Alice had lost her balance. At thirty years old she couldn’t walk in a straight line and she wasn’t even drunk. The neat, flower-printed mums at the school gate tutted and whispered; when she tried to speak, the slurred words that burnt her lips and dripped incoherently to the pavement verified their suspicions.
Holly looked up at her with puzzled six-year-old eyes.
‘What’s wrong, Mum?’
‘I don’t know. I’ll walk back and make an appointment with the doctor, love, so don’t worry. It’s probably something to do with the migraine I’ve had this week.’
To her daughter she sounded like a wind-up toy winding down. Holly pushed her thumb nail between her teeth and started to chew as her mother turned and walked away.
The walk back was snail-paced and Alice struggled to stay on her feet; the pavement wouldn’t stay in one place and the sun made her head spin. She collapsed in the door of the doctor’s surgery and woke up in hospital.
‘A stroke? That’s what I do to my cat. I’m not old enough to have a stroke. Where’s Holly? Who’s looking after the cat?’
She had been doing it on her own for so long.
© Kim M. Russell, 2016