Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about separation by Ella Ferreli.
Ella Ferreli was born in the Midlands and now lives in Oxford. She is an English and Creative Writing graduate and now works in publishing. Ella has previously published ‘A Night in Paris’ with Fairlight Books.
‘Second Spring’ follows a woman coming to terms with her mother’s declining health.
‘Gail, dear, you can’t hide cards up your sleeve.’
The nurse points out my mother sitting at the far side of the room in the games corner, but I had already heard her voice, high and shrill. The room is bustling with relatives today. I weave through the circle of armchairs and past the high-latticed windows overlooking the grounds. The apple trees that sit against the west side of the building are vibrantly green against the crisp blue of the sky. I see clusters of figures gathered around them, filling their bags with apples.
My mother is wearing the baby pink cardigan I bought her for her birthday and a mischievous smile. She holds a fan of playing cards close to her chest.
‘Hi, Mum.’ I lean down to kiss her on the cheek.
‘Catherine, it’s so nice to see you! Ted, Gail, this is my daughter Catherine.’
We shake hands even though we’ve been introduced before. I pull over an extra chair.
‘Catherine, my darling, won’t you be a good girl and tell Gail that hiding cards is cheating?’
‘No need for that.’ Gail removes the card from the sleeve of her navy cotton jumper and places it on the table.
Mum looks smug.
‘Your mother’s as sharp as a knife,’ Ted chuckles from his place between the two women, a physical buffer.
They begin laughing along with him, as do I, glad that my mother has found companionship. I think Ted hangs around mostly for the entertainment, but he certainly does his bit in dispelling her silly disputes with Gail.
‘I could never get anything past her as a kid,’ I say.
‘I’ll bet! How have you been, Cathy?’ Ted asks.
‘Busy, as always.’
‘Where’s that husband of yours? You never bring him here to see me anymore,’ Mum tuts.
Ted catches my eye across the table and furrows his thick grey eyebrows. He is sharper than my mother, he remembers the things I tell her.