Thomas opened the trunk of the car and gave the woman Annalisa’s suitcase, and opened the passenger door.
“That wasn’t very nice, you know.” Annalisa laughed coldly and shrugged her shoulders. “Please, come out of the car, and we’ll just go inside and see how it is, alright?” Thomas offered his hand to help his mother out of the car.
“Well alright, but only to see how it is…then we can go home.” She told him swatting at his hand as she slowly left the car. Pulling her fur coat tightly around her shoulders, she narrowed her eyes at the house. Thomas began leading her towards the front doors, Annalisa moved as slowly as her aching hips would allow. Eventually, she crossed the threshold and bit her lip. The front entrance was beautifully decorated with lavish flower arrangements and paintings along the egg-white walls. Standing before a large oak desk was Dr. Sharma, a stunning Indian woman in a power-suit. She smiled at the sight of Annalisa.
“There you are, Mrs. Graeme!” she beamed. Annalisa crossly sighed and muttered.
“Its Ms. Dear, my husband died two years ago, and I certainly don’t need you reminding me!” Dr. Sharma blushed and smoothened her blouse.
“Right, I’m sorry Ms. Graeme.” She nodded politely to Thomas. “Would you like me to give you a tour?” Annalisa rolled her eyes, and began to follow Dr. Sharma. They stopped in front of a large room filled with tables and windows, where many of the residents were sitting, eating breakfast, and chatting with one another. “This, Ms. Graeme, is the dining room.”
“Boy that’s obvious, wouldn’t have guessed that in years!” Annalisa replied hotly. Deep, bellowing laughter arose from one corner of the dining room, where a cheerful man in a purple bathrobe and pyjamas sat. He gave Annalisa a hearty wink and returned to his meal. Dr. Sharma politely forced a grin and proceeded to lead Annalisa and Thomas down a hallway past another room where an aerobics class was taking place.
“We’ll just go up a flight of stairs to your room.” Dr. Sharma said with a pleasant smile. “If stairs are any trouble for you, we have this.” Annalisa stopped dead and looked from her to Thomas. At the foot of the stairs was a lift with bright pink cushions.
“If you think I’m going to let that touch my arse, you’ve got another thing coming lady!” was what she wanted to say, but she held her tongue and proceeded to climb the stairs with ease. Annalisa’s room was the third door on the right. It wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t cramped either. The wallpaper was bright peach with white flowers, and the carpet was thick and soft. The bed looked neat and cozy, and the wooden dresser was decorated with doilies. Sunlight poured through the window and there was another door leading to what Annalisa assumed was the bathroom.
“Looks nice, doesn’t it, mom?” Thomas whispered. Annalisa shrugged and took a few steps inside. The air smelled like lilac scented freshener. Cheap Annalisa thought. “You’ll be alright here, really.” His words provided no comfort whatsoever.
“Ms. Graeme, would you mind if Thomas and I stepped out into the hall for a few minutes to go over some paperwork?” Annalisa waved them off and placed a hand on a wooden bed knob. When she heard the door close behind her, she wasted no time in walking over to the window and throwing it open. She could climb out onto the roof of the porch, and she meant to do so. Annalisa had managed to get one foot out before hearing Thomas and Dr. Sharma rush into the room.
“Ms. Graeme!” Dr. Sharma exclaimed. “Please, you’ll hurt yourself, come inside!” Thomas had climbed out onto the roof behind Annalisa and held out a hand.
“She’s right, you need to come back inside.” Annalisa almost shook her head, but she suddenly began to feel quite dizzy. Taking Thomas’ hand she was helped back inside and found herself on the plush mattress of her bed. “Are you alright?”
Annalisa began to laugh, covering her face with her hands. “I’m not dead, Tommy.” Dr. Sharma sighed and walked towards the door.
“I’ll have to put locks on, Ms. Graeme.” She said. Annalisa sat up slowly and held up a hand.
“No, I won’t try it again.” With you watching she thought, suppressing a grin. Thomas rubbed his temples and stood up.
“You’ll be alright, I’ll call you in the morning, ok?” Annalisa frowned, but didn’t protest. She knew she wouldn’t be able to change his mind. Thomas hugged her gently and excused himself from the room.
“Are you hungry, Ms. Graeme?” Asked Dr. Sharma. “Most of our residents will be finished breakfast by now, but there’s plenty left over if you feel like it.” She didn’t want any, but she didn’t want to be cooped up in her room either. So she followed Dr. Sharma down to the dining room, which was much less busy than it was earlier. Annalisa helped herself to a slice of toast and bacon with some tea and sat at an empty table in the far corner of the room. While she nibbled at her food, she looked out at the gardens from one of the large windows. She almost didn’t notice that someone had sat next to her.
“Pen tells me you climbed out your window.” Said a low voice. Annalisa gave a startled cough and stared at the man who had winked at her earlier. He was her age, or, at least he looked close to it, and had a trimmed, wispy beard and green, owl-like eyes.
“I…I may have. Who’s Pen?” The man chuckled and helped himself to a piece of bacon.
“Penelope. lives in the room next to yours. She hasn’t left it since I can remember.”
“Then how did she tell you?” Annalisa asked quietly.
“Well she’s...” he seemed to frown for a second before continuing. “We’re friends, I was visiting her.” Annalisa was about to ask him another question before a plump woman with a large mole stood by them, handing Annalisa a little cup with a pill.
“Dr. Sharma says you take this at breakfast.” Annalisa quickly swallowed the pill and handed the cup back to the woman who left. The man smiled at Annalisa.
“What’ve you got? It’s lemon and pollen for me, puff up like a sheep!” he said, puffing his cheeks with air and widening his eyes.
“What?” Annalisa asked, tilting her head as the man exhaled.
“Allergies, that’s what that was wasn’t it?” He asked, still smiling.
“Oh, that. Well my allergy is pretty unavoidable.” When the man opened his mouth to continue, she added hastily. “People, it’s people.”