Minnie’s mistake (a ghost story for the New Year)
As the years passed by, Minnie had become increasingly bitter and twisted, until she represented, both in appearance and manner, a withered old spider. And no wonder! No one paid her any attention. That woman her son had married- what an empty headed piece, all dyed hair and so-called designer clothes. More intent on preening in the mirror, than disciplining those two brats – those so-called grandchildren. But what else could Minnie expect? Her son was a feckless fool – always had been – and his offspring looked as if they’d take after him. The old lady was a firm believer in the old adage: Children should be seen, and not heard. If she had her way, they wouldn’t be seen either.
Gnarled hands folded in her lap, she glanced down at her fingers, twisted and misshapen by arthritis. Funny, but they never seemed to hurt these days. That went for her hips too, even the one she’d fractured in a fall down the stairs – not a twinge.
Minnie shifted in her seat, and scowled. How long must she sit here, with her coat on, and her handbag at her feet? Time and again she’d asked for a lift to the post office to collect her pension, but as usual they’d ignored her. The old lady shook her head. Really, it was almost as if they couldn’t hear her.
With a sigh she stood up, and then shuffled over to the mirror hanging on the wall, near the front door. She peered into its cloudy depths, and tutted. It was filthy, she could barely see herself! Patting a stray, iron grey hair into place she turned away. Well she’d be blowed if she’d clean it!
“Frederick!” she bellowed in the direction of the sitting room. “Get a move on!” The only reply she got was the blare of the television; watching football again – typical!
As she resumed her seat, Minnie winced at the sound of crashing bake ware emanating from the kitchen. This was followed by the shrill voice of her daughter-in-law. ‘Kids, kids, be careful, you made me jump. I thought …’
Her voice was smothered by the giggling of the children. ‘You thought it was the ghost again, didn’t you?’
‘Don’t talk rubbish, Nathan,’ his mother replied. ‘Pick those trays up and Bethany, wipe up that flour.’
Minnie snorted. Bethany! Nathan! What ridiculous names. Why couldn’t the benighted woman have chosen something sensible, like Brian and Jane? Even as she thought this, Millie’s scowl deepened when her daughter-in-law emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.
‘About time!’ the old woman snapped, ‘D’you think I’ve got all day to sit round ‘til you deign to notice I’m alive?’
To Millie’s utter astonishment, not to mention rage, her daughter-in-law looked right through her, and just carried on towards the living room.
‘God, but that hall’s cold. We’ll have to get a central heating engineer out,’ the woman said. ‘Are you listening to me, Fred?’
‘Yes love.’ The man’s voice sounded distracted. This was followed by a yell of, ‘Goal! Oh you little beauty!’
‘Not so loud, Fred. You’d never get away with that if she was still here.’
‘If you mean me, then say so!’ Minnie yelled. ‘And I’m still here, you ignorant slut!’
She marched towards the living room, fists clenched. She’d give ‘em both a piece of her mind. But as she tried to continue, her steps slowed. She glanced down at her feet; it felt like walking through treacle. What on earth was going on?
Bottom lip trembling with a fear she refused to acknowledge, Minnie backed up until she came level with the mirror again. Almost as if drawn by some unseen force, her gaze settled on her reflection again; it was even cloudier, as if her essence was draining away.
A chill ran down Minnie’s spine. She turned towards the stairs, and they seemed to grow and grow, until they looked impossibly steep. A sudden pain shot through the side of the old lady’s head and the back of her neck.
‘Oh my God,’ she breathed. Sudden realisation struck, and tears dimmed her vision.
The coldness in her spine spread throughout her body, and Minnie felt as if she was going to faint. She staggered over to the chair, and as she slumped down onto it, despair weighed her down. She hadn’t survived that fall down the stairs. She’d not just broken her hip, but her neck too. But how had she’d fallen? Then another memory surfaced.
She felt again the hands pressed firmly against her back and the helplessness as she plummeted forward, unable to save herself. Then all had become darkness … until now. She stared at the open living room door. One of them had shoved her down those stairs. Filled with horror, Minnie tried to push the thought away, but it refused to leave her alone.
Her gaze drifted towards the living room again. They were talking about where they should go on holiday now. Minnie’s stomach turned over. They were going away, leaving her on her own, trapped in this house.
She buried her face in her hands as regret washed over her, drowning her soul in fear and despair. She’d always told her son that he’d go to Hell one day, and the prediction had come true – in a way – only it was she who was trapped, caught by her own vicious nature in a woman-made purgatory. Forced to watch her family move on without her, and forced to realise they’d do very well without her.