As Betsy-Ann rocked back and forth, something about the sky beyond the veranda struck her as odd. She couldn’t pin-point how, exactly, but it had to do with the man on the ladder fiddling with wires. Above them, the sky had turned a flat, dull grey.
She swallowed her pills, pocketing the blue one, then slipped out of her house shoes and padded down the wooden steps. ‘Hey, Mister!’ she called out. ‘You’ve broken the sky!’
The man looked down at Betsy-Ann, who now stood barefoot on the grass. ‘Don’t blame me,’ he said, with a screw between his teeth. ‘I’m here to fix it.’ Emblazoned across his shirt were the words Senses Senior Living. He held a screwdriver up to the sky.
Betsy-Ann wiggled her toes. She fumbled for a memory. Strange how grass didn’t feel like grass these days. Didn’t smell like grass. If she could bend, she’d stoop down, gather some in her hands, inhale its grassiness. Daddy’s lawn had the neatest stripes. Was that the memory she’d been looking for? Or was it that grass used to tickle between the toes? This grass was hard and scratchy. Betsy-Ann had never seen anyone mow it, let alone put stripes in it. She looked at her feet, the feet of a dead person – white as wax and wormed with veins. No wonder they could no longer feel. Instead of grass, the scent of peppermint and lemons filled the air. Betsy-Ann sucked it in. Curious, since there are no lemons hereabouts.
From the neighbouring veranda came a familiar greeting: ‘Hello, Margaret.’
She waved at balding, smiling Bob. Betsy-Ann knew she wasn’t Margaret, but Bob seemed to think so.
‘Can you smell lemons?’ she asked.
‘Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement’s,’ sang Bob.
There had been a brochure. Pictures of smiling men and women. Senses Senior Living it said, just like the man’s shirt. The brochure had been placed on her knee, along with more words. Calm was one of them. Reassuring another. New Age Hippy Bullshit had been used, perhaps in relation to Piped Birdsong. For Christ’s Sake, when she tore the pages into tiny strips. Betsy-Ann remembered the blue pill in her pocket. There were others, other blue pills.
‘I could swear it’s only just past breakfast time, but the stars are already coming out,’ she said to Bob.
‘Don’t mind me!’ called the voice from the ladder. ‘Just testing. Next up, lemons.’
Betsy-Ann looked at the stars. She hadn’t noticed before but there was something peculiarly uniform about them, like a sort of star-covered wallpaper. Is that how they’d always been? Back when the sky was different, she could swear she’d seen a shooting star. So many things she was only just noticing. Her fingers trembled. She felt for the blue pills.
‘Want to dance with me under the moonlight, Margaret?’ asked Bob. ‘It’s another full moon tonight.’
‘It always is, Bob. It always is,’ she said, reaching to take his hand.
Born in Derbyshire, and after a long stint in London, EMILY DEVANE now lives and writes in Yorkshire. She is a 2016 apprentice with The Word Factory and is currently being mentored by Ailsa Cox. Her stories have been long/shortlisted in various competitions, published in The Bath Flash Fiction Anthology 2015, Rattletales 4, A Box of Stars Under The Bed (The National Flash Fiction Day Anthology, 2016) and forthcoming in The Lonely Crowd and Bath Flash Fiction Award Anthology.