The Immortal Life of Maude Peterson
People forget they’ve been here before, they just need to be shown the way back--Maude’s last words. The whisper panicked Elinor awake. She pulled the quilt aside and swung her feet to the floor, gripping the edges of the mattress, anchoring herself to her surroundings. Heart crashing in her head and ears, she inched down the hall to check the locks on the front door, checking every window, and the sliding glass to the bedroom balcony, heart now thumping in her stomach.
Elinor shivered as an icy draft swirled about her; cold, whispered breath tickled the tiny hairs in her ear...No matter how long you’ve had, you always want more. Startled, she lost balance, stumbling over Maude’s box, landing on her knees before it. Ripping off tape, she lifted a flap, then another and another, folding them back against its sides until the box’s mouth gaped open like a slack-jawed corpse.
Inside, lay Maude’s meager possessions. There, on top of the thread-worn, pilled red cardigan and a pile of neatly folded periwinkle handkerchiefs, lay a tattered book; The Alchemy of Forever--a velvet ribbon holding it closed. It smelt damp, earthy--like an unheated church, old bones laid to rest. A card nestled between ribbon and cover bearing Elinor’s name, All you were is lost to you now. The answer lies within. Maude. Its words tormented Elinor; she sensed a soul watching, waiting--keeping guard, keeping time. A sleeping spirit trapped between the pages, calling Elinor’s name...looking for a chance to escape, promising to take the horror of that night away forever.
Elinor’d lost count of the number of drinks she’d had--some of them doubles--work phoned demanding she go and find Maude who’d disappeared from the care home wearing just her nightdress and slippers. Driving was a mistake but she was on-call, she shouldn’t have been drinking. In a blink, Maude was standing in the path of the car, in a blink she was gone. Panicking, Elinor reversed and drove off, leaving Maude lying in the gutter. ‘Maude left a note, she wanted you to have this,’ Sarah said, handing Elinor a sealed box.
Whenever Elinor closed her eyes, she saw Maude’s Mona Lisa smile before impact, felt that same grip around her ankle, pushing her foot onto the accelerator and holding it there. Maude’s last words continually reverberated inside her head...People forget they’ve been here before, they just need to be shown the way back.
Elinor ran her fingers over the spine of the book; pulling the tail of the ribbon, unravelling the bow, unwilling willingness forcing her on. The cover creaked and cracked as she opened it...Set yourself free, Maude’s words compelled her to let go, lose herself, Set yourself free...Elinor’s essence intertwined and looped with the Cyrillic script on the page.
Maude looked at the back of her smooth, unlined hand, and Elinor’s face smiled.
Debbie Taggio is 50, she worked as a solicitor specialising in family law before retiring early to look after her two grandchildren and do a bit of writing. She wrote her first novel when she was eleven entitled, Murder at Midnight, the manuscript lost during a house move, remains a great loss to the literary world (in Debbie’s humble opinion). She was longlisted in The Casket of Fictional Delights flash fiction competition and winner of the public vote in Theatre Cloud’s comedy project competition. She has also had a piece published as part of National Flash Fiction Day and articles published in online magazine Henpicked. You can find her at hotflushdiaries.wordpress.com and on Twitter @HotFlushDiaries.