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Author's Chapter Notes:
I wrote this for the February theme of Forgetfulness in the Day Girls Forum in Lime Green Musings, and thought I'd post it here for anyone who doesn't visit there.

It is only supposed to be 500 words but is a couple of hundreds words longer.

“Who are you? Go away! Please, just go away!!” The voice was harsh, frightened. Hands were held up as though to push her away. She took a step forward and he shrieked. “No-o-o-o! Leave me alone! What have you done with my wife?”

The last words came out in an angry howl and Madge stopped dead, her mind in turmoil. The young man who looked after Jem stepped forward and indicated the door. Madge slipped out, closed the door and leaned against it in shock. Jem didn’t know who she was! He was afraid of her! How had it got to this?

Tears slid down her cheeks as she carefully made her way down the stairs, holding on tightly to the banister. She didn’t trust her shaking legs to hold her up. Going into the sitting room, she crossed to the piano and stared at the photographs arrayed on its lid. The one of their wedding day still held pride of place! How long ago that was now! Her eyes strayed to others: David at a few days old; the whole family at the Round House; David receiving his degree; Jem and she on the beach in Australia: Sybil’s and Josette’s weddings; the grand-children; Jo’s family….

She wiped the tears away, picked up the wedding photo and stroked Jem’s face. How handsome he was! How young they now seemed! Old age had crept up on them almost unnoticed. They’d still been happy after all the years, still in love, still sharing confidences – until Jem’s eightieth birthday approached. Then, the irritating forgetfulness he was exhibiting began to increase at an alarming rate. Whole swathes of their recent past had disappeared from his mind. He began to wander the house, unable to sit still. He often forgot where he was, didn’t recognise his surroundings, and grew frightened when that happened, clinging to her like a child. There were times when he didn’t even seem to know who he was anymore.

The anger was a new development. He fought against whatever she wanted him to do - whether it was to eat a meal or put on his coat - and stamped his feet in fury. This was combined with an ever-deepening depression. He cried for long moments, then was himself again, until the next time. David worried about his mother’s health and well-being, so had engaged a young man to live in and see to Jem’s needs. This gave her some much-needed relief, but it also broke her heart. She had lost her purpose in life.

How much worse could it get? He had forgotten his own son’s name. He stopped recognising his grandchildren a few months ago. Joey was also forgotten, as were his nieces and nephews. Strangely, he still knew Jack. The latter was the only one, apart from Madge, who brought out the old Jem hidden deep inside the bewildered man. If he was now frightened of his own wife, thought she was some stranger who had wandered in off the street, would Jack also now be a stranger?

Tears blinded Madge. Jem was leaving her, inch by painful inch, and there was nothing she could do to stop the relentless process. Soon, the man she loved would be a mere shell of his former self, unknowable to her. How could she go on? She felt so alone and so lonely….

Annoyed with herself for the self-pity, she replaced the photographs and went to make a pot of tea. She carried the tray slowly up the stairs and entered Jem’s room. His eyes were closed, his head resting against the chair back. How old he looked! Yet there were still vestiges of the young man he had been – the handsome cheekbones, the full head of hair, albeit now snow white, the eyes she had always thought so beautiful, but now often confused and fearful.

Terry, the young man, removed the tray from her hands. He looked at her anxiously. “You okay? That must have been a dreadful shock.”

His warm brown eyes radiated comfort. She nodded. No words could ever explain the terror she had felt in that moment when Jem rejected her. She carried Jem’s cup over and set it on the table beside him. She knelt in front of the chair and took her husband’s cold hands.. His eyes opened. He was at peace for the moment and smiled down at her.

She stroked the withered face. “Do you know who I am, dearest?” she whispered.

He leaned forward until his forehead touched hers. “I’ve forgotten your name,” he said tenderly, “but I know I love you, have always loved you. You are my reason for living.”


*****



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