image of women sitting in armchair writing

Precious Things

She glances towards the window, eyes fixing on the flawless blue sky outside. She feels tendrils of heat edging across the bedcover, slowly diffusing the numbness. Bed rest is hell, she's decided, and this is only the first day. Discharged from hospital this morning after her successful operation, and Buffy and Dawn are buzzing around her, coddling and smothering her with good intentions. She gives brave and grateful smiles but they're getting thinner and thinner.

She just wants to get out of bed and return to a normal life. And after all the fruit her daughters, their friends, and well-wishers from work brought her in hospital, she never wants to eat another orange or bunch of grapes again.

For the moment, she'll go along with it. Rest, relaxation, careful diet, taking one day at a time. She's almost scornful about the cliches that everyone wants to apply to her situation. Neighbours and acquaintances keep filling the awkward silences with earnest platitudes about second chances, her good fortune - her good fortune? Good grief, a lump the size of golf ball has been removed from her head! But she smiles on cue, because it's the pleasant thing to do.

Madness had almost been a release. There were no constraints regarding social niceties. Only brief, all too fleeting moments of clarity pushing at the dark spaces. Sometimes she misses the clarity.

Her eyes focus on the wind chime dangling above the window. It's cheap and tacky and not the sort of thing she would usually hang in her home but the way it catches the light, the way the warm breeze pushes it around so slowly, is pretty. If her so-called brush with her own mortality has taught her anything, it's to savour the pretty things. In the end, that's all there is.

Her pretty, precious daughters and the beauty of trivial things.

She remembers the exact time and date when she had bought that wind chime -- can almost feel the memory take over her and transplant her to another place. They'd driven down to Mexico, she and Hank, three years before Buffy was born. It'd been summer and the shimmering haze of humidity had risen high off the dusty road as they drove. Their first car, no air conditioning, but she'd loved it. Hank just complained during the whole trip. He hated the bugs and the fact that few of the locals spoke English. She kept telling him it was adventurous, that he ought to loosen up and enjoy it.

Things had started to go wrong, even back then. She just couldn't see it at the time.

In any case, he'd rolled his eyes when she came across the trinket stall near the border. Told her not to waste her money. But she'd always liked pretty, frivolous things and she bought it partly to irk him. When they got back from the trip, she'd hung the chime in her dorm room, even though there was never much of a breeze at her window. In some small way it was a tiny act of rebellion against him.

It brings a rueful smile to her lips now. She wonders, briefly, if she should call Hank - assuming he's still living in Spain - and tell him about the health scare. The tumour, she corrects silently, because why should she cosset herself from that simple fact? Funny, she doesn't really want his sympathy, doesn't want anything from him any more now that he's just a stranger on the margins of her life.

She's content to lie here -- for now -- and admire the pretty, inconsequential patterns that the wind chime creates on the wall.

The End