Prologue to a longer story

Prologue;          Hearts

Lovisa finds Elsa sprawled in a recliner. Elsa’s thin legs are encased in faded denim and her slender feet by grubby white socks. Lovisa can see the stained pressure imprint that carries gritty dirt from the floors, a grubby, ghostly representation of Elsa’s feet. A pale yellow hoody covers her body and head. Elsa’s is in there, somewhere but her face is hidden in shadow. Lovisa’s heart pounds as she anticipates this conversation.

Elsa watches TV, her posture says sleep but her eyes are only half closed. Lovisa mutes the TV and sits on a foot stool in front of Elsa, taking her left hand, examining the icy fingers.

“Not working today Els?”

“I’m done Mum.”

Elsa withdraws her hand.

“Done, how can an art student be done, darling?”

“I’ve done all I’m doing. I’m done. I’ve had enough, more than enough, much more than enough. I know what you want and I’m sorry but I’ve had enough. I’m done.”

Lovisa sits up straight on the foot stool and stares hard at her daughter. “Elsa, am I supposed to sit here and accept that you’ve had enough? You’ve had enough and what I feel, what all the people who love us and work with us feel doesn’t matter, all those people, all those hours, all that work, all for us, for you, doesn’t any of that matter? Don’t I matter?” Lovisa is flushed, furious. “Your father, the family, you’ve obligations.”

“It’s not about you mum or them. It’s about me, it’s about me.” Tears stream down Elsa’s cheeks; she pulls her knees to her chest, wrapping her thin arms around her bony shins. Black hollows frame her dark eyes, wide open now as she gazes at her mother who strokes her pale hand. “I’ve had enough. I want it to stop. It’s stopped. No more!”

Lovisa places her fingers at Elsa’s cold blue lips hushing her like she did when she was small. “You’ve stopped?” She asks but her racing heart knows the answer. Chilled flesh confirms what the doctor’s phone call conveyed.

“You know I have, seventeen years of needles and pills, suppositories and inhalers, IVs and catheters, setbacks and recoveries. Mum, you know the signs. It’ll be over soon.” Tears roll down Lovisa’s face now and Elsa brushes them from her cheeks. “It’s my heart mum, my heart.”

“It hurts all the time.”

“Everything hurts; I am so tired of it, so tired.”

“I’ve talked about this.”

“We’ve talked about it.”

Lovisa looks at Elsa and produces a thin lipped grimace, she thought of it as a smile but how can she smile? “We’re at the top of the list; we could get the call any time.”

“And then what mum, some girl is dead. I get to live with more drugs, more needles and a dead girl beating inside me.”

“Reminding me of death every moment.”

“I won’t do it.”

“Let me go,” Elsa whispers, “please.”

Lovisa stands, tall over her reclining daughter. “That heart would be a gift Els, to you and to me, don’t you see that?”

Clattering noises intrude and Elsa’s body stiffens. “Mum, what’ve you done?”

Lovisa withdraws from her daughter as uniforms approach. Green advances, holding an oxygen mask as blue talks about “committal and involuntary detention.” White uniforms enter the room.

Elsa calls, “Mum.” It comes out as a hoarse whisper.

It’s just uniforms, a gurney and the mask. They strap her frail arms; the mask closes in.

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