Disclaimer: Don't own.
Word count: 637
Summary: "You'll have to have patience with the old dear," the head nurse says. "She's quite confused, and there's not much time left now. Play along, if you can."
Note: Written as an assignment for my writing course, in which I was supposed to take a scene from the book and rewrite it from another perspective, using a maximum of 600 words.
The hallways of the hospital are long and winding, walls painted a dull mint green and overhead fluorescent lights reflecting brightly in the polished floor. The head nurse navigates her domain with ease, turning this way and that, quickly checking in on patients in their rooms, and Isabelle can do nothing but trail after her – it's her first day at the location and she is already hopelessly lost in the maze that is the hospital's third floor, in the sea of nurses and doctors and visitors that flow to-and-fro down the hallways.
"Here we are," the head nurse says as she comes to a stop by room C308. The door is open, but she raises her hand and knocks firmly on it anyway before turning to Isabelle. "You'll have to have patience with the old dear," she says. "She's quite confused, and there's not much time left now. Play along, if you can."
The room is painted bright by the morning sun reflecting off the beige walls and the table by the window is overflowing with beautifully colored flowers. Isabelle tries to pick out their scent but cannot detect any fragrance except the lemon tinted cleaning agent and disinfectant that always lingers around hospitals – sometimes she wonders if it hides something else, perhaps the corrosive smell of death and decay that must cling to such a place as this.
In the middle of the room there is a large hospital bed, surrounded by machines. It makes the room seem small and crowded. There's a lady in the bed, wearing a dark red bathrobe on top of the standard hospital gown, her face wrinkled with age and her white hair in disarray. She smiles as they enter the room, hand reaching out towards them.
"Cecilia!" she says, and the head nurse motions for Isabelle to go ahead.
The old woman's hand is cold and clammy, her skin rough to the touch. Isabelle lowers her head as the woman gently touches her fingertips to Isabelle's cheek.
"You brought me Cecilia," she breathes, looking past Isabelle towards the head nurse.
"Of course I did, Miss Tallis," the head nurse says, preoccupied. She's studying the readings of the machines by the head of the bed, jotting down notes on a chart, frowning and double checking the numbers.
"Did you see the play, Cecilia?" Miss Tallis asks Isabelle, and Isabelle nods, taking the old woman's hands in her own once again.
"I did," she answers. "It was lovely."
"And Robbie? Did Robbie see the play?" Miss Tallis is having a difficult time keeping her eyes open, and Isabelle can almost feel the fatigue rolling off her.
"He did," she says, her imagination painting her a picture of a young boy sitting by his mother's side, large eyes fixed to a stage where actors and actresses roam, performing scenes from Macbeth or perhaps Romeo and Juliet. A grandson, perhaps. Cecilia's son. "We both did. It was very nice."
"I am glad," Miss Tallis breathes, her fingers giving a faint squeeze to Isabelle's hand.
"Rest now," Isabelle says, gently easing out of the woman's hold and pulling the covers of the bed up to cover her chest.
"Cecilia," Miss Tallis murmurs, her breathing deepening and her eyes valiantly trying to stay open, blinking against tears. "You forgive me, don't you? Don't you both forgive me?"
"Of course," Isabelle soothes, lightly touching the top of the old lady's hand, wondering what sin could possibly still be plaguing her. "Of course we do. There's nothing to forgive. Now, rest."
"I am glad," Miss Tallis says once more and sighs, drifting off with a slight smile on her face. Isabelle thinks that perhaps it holds absolution.
The very last line of the book ("And now I must sleep") had me wondering if Briony was speaking about regular sleep or if she was referring to death (or perhaps sinking down into her oncoming dementia, forgetting everything). This led me to ponder the confusion she's soon going to face and wonder if her memories of Cecilia and Robbie would be amongst the first or last to go. Maybe she's forever doomed to relive her childhood mistakes in her mind (not to punish herself but because they're the only memories of hers left to fade?).