We returned to the retirement village this morning, almost going back to Abuela’s old flat through muscle memory. She didn’t have much chance of remembering, if even we couldn’t. Thankfully, Dad led us to the left, to the left again. Geoff was there, catching me off-guard. He must have come to help, but I hadn’t spotted his car in the carpark when I was on my way in.
“How are you liking the new place?”
I beamed, making it a leading question. Abeula reached over to the table beside her rocking chair. I grasped the tall plastic cup of water on her behalf, but she reached for the framed photograph of herself and her husband.
“Mi media naranja,” Abuela murmured, rubbing her thumb in circles.
I glanced across the room, to where Geoff stood in the doorway, his own attention fixed to the cricket on the television. Feeling a cold shock through my body, I smiled back at my great-grandmother.
“Mi media naranja,” Abuela repeated. “No two oranges are the same. Half an orange, there’s only one other half that’s right.”
I’d heard the story before, but Geoff narrowed his eyes and looked over. He must not have, or at least didn’t recall. Grandma brought out more frames. She carefully placed them around the room.
“Would you like to stay for lunch? June said she could bring something.”
“Yeah, of course,” I accepted, especially given we’d only just arrived.
Even the presence of Grandma and Grandpa couldn’t prevent this from being a short visit.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Just keep Abuela company,” Grandma urged, lowering her voice. “I’ll phone June and let her know.”
She stepped away for a moment, making the call. I engaged in conversation with Abuela, about my week, about my studies, the usual autobiographical topics which made her smile. Every fifteen minutes we recommenced the same chatter. Geoff put up more shelves, keeping himself useful and out of the way. He was just finished, when Aunty June bustled through the doorway. She dumped bags of food on the table. I twirled a lock of hair between my fingers, then reached out, a plate placed into my hands. Geoff lined up after me, to make wraps from the smorgasbord of salad ingredients which Aunty June provided. We found seats and ate. A bit over five minutes later, I finished off my wrap. Even though the rain had dissipated, humidity hung thick in the air.
“We’d better made tracks. See you later, Abuela. I love you.”
I kissed her grey hair, and waited until I was out into the hallway before I finally cried. Geoff’s body was there to catch me, as we passed out of the building.
“Thank you for coming today.” My voice sounded breathy. “I’m sure Abuela really appreciated it.”
Geoff shrugged his shoulders.
“Thanks, it’s no dramas.”
Reaching the carpark, we parked, his vehicle in the corner. A willow tree overhung the roof. We said goodbye, then drove home, so I could slump into bed. I flicked through Instagram on my phone for a little bit, then nodded off for an afternoon nap. When I woke, I checked the time. Smelling that dinner was being cooked, I ambled out to the kitchen and loungeroom. I walked down the stairs and fixed my eyes onto the glowing screen of the television. Brendan Carberry read the bulletin, his bald head smooth and his soft British accent even smoother.
“A body has been found in a parked car in Penrith in Sydney’s west. He has been identified as Stuart Courier, a psychiatric nurse at Nepean Hospital. The twenty-seven-year-old’s cause of death is yet to be determined.”
I turned off the news, unable to face it. Dad’s wineglass was waiting for him on the dining table. My eyes fixed onto it, as a gentle breath ruffled my unruly hair, blowing in through the open back doors. I craved another drop, another taste, like it was the only thing that could set off a bright light in me, but I knew it probably wasn’t for the best. Therefore, I sat down at the table, dinner in front of me. Mum had cooked a delicious-looking chicken satay stir-fry. Usually, Mitchell was the one to use the wok. We would keep it clean, so that it would be able to cook with it again.
Abbey Sim is the founder of Huldah Media. She is a creative writing, law and theology student who lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Abbey desires to explore themes of hope, love and longing through her storytelling. She is the author of 'Shadow' and 'From the Wild'.