Monday 12 October 2020

Stella by Petula Mitchell


Image by marian anbu juwan from Pixabay

Petula Mitchell shares how music inspires her writing and a short story:

So this is quite exciting. A while back this beautiful song by the Satellite Station popped up purely by chance and as music junkie I listen to as much as I can that comes my way. This is haunting and melodic with a fabulous vocal by Travis Rue.Please check out their page. Anyway, I felt inspired to write a short story after hearing this. It aches with love, loss and longing. So I requested the opportunity to post the song with my story. So here they are as companion pieces and my grateful thanks to the Satellite Station for permitting me to do this with their fabulous song, in the video below:
Stella had been alone for such a long time. She was now ninety and had been widowed for fifty years. Now in her autumn years , as her daughter liked to call them, Stella resided in a home. It wasn't quite a care home as she was mobile and capable. Sharp as a tack, her daughter liked to call it, but just recently Stella did wonder if she was losing her grip on reality. 
She had brought with her to this reasonably spacious apartment some of the furniture from the old family home. Her dressing table with its large mirror stood in the bedroom. It had been a gift from her late husband when they had their first home and didn't really have a lot of money to buy nice things. He said a lady should always have a nice dressing table. Somewhere to put her personal things do her hair and make up. Something to call her own. It had probably cost him a pretty penny at the time and she had always cherished it. Even more so when he had passed away at the age of 40 leaving her with a ten year old daughter and a broken heart that never quite mended. Now, on sleepless nights, when she looked in the mirror she could see him. He never quite acknowledged her but somehow she could sense that he knew she was there. A half glance, a smile or a tilt of the head when she said his name were subtle signals to her that he knew she was close by.
Stella put this all down to an old lady having vivid dreams or maybe the start of her rational functions slipping away. She hadn't mentioned it to anybody. She wanted to keep her last bit of independence for as long as possible. The flat had alarm cords in every room and a cheery warden either knocked on the door or rang her three times a day to ask if she needed anything. Help, shopping, tea and chat were all offered and sometimes gratefully received. More and more though Stella just sat in front of the dressing table watching and waiting.
Bill had been the love of her life. He wasn't classically handsome. His nose was a little long and he had hair that refused to behave no matter how much brylcreem he used on it. When they had married in 1955 the short back and sides was falling out of favour with the young men of the day and Bill sported an unruly quiff in an effort to look fashionable in their wedding photos. She always kept one on the dressing table. It was quite stiff and formal. A frozen tableau of them smiling as he held her by the arm. It didn't indicate in any way how they felt about each other. Two young innocents setting out together, to learn about life and love. On that wedding night neither of them had known exactly what to expect. They certainly hadn't expected to wake the next day connected at the soul. Fifteen years later he was gone. 
She spent the first few years of widowhood concentrating on her daughter. She had money, he had left her provided for, but the day came where her girl headed off to university and Stella was quite alone. That was when strange things started to happen. She would wake in the night for no reason, the room cold, the lights flashing when she switched them on. There was the feeling that she wasn't alone but fleeting glimpses of something in the corner of her eye never materialised into anything more. Sometimes she called his name almost hoping that whatever it was would turn out to be his shade.
Her life moved on however and she got a job, even met another man. He was nice enough but she never had the same connection with him and steadfastly refused to marry him. They had a long relationship until he too passed away. She often thought he must have died a disappointed man as right up to the end he harboured the hope of marriage. But how could she when Bill was just a whisker away?
Now it seemed to her he was even closer and so she sat by the mirror and waited. She had his old letters in the drawer beside her and hadn't read them for years. He always started them the same way.
'My own darling Stella, my love, my guiding star....'
As she took one out and unfolded it, the paper yellowed at the edges with age, she heard his voice. 
It was a whisper but made her look up with a start. There he was, in the dressing table mirror with his hand against the glass. He was looking straight at her.
“Bill?” she exclaimed, convinced that either madness or dementia were now going to be her constant companions.
“You look well, and still so pretty.”
“I'm ninety Bill. I'm old and wrinkly.”
“Not to me my love.”
“How come you can speak to me now? Is my time up? Are we going to be together?”
“It's coming close my love. It's time to move on. I have waited such a long time for you and I know your heart has always been mine. I tried to let you know before that I was watching over you but I think I just annoyed you.”
“No, I thought it must be you. It was strange but I wasn't afraid. When it, you, stopped I was sad. But I had to move on and make a living. Make a life.”
“I know you did Stella and you did it well. Why did you not remarry?”
“I have a husband.”
She put her hand against his on the glass and the surface rippled like water. She could feel him, and with the gentlest push her hand and then her lower arm passed through the once solid barrier. He raised her hand to his lips to kiss it. Stella felt herself rising from the stool she was sitting on and pushed the hairbrushes and trinket boxes to one side as she climbed onto the dressing table. She stepped through the now permeable barrier and into his waiting arms, yet somehow she was still watching. The woman in the mirror was young and still had dark hair. Bill swept her up in an embrace and kissed her just as he had done in life. Stella gasped as she watched. She could feel his hands, his warmth, his breath, but she had not left the chair. Then it happened. A searing pain in her head and she slumped forward.
The banging on the door was frantic now. 
“Mum, mum! Are you ok?”
The warden hadn't been able to raise an answer so had left it for an hour in case Stella was having a nap. It wasn't unusual. She didn't sleep well at night. But when a second attempt to raise her failed she rang Stella's daughter . Now as the daughter knocked the door, the warden fumbled for her pass key. Finally they were in and could see through the open bedroom door the frail figure of the old lady slumped across her dressing table. The strangest thing though was that she had a mysterious smile on her face and was still clutching one of the letters from her late husband. Through her tears the daughter took the letter and read the opening lines.
“My own darling Stella, my love, my guiding star. I can't wait until we are together again.....”
“You won't have to wait any more dad.” she thought, and folded the letter up neatly before putting it back in the drawer.