Gerald

Leslie groped for the blinds as she awoke, allowing the sun to bleed into the bedroom through the slits. She yawned again, feeling better for having gone to sleep and then looked to her clock on the bedside cabinet. Her eyes opened wide, she had slept in to twelve o'clock!

Spurred into action by the shock of her late awakening, she pulled off her pyjamas and slipped quickly into the shower. Afterwards, she towelled herself off and got dressed, selecting a plain simple dress from her wardrobe. She checked the clock again and grimaced, she'd spent longer in the shower than she had planned, but the warm water felt so good after the early morning aches that had managed to linger through her sleep.

She walked into the kitchen, put the kettle on and slide a couple of slice of bread into the toaster and switched the radio on while she waited for her breakfast. It crackled into life and a newscast began to play.

"...shocked. Postal service officials have refused to comment in the apparent spike in suicides amongst postal workers over the last week..."

She changed the station to some music as the kettle boiled, poured herself a cup of tea and plucked the toast from the toaster before sitting down at the kitchen table. As she ate she eyed the polaroid camera.

It was obviously an older model and being a bit of a camera aficionado, Leslie reckoned it was probably a Model 150, a 1960's model. The black outer surface was scuffed, the leather handle was missing, the only sign it had ever been there were two loops of sorry looking leather where the handle must have been attached to the camera but had been torn or worn away. Pulling it over to her, she felt the weight of it in her hands. It was surprising light but felt nice and solid, despite the obvious wear and tear it had suffered over the years. She tried to avoid thinking about it too much, but the camera was nearly as old as she was. In fact, as the memories came back, her first ever camera had been a Polaroid Model 150. He father had given her his old camera when she was twelve. Forty-two years ago. She smiled, it made her feel old, but it brought back fond memories. That day had been a turning point in her life, the event that made her interested in photography.

Suddenly, she had a curious thought. Had she lost that old camera of hers long ago moving house. Had someone found it and returned it to her? It seemed to incredible a coincidence to be true, but as she thought about it more, holding the firm weight of the camera in her hands, she swore she recognised some of the marks and scoring of the camera's casing. On a whim, she picked on the phone and dialled.

"Hello Sundown Nursing Home, how may I help you?"

"Hello, my names Leslie Klein, my father is one of your guests, could I talk to him?"

"Certainly, I'll just put you through to his wing."

The phone clicked and buzzed as the line went silent for a moment.

"Hello, Ms Klein?"

"Yes?"

"Sorry Ms Klein, but your father isn't accepting any calls at the moment. He is a little confused today."

Leslie bit back tears, her father was eighty-seven and had been suffering from dementia for the last few years. No matter how many times she heard it though, it always felt like the first time she had visited him and he hadn't remembered her. She took a deep breath.

"Would it be okay to visit him? I have something that might help with his memory, an old camera he used to own. I think he might like to see it again."

"I think that would be fine. The home is open to visitors until four p.m., will you be coming today?"

"Mmm." Leslie grunted, swallowing a mouthful of toast and nodding at the phone enthusiastically. "Yes, if that's all right? I'll be there for around three p.m."

"Okay, I have you pencilled in down at reception for three p.m. Thanks for calling. Goodbye."

Finishing her breakfast, Leslie packed the camera away in her coat and headed out to the Landrover. It was now about one o'clock and it was a two hour drive to the retirement home. Hurriedly she made sure she had locked up and then began the journey to see her father.

 

The retirement home was a nice, converted old tudor house with large gardens and grounds situated just over the North Dorset border in Wiltshire. It was three fifteen when she arrived and so when she parked she rushed as fast as she could across the gravel parking lot to the reception area.

"Hello, sorry I'm late. I'm Leslie Klein, here to see Gerald Klein."

The reception looked sign at the sheets on her desk, scanning the pages. "Ahh yes, he's on Sycamore wing, do you think you can find your way up or shall I get a nurse to show you?"

"I'm fine thanks, I've been here before." Leslie smiled and walked to her fathers room. He looked terribly old in the pale afternoon sun, his bald, wrinkled head standing out sharply against the dark blue of his dressing gown.

Her father was sat looking through the window at the lake, watching the birds when Leslie walked in. She carefully slid the camera from her coat and rested in on the bed and then sat down besides him.

"Hello Dad, it's me Leslie."

"What? Who? Oh, Leslie, Leslie! How are you? Still with that newspaper are you? How is your mother?" Gerald grinned.

"Dad, I left the paper a few years ago. Mum's fine though, she says hello." She lied.

"Good, good. It's been so long since I've seen you I can't even remember."

Leslie smiled bitterly and then picked up the camera. "Dad, I brought this to show you, do you recognise it?"

Gerald picked up the camera and he transformed magically before Leslie's eyes. One moment he was an old man, the next he was alive and vibrant, checking the camera over with the kind of speed and accuracy only someone who had been using it for years could have achieved.

"Recognise it? Why of course I do, it's mine! I gave this to my daughter, don't you know. She loved the bally thing. Say cheese!"

Too surprised to react, Leslie just blinked as her father took a photo with the old camera. He pulled looked at the photo for a few minutes and then he became angry.

"You're not my daughter! Who are you? Get away from me and take this damn thing with you! Nurse! Nurse!" He yelled thrusting the camera into Leslie's hands.

The nurse came in and tried to calm Gerald down while Leslie, upset and with tears in her eyes, stood outside the room.

"He's never been like that before. I am sorry." The nurse said as she touched a hand to Leslie arm.

Leslie just nodded, tears dripping onto the fist she held to her mouth to stop her sobbing.

"I'll leave you alone now. Oh, I think you might of dropped this." The nurse said, holding out a photograph.

Leslie let out a deep, shuddering breath and accepted the photograph, sliding it in her pocket. She walked out to the car, locked the door and then cried her heart out. She felt a little better when it was over and the tears had run dry and then made a decision. She had someone else to visit before going home.

The End

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