“Did you enjoy your morning jog today, Victoria?” Gayle asked as she crossed her legs.
“Oh, yes,” Victoria answered. “Autumn is here. The trees are still luscious and green. They are still expelling the dead things with careful regard. I love to see all that once verdant foliage now lay in crumpled heaps along the pavement.”
“That sounds rather morbid.”
Victoria shrugged. “It is just the way it is.”
“Why is that?” Gayle’s hands unconsciously rested on her knees.
“Time is a cruel mistress,” Victoria answered. She turned to gaze out the window. A hint of melancholy crossed her face. “I have seen so much death – men and women, young and old in crumpled heaps along the pavement, as it were. All have a start and a finish.”
“Some just longer than others.”
“Precisely,” Victoria said with a smile.
“Delve a little further into that?” Victoria chuckled at Gayle’s scowl. “Yes. Let’s.”
“Explain to me your theory again.”
“It is not a theory. It is an absolute. I have lived over three hundred and fifty years.”
“If that is the case, why are you here in this place?” Gayle gestured towards the door that led to the greater hospital halls.
“I came out of boredom. I have… what do you young people call it? – a bucket list. I thought it might be fun to experience life in an asylum. I have already been a seamstress, a cortesan, a doctor, a pilot, and a writer among many other things.”
“It all sounds a tad droll. Why wouldn’t you aspire to bigger and better things?”
“I may have, at a time, but it is more fun to watch new generations fall into that trap than to take part in it.”
Gayle crinkled her nose and pursed her lips.
“I can tell you that in fifty years when you are dying in your home surrounded by all your friends and family, I will be there looking not a day older.”
Gayle’s eyes lingered to the clock. “We haven’t gotten anywhere with your sessions for five years.”
“You certainly are the patient type,” Victoria said. Her cheshire grin matched her wild eyes.
“I fear I shall never cure you of this delusion.” Gayle hushed tone sounded like it was said to herself.
“Then perhaps I should put you out of your misery.” Victoria stood up and stretched. “Time’s up, Doctor. I look forward to seeing you next time.”
Gayle watched as Victoria walked out of the room. It was only after she disappeared from the hospital that she wondered what those final words had meant.
Gayle laid back with a long sigh. Her hands ached with arthritis, and her lungs gave off a horrid wheezing sound every time she breathed.
Her family sat in chairs around her, each consoling her with words and touches and looks of genuine love.
“She can’t say much,” the eldest daughter said at the door to the room as a young woman followed behind her.
“Thank you for letting her see me. I wanted to write her a poem before she goes. I just hope she remembers me,” the woman said with a kind smile.
“How did you know her?”
“When I was younger… she helped me in the hospital,” she replied.
“I’m sure she will, then. She never forgets her patients.”
The young woman stood at the edge of Gayle’s bed and waved.
“Hello, Doctor,” the woman said.
Gayle’s eyes grew wide. “Where did the time go?”
Her voice was not much louder than a whisper, but the words still echoed across the room as if magic carried them.
“It has been too long,” Victoria said, stepping to Gayle’s side.
“Has it been fifty years already?”
“Not quite, Doctor. But close enough.” She touched Gayle’s hand.
“You kept your promise,” Gayle muttered.
“Indeed, I did.”
Gayle blinked. A weak smile spread across her face.
Victoria squeezed Gayle’s hand. “I am glad I could see you one last time.” A tear trickled down her cheek, and she sighed. “This doesn’t get any easier.”
Gayle laid her head back, blinking away sleep. Inexplicably, she just fell right into a deep sleep. Victoria stepped back to allow her family to come closer.
Victoria watched her soul escape and move up. Sunlight pushed through the room and onto Gayle’s peaceful body.
She drifted away with a whisper on her tongue:
The nightin-Gayle bird –
Sings a sweet song of release.
Given rest at last.