"Happy birthday Jackie".
Mrs Beechcroft stared at her husband, who was standing next to her bed with a card and a wrapped present.
"Today isn't my birthday".
"Yes it is Jackie". He looked earnestly at her. "May 5th remember."
"No." She shook her head violently. "My birthday is May 29th."
"No darling. It's May 5th". He looked kindly at her. "Come on, open your card."
Feeling dazed, Mrs Beechcroft reached for her card and opened it.
"Oh thank you Clive." She smiled, putting it on her bedside cabinet. It had the picture of a cat on the front.
Clive handed her the present. It was a box of Belgian chocolates.
She hugged Clive. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Do get up darling. I thought we would eat out today as it is your birthday and I also picked out a cake for the birthday girl. No candles of course". He chuckled.
All in all it was the best birthday Mrs Beechcroft had ever had, especially when they watched the DVD of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo together in the evening.
Mrs Beechcroft had just dried and put away the last of the cutlery when she turned and saw her dressing gown hanging on the door handle as usual, only it wasn't light grey any more. It was a light brown. She gasped. She shut the white cutlery drawer quickly and walked over to inspect her dressing gown.
It was light brown on the outside and the inside was lined with dark brown fleece. If the two dark brown strands that were hanging down had been tied she would have thought it was brand new but they were not. It was certainly warm and comfortable. Mrs Beechcroft tried it on and tied the strands together. It fitted perfectly. She took it off and hung it up again. It also had pockets.
In one there was a clean white tissue folded up which dismissed any doubt that Clive had just bought it for her and hung it there as a surprise. New dressing gowns had empty pockets. Besides Clive usually toild her when he bought her anything, or else gave it to her himself like he had done with the Belgian chocolates on her birthday. Suddenly a wave of nausea swept over her and she ran for the kitchen sink. She then walked shakily to the brown dining room chair, sank into it and sobbed as if her heart would break.
"Darling, what's wrong?"
Clive had come in as soon as he heard her crying.
"I didn't want to believe it" she sobbed.
"Didn't want to believe what?" Clive put his hand on her shoulder, looking at her with concerned eyes.
"All these things that are happening, everything changing slowly over all these months..." her words trailed off.
Clive sat down next to her and took her hand.
"What do you mean?" he asked gently.
Mrs Beechcroft's sobs soon subsided. She looked anxiously at her husband.
"Do you think I'm losing it?"
He looked bewildered but didn't reply.
"You do. That's why you don't say anything."
"Jackie, it's all in your mind..." he began and then faltered "I don't mean that. I mean..."
"It's ok. I know what you mean."
"What do you want to do? I could ring the surgery and get you an appointment."
She shook her head violently. "No."
"But why not?"
"I don't want to be sent away, for it to be official, to be told by a doctor that I'm well..."
For the first time a flicker of discomfort swept across Clive's face as he watched his wife. Then he got a grip on himself again.
"What do you want me to do?"
"I just need some time to myself."
He looked at her quizzically.
"Yes" she insisted
He raised his eyebrows.
"Please" she almost screamed.
"Ok" he agreed. He kissed her on the head softly and left.