Reader fiction: New Year's angel

By Mary Dwyer

Hannah sat heavily onto the bed. Her body was limp and shivery. She was grateful, grateful for the door, grateful for the room , grateful for the bed.  This room was her place of refuge, her place where she planned her elaborate other life, her place where she fought to come back from the dark place.

As she sat there, her body to recover, her mind wandered back outside again to that little girl she had just seen. She was the certain image of Bridget so many years ago. Hannah had been used to seeing unwelcome ghosts in the past but this was not one of those. The little girl smiled at her and seemed to see inside her soul in such a way that left Hannah in this state.

Hannah’s mind wandered back to her childhood in Dromore. Her parents and her beloved sister, Bridget, the happiness she felt then she could still feel now as vividly. That feeling had carried her through so much. Then pain of leaving home and the joy of weekends and holidays spent back there with her mother and Bridget now passed through her thoughts. She lived the elation of meeting James and her success at work. How proud her mother had been and how happy Bridget had been for her. Bridget had married and her husband had become part of the family.

 Then suddenly everything changed for both of them, their dear mother suffered a heart attack and died.  Hannah returned to work. Gradually a darkness took her over and she felt am emptiness like she had never felt before. She could feel a touch of it now and it frightened her. The next few months went by in a fog, the hospital, the doctors, James, her boss and that interview. For an insurance company they weren’t very understanding. If there was anything that they could do to support her when her job ended. All of the empty words just designed to get her to go away. At least she had James but then his support too came to an end. He too would do whatever he could to support her. Everything, but stay to support her. Her landlord would do all he could to support her but he needed that apartment for someone like Hannah used to be. It was then she found this bedsit. It was small and bare but it became her safe place to start her new life.

Thirty years had passed so quickly. The episodes of dark emptiness had eased with the help of medication and the appointments. Bridget never knew. Hannah could never bear to let her sister see her pain. She sent a beautiful card every Christmas and birthday signed Hannah and James. She crossed the city to post them so that the postmark would never have given her away. It was a relief when An Post just stamped Ath Cliath. As the years went by, Hannah developed a strength inside which held her strong and self-reliant. She became close to no-one but was courteous to all

So many times before she had fantasised about going home again but she had never felt like this. She gathered herself to get across to the kettle to make tea. This routine had stood her well over the years. A cup of tea and a biscuit had been her comfort so many times before. That little girl on this New Year’s Day had totally unnerved her. Was she getting sick again.

The following day Hannah awoke in the same bed. Her sleep had been broken by images of that little girl. She found herself taking her little savings and wrapping herself up against the weather. Nothing less than taking action would be acceptable now. She was sixty two years old and her sister was two years older. That little girl's face was urging her on, to the taxi, to the train station, to the bus station. Six hours later Hannah was standing at the bus stop in a Dromore very different to the one she had  left thirty years before. She looked at the church, the church where she had last attended her mother’s funeral mass and the graveyard where her mother lay. She walked towards the church and went inside. It was decorated with candles and greenery and in the far corner was a crib.  A few people knelt and prayed, mostly women. She walked slowly to the crib. An elderly woman stood aside to allow her to pray. The woman glanced at her and spoke. Hannah was in a daze still led by that little girl. She looked at the woman and asked her to repeat what she had said. The blood drained from her body and the sounds of the church moved into distance. In the woman’s face she saw the little girl. Her big sister held her now as she had held her thirty years before at their mother's graveside. The prayer Bridget made in this church every day of every year past had been answered.

Nadine Reid