positive feedback from my collaborator.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi, yes previous post. Actually Steve, I was hoping you might like to send in a poem for The Haar? The theme of Behind the Mask is up your street I would imagine? No worries if you don’t have time though. Glad your show went well.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hi Nikita, you’re right, I’m afraid I don’t have any time for anything. I wish you every success, and it looks like it’s going well.

            In case it’s of any use, here is how it worked for me. When I was selling first publication rights to short works, most of the contracts specified one year of exclusivity. (I did sign a couple that I now regret, being an idiot. 😜) With my current contract, it’s quite thorough. Hope I did the right thing signing it. 😸

            Liked by 1 person

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