The old lady smiled as she looked through her pile of
fancy get-well cards. One by one she arranged them
neatly on the bedside table in her up-market private
ward. But there was one she folded into a paper
plane. She grinned as she flew it out the open window
into the fading sunshine.
"Gran, that's not nice. Please go and see her before it's
too late." Susan had come to terms with the idea that
the old lady was running out of time in this world.
The time for tears was long passed and they could
talk more openly than ever before.
"You go and see her if you like." said Gran.
"She's your grand-daughter too," said Susan. "You're
in the same hospital and her ward is just a couple of
floors away. Go on, go and see her."
"Well, I've got cancer and she's only having a baby
with that toy-boy thing of hers," Gran spoke quietly
in case someone might overhear.
"Oh Gran, I seem to remember Grandfather was a
good bit older than you but I suppose that was
"Yes, it was different. He could speak properly. He
didn't wear a silly red baseball cap. He didn't eat all
that foreign stuff and he didn't have any other strange
habits either, at least not any I'm going to tell you
about," said Gran.
She said more, "She can do what she likes with her
life but I think she's wasted all that expensive
education and thrown away any chances of a good
marriage. What's more, I've made sure none of my
money will go to these two and their brat-to-be.
Maybe I can't take it with me but I sure-as-hell can
decide how to leave it behind."
"Oh Gran, please be nice. That's my sister you're
talking about. She's got a new baby on the way and
she is your grand-daughter too."
"I don't need to be nice. I'm old and I'm rich," said
Gran. "Anyway, it will mean lots more for you and I
don't want to hear any more about it. Let me sleep
Hours later, alone in the antiseptic half-dark of the
hospital at night, the old lady awoke from the
unnatural dreams that painkillers bring. She reached
out for the lifeline of the bell- push for she could
sense something new about her grasp on life. As she
waited for the ever-so-slow nurse to come she felt
peace and contentment drifting gently over her. But,
this was soon gone. In its place came a ringing in the
ears that grow louder with every passing moment.
The nurse arrived and gently lifted the old lady's wrist
to check her pulse. Gran thought at once that
something was different about the nurse but couldn't
quite understand what it was. Then she saw it wasn't
the nurse that had changed but herself. She was
watching the scene not from safe-in-bed where she
should have been but from high up, floating near the
ceiling. What's more, she could see a strange other-
self lying in her bed. She waved and called out. The
ringing in her ears made her voice sound faint and far
Neither the nurse nor the other-self paid any attention.
After a little while, Gran discovered that she was
already becoming less interested in the nurse or even
in the other-self as if what they were doing wasn't
really important any more
Now she was in a dark tunnel moving at speed
towards a light that had a special quality about it. At
first, it was far off but soon she was close and could
feel what the light was radiating. It was love.
She glimpsed a movement beyond the light. It was
the figure of her husband who had gone before her all
these years ago. He was waving as if to tell her to go
back but she didn't want to go back.
"Why should I go back," she said in a voice that
didn't need her to move her lips.
See this and you will understand." The words came
out of the light itself, so gentle but so firm that there
could be no place for any thoughts of dissent. She
was shown her life as if in an instant. It was all there,
what she had done, what she had not done, and what
remained to be done. There was so much still to learn.
"You are to go back now and start again." The light
spoke and then was gone.
She felt herself falling back and got a glimpse of
where she was going. She struggled hard to hold onto
her memories of this life now ending. But she knew
she could not take them with her. They were
beginning to fade away, soon to be forgotten like old
winter clothes put aside with the turn of the seasons.
So an old soul came down to live again in the body of
a newborn baby with a mother who loved her and a
father with a strange foreign accent and a red baseball
A hastily summoned doctor joined the nurse at the
bedside of the old lady for whom this life had now
run its course.
The nurse looked up as she said quietly, "She was
struggling so hard to speak with her last few breaths.
It was as if she had just discovered something
important to do before she went. Something about
wanting to change her will."
Starting Again was published in the
ABCtales Competition Anthology,
2011and Cherry-picked by the Editors.