Although the walls on each side were black and sooty, she could see the light in the distance beckoning her with the promise of safety. She expected to hear her footsteps echo, but all she could hear were her gasps of effort.
She couldn’t quite remember how she had got there, although it seemed to her that it had been quite a journey. She knew she wouldn’t have taken public transport, she hadn’t done that in at least fifty years. She remembered quite clearly her revulsion at having to sit on the filthy seats, pressed too close to grubby strangers when she was a student, and how, as soon as she could, she’d bought herself a little car. But she hadn’t been able to drive for a couple of years now, not since they’d taken away her licence. Bloody old age.
She’d felt ok really. Still had her wits about her although, in general, modern life was a bit of a puzzle. The youngest members of her extended family seemed to live on a different planet, what with all their gadgets and gizmos, and what rare communication there was with them always seemed difficult. That’s not to say she didn’t love them all, but there were just so many these days…
She wondered where they were now, and instinctively looked down at her hand where the gold band still glistened, though it’s pair had been long gone. It had been buried with him. His only bit of decoration against the best black suit that they’d put him in. She wondered if it was still there, in the ground, encasing his bare finger bone, and shuddered at the thought of how cold his touch would now be.
Ineluctably her thoughts turned to her son who’d made it big in the US and then came to grief with the help of chemicals and alcohol. She’d been mystified and heartbroken that her perfect boy had gone so soon. He’d been naughty as a child. A tease, with a cheeky chuckle, but he’d grown into a handsome man, broad and muscular with long dark hair that softened him and disclosed his gentle nature. She was so sad for his wife and their twin boys who had had to get along without him all those years, but they’d diligently kept in touch with her, emailing photos of special occasions, such as the boy’s weddings, and the babies births.
Looking ahead at the light, she saw she was progressing. It was becoming dazzling, and she closed her eyes, after all, she knew the path was safe. She could feel a slight breeze just brushing her cheeks like a gentle kiss, and for a second, thought she could smell perfume, the one her daughter Lillian liked that was hugely expensive and came in a fancy bottle. Smiling, she remembered her firstborn, who hadn’t been the brightest spark in school, but whose bright eyes and curves ensured that she’d married well. She’d lived in an impressive house, with a room for the au pair, and a paddock for the ponies, but had ‘downsized’ to an idyllic country cottage when the children left for university. They had said it came with a ‘granny annex’ but they had converted it for the cleaner to live in before they moved in. It was a shame it was so far away, she felt she barely knew her children, or their children.
And then there was Jennifer. Her youngest daughter, scrawny little Jenny with the mousey hair and crooked teeth. Always angry at the others, she was a loner who seemed content with her own company, so it astonished them when, in her fifties, she married a man 10 years her senior. A professor or something. He was a ramshackle widower, with umpteen adoring grandchildren always clinging to his hands. Jenny took them all on like a trooper. She became the perfect grandma, baking cakes and biscuits, letting the hoard have run of the house. It was good to see her happy though, even if it did make her forget her own mother sometimes.
Resolutely she strode on, picking up pace and as the light penetrated her lids, she knew she was close. Opening her eyes she grew accustomed to the brilliance enough to pick out dark shapes against it. As her excitement grew, her breath got louder in her ears and turned to an uneven rattle. She gasped her last as she saw the shadows become the two men she missed so much, waiting for her, there, as she reached the end of the tunnel.