Aggie Endersleigh was dying. She wasn’t quite sure how old she was. She knew that the terrible magical explosion had taken place two days after her seventy fifth birthday but nobody would tell her how long ago that was. Some days it seemed that only a week or so had passed since then and on other days, when she caught sight of herself in a puddle or a window, she thought that decades must have gone by. Her grand-daughter had braided Aggie’s hair, finishing it with a tartan ribbon, and fastened her shoes for her. Such a good girl. There’d been cake and presents and lots of people laughing. Sometimes in her dreams she saw their faces but when she woke she could never remember their names. All gone now, she thought. Just me.
Bundled in layers of threadbare clothing, Aggie lived where she could. Sometimes she would find a spot behind the refuse carts to sleep. Other nights, she would huddle up under an external staircase. On very rare occasions, she’d manage a few hours in the back yard of a shop before she was found and moved on. The bakery was her favourite. Not only did it smell wonderful but she often found leftover scraps of cake and bread in their bins.
Tonight she could find no place to rest. All the usual spots were taken or guarded. She hobbled down the dark alleyway behind the shops. She was accustomed to the pain in her feet and the chill in her bones but tonight it hurt to breathe and she had a dull pain in her arm. She desperately wanted to sleep, to abandon herself to dreams of friendly faces and birthday cake. She leant a gloved hand against the alley wall and thought, I’ll just stop for a moment to get my breath and think where I can go. Just for a moment. She rested her head on her arm and closed her eyes. One breath. Two breaths.
A flare lit up pink through the skin of her eyelids. Aggie covered her face with her free hand. A second light, bright blue, whizzed past her face and she sunk to her knees, crouching against the wall. She waited for more fireworks - she assumed that was what they were – but when none came she dropped her hands and opened her eyes.
Along the alleyway, almost within reach, stood a figure outlined in a blue flickering light that jumped and jerked like lightning. Gradually the tendrils of light diminished and the figure took a step into the almost darkness of the alleyway. A path of light from a window above cast its reach across the figure’s face.
Aggie crept back against the wall, drawing her hands to her. This woman, for Aggie could now see that the figure was female, was slight with immense, beautiful eyes and yet there was a strangeness about her that frightened the old woman. Best to go unnoticed, she thought. Stay unseen.
“Do not worry, little mother,” said the woman, her eyes flicking to Aggie’s face. “I will not harm you.”
“I don’t have anything to steal.” Aggie could feel her heart staggering in her chest and the pain in her arm was sharper now. “Please don’t hurt me.”
The woman knelt in front of her and for a second the two women stared into each other eyes. So beautiful, thought Aggie, so blue they’re almost purple. She flinched as the woman shot out a hand and laid it gently on the old woman’s cheek. Her touch was cool but not unpleasant.
“You are in pain, little mother.”
Aggie nodded. “My arm.”
“Your heart too,” said the woman.
“Do you know who I am?” asked Aggie.
“You are mother, grandmother, sister and wife, Aggie Endersleigh. Have you forgotten?”
“I only see them in my dreams,” said Aggie. “I forget when I wake.”
“We will get you somewhere warm.”
“Are you an angel?” The words were out of Aggie’s mouth before her mind had had time to register them. “The light.”
The woman sat back on her heels. She shrugged. “I am many things.”
“Please,” said Aggie, reaching for her. “I just want to dream. It’s warm there and I’m not alone. There’s cake and singing and.” She paused then whispered, “I’m loved.”
The woman pressed her lips into a smile and nodded. “You are loved, little mother. Come.” She took the old woman in her embrace, holding her to her for a moment.
Aggie Endersleigh did not feel her neck snap or the life slip from her. In her mind, she was already back at the party.
Copyright belongs to the writer, Fi Phillips