The Man in the Mirror

“Kiss me, Mona.  One last time.”

“We shouldn’t be doing this, Adrian.  It’s wrong.  It’s not fair to Graham.”

“Why does it feel so right?”

Graham Whincup leant against the bathroom door and breathed out.  They thought they were so clever, but he had heard every single word.  He stepped back, gripped onto his zimmer frame, as the bolt screeched back.  He cracked his knuckles, ready to beat the shit out of Adrian.  But the door opened, and his jaw loosened, his fists relaxed.  Even now, Mona was so beautiful with her grey, coiffured hair, porcelain skin and smart dress.

“Are you okay, sweetheart?” Mona asked, stroking Graham’s cheek.

Graham sniffed and glanced away.  “I heard you speaking in there with a man.  Adrian.”

Mona giggled and shook her head.  “No, my darling, it was only me in there.  No man.”

“I heard you.  Adrian’s going to take you away from me.”

Mona smiled and looked Graham in the eye.  “We’ve been married for 60 years.  Nobody, but nobody, could take me from you.”

“Damn right.  I’ll kill Adrian, before I let that happen.” Graham pushed past Mona into the bathroom.

Where was that coward hiding? But the room was empty.  Everything was in its proper place.  His razor standing tall.  Bar of soap in its holder.  He caught sight of somebody in the mirror.  An old man with a crown of hair, small sunken eyes, a mole on his cheek and a gold tooth.

“I’m going to rip your heart out.” Graham jabbed at the mirror.

“Darling, there’s nobody there.” Mona hugged him from behind.

Graham broke free.  “I’m going to kill you, you son of a bitch.”

“Is everything okay here?”

Graham turned to this new voice.  It belonged to a young lad.  He looked like a hippie with his long, shaggy hair, scraggly beard and skinny figure.  Graham wrinkled his nose, as the lad’s cheap deodorant tickled his throat.

“Who are you?” He asked.

“David.  You know me.  I’ve been taking care of you for a year.” David pointed to a name badge pinned to his grey tunic.

“If you say so.  Anyway, this is none of your business, so you can head back to Woodstock, that’s a good boy.”

Mona stood by him and stroked his arm.  “Don’t be rude.  David’s only trying to help.”

“Did I ask for his help? This is between me, you and that bastard in there.” Graham stabbed at the bathroom.

David stepped forward.  “I respect that.  I don’t want anybody getting hurt, that’s all.”

Graham gave a toothy grin.  “Don’t worry, son.  The only person getting hurt is that arsehole in there.  I’m going to kill him.”

David sighed and rubbed his eyes.  “Before you kill anyone, do you want sausage and mash for lunch?”

“That’ll be great, thanks, darling,” Mona beamed.

Graham stared at him.  “You stupid boy.  I don’t want lunch.  I want to rip that bastard’s throat out.  Come out and face me like a man.” He ripped open the door and threw his zimmer frame against the wall.  He turned around, as he heard his bedroom door close.  Mona was gone.  Where was she? He hobbled to the window, peered down the corridor.

“Mona, where are you?”

He gripped his chest and grumbled back to his bed.  He sniffed, clenched his jaw, as the emotion exploded out of him.  A roar erupted from his heart.  He buried his face in the pillow.  Screamed and shouted.  He sat up and forced his breathing to slow.  He needed to be a man.  He snapped to the bathroom, as he heard voices.  His heart thumped in his chest.

“Can’t you see? Graham’s dangerous.  You need to leave before he hurts you.”

“He wouldn’t do that.  He loves me.”

“He doesn’t know what love is.  He doesn’t know how to love you.  He’s a crazy old man and he doesn’t even know it.”

“Don’t say that.  I love him.”

“It wasn’t him you were loving last night.”

Graham heaved himself up, pulled down his shirt and smoothed his hair.  He crept up to the bathroom, ripped open the door and crashed his frame down.  It skittered across the floor.  Where were they? He heard them speaking, hadn’t he?

Something moved in the mirror.  He jabbed out, but his fist hit empty air.  He didn’t understand. Mona’s soft tones, Adrian’s gravelly voice rang in his ears.  Where were they? What had they been saying? Why couldn’t he remember? He fumbled to his armchair, slumped down.  He held his head in his hands, looked up as a plate clinked down.

“Here’s your lunch,” David said.  He walked away, before hesitating and returning, “I know you love your Western films, do you want me to find you one to watch?”

“Leave me alone, son.”

Once he was alone, he stared at the food.  Sausages drowning in gravy, two balls of mash, soggy vegetables.  He took the plate and dropped it out of the window.

He didn’t understand.  He heard Adrian and Mona talking, but they were nowhere to be found.  Had that bastard stolen away his wife? Unless…no she wouldn’t do that.  Would she? Mona loved him. Didn’t she?

Graham groaned, as he woke up.  When had he fallen asleep? He looked out of the window.  Overcast.  Dark, heavy clouds hanging overhead.  What time was it? What day was it? Mona visited him on Wednesdays.  Could it be Thursday? Friday? Saturday? Graham sniffed and gripped his heart.  It didn’t matter.  Mona wouldn’t be visiting him again.

He jumped, as there was a knock on the door.  David walked in and set down a hot breakfast.

“Good morning.  How are you feeling today?”

Graham stared at him.  “Are you married, son?”

David laughed.  “Not yet.  Not found anybody stupid enough.”

“Then you have no idea how I’m feeling.”

“Maybe not, but I know that Mona will be here soon.”

“No, she won’t, now mind your business and leave me alone, that’s a good boy.” Graham turned around.  He didn’t turn back until he heard the bedroom door close.  He speared up some bacon.  Too salty.  Mona was probably eating jam and scones with that bastard Adrian.

He looked up, as he heard her voice.  It couldn’t be, could it? The door opened and Mona stepped in.  Graham hobbled over and hugged her, holding her close.  He whimpered into her shoulder.  He kissed her.  Again and again.

“Are you alright, darling? I’ve only been gone a few days.”

“I thought Adrian had stolen you from me.  I thought I would never see you again.”

Mona kissed the top of his head.  “Oh, my darling, how many times do I have to tell you? Nobody could steal me from you.”

Graham hugged her tighter, as he sobbed into her chest.  “I love you.”

Mona chuckled.  “We’ve been married for 60 years and you’re still as silly now as you were the day we met.  Come on.  Let’s watch a Western.”

Graham sat in the armchair and Mona sat next to him.  He put his arm around her and she snuggled into him.  He really was a crazy old man.  Mona would never leave him.

“We’re not doing this again.  That was the last time.”

“You’re the most amazing woman I’ve ever met.  And you’re wasting your life with that stupid old man.”

Graham woke up and rubbed his eyes.  He couldn’t remember falling asleep. Why couldn’t he remember? He looked to his left, but Mona was gone.  Where was she? He clutched his chest, as he heard voices.  It wasn’t Adrian and Mona.  Was it?

“He’s my husband.  You shouldn’t talk about him like that.”

“He’s a crazy old man who can’t take care of himself.  He’s worthless.  What does he have to offer you? Nothing.”

“But I still love him.”

“You were loving me last night.  The way I was touching you, kissing you.  Running my hands up and down your body.  The way I was-“

Graham clamped his hands over his ears.  It was time to teach this bastard a lesson.  He drew his frame to him and forced himself up, using all his strength.  He had believed every lie that had come out of Mona’s mouth.  He wouldn’t be a stupid old man anymore.

“Adrian.” He banged on the bathroom door.

“Darling, what is it?”

“Adrian, you fucking arsehole, I’m going to beat you into the ground.” His throat burned; tears tumbled down.

The door creaked open and Mona stepped out.

“Sweetheart, there’s nobody here.  Calm down.” She smiled and stroked his arm.

He shoved past her.  Where was that coward? He grinned, as he spotted him.  He clenched his fist and punched him.  Graham frowned, as Adrian seemed to splinter apart.  Mona screamed behind him, before running out of the room and calling for help.

“What’s going on?” David charged in.

“Fuck off, boy.  This isn’t your business,” Graham examined his bleeding hand and pointed at Mona, “this is all your fault.  I love you.  I thought you loved me.  I thought you were my wife, but you’re a whore who opens her legs for any man.”

“Darling, please don’t say that.” Mona squealed, as the tears flowed down.

“Apologise now.” David stepped forward.

Graham paused, shocked by the steel in the lad’s voice, but he wouldn’t let himself be scared by a boy.  “Get out of my face,” he pointed to Mona, “and you can fuck off.  Go on.  Get out of here.” He swung round his zimmer frame to hit her, but David jumped in the way.

“You stupid boy.  How many times have I told you to mind your own business? And you, my darling betrothed, get out.” He jabbed at the door with his frame.

“I’ll see you on Wednesday?” Mona whimpered, clutching her handbag.

“I never want to see you again.” Graham cackled.

“Can I have a kiss please, before I go?”

“Kiss you? Not likely where I know your mouth has been.”

Mona stiffened and slapped him.  She stormed out.

David sighed and rubbed his eyes.  “The nurse needs to look at your hand.  Afterwards, we’ll call Mona and you can apologise.”

“Apologise? I’m not apologising to that whore.  No, boy.  I’ll tell you what’s going to happen.  I’m going to find that bastard, Adrian.  I’m going to kill him.  Then I’m burning this place to the ground.” He threw his frame against the ground.

David scowled and picked it back up.  “Before you commit arson, how about we find Adrian together? Talk to him.  Man-to-man.”

“I can never find him.  I always hear him speaking in the bathroom.  I see him, but he always runs away before I can get my hands on him.

David scratched his head.  “You know what he looks like?”

“He’s an ugly-looking fellow.  Small, beady eyes.  Gold tooth.  A horrible little mole.”

David clicked his fingers.  He ran out, only to return with a dustpan and brush and a crowbar.  He swept up the broken glass and pried the mirror from the wall.  He held it in front of Graham.

“All you’ve been seeing is your reflection.  And the voices are from the television in the next room.  I’ll take away the mirror and you won’t see Adrian again.”

Graham screwed up his face.  “I don’t understand.  How will this stop him?”

“You’ve scared him away.  He’ll be a fool to take you on.  We’re all good now, okay?”

Graham nodded.  “Thanks son.  Sorry about before.”

“No problem.  I’ll go get the nurse now.

Graham returned to the bathroom and looked around.  Nothing was okay.  Adrian would be back.  What had David said? All he had been seeing was his own reflection. Why didn’t he recognise himself? He had seen Adrian, hadn’t he? He had heard him and Mona speaking, hadn’t he? He couldn’t be…could he? He flipped over his table.  What was wrong with him? He kicked over the chair.  He wasn’t crazy, was he? He slammed his bedroom door shut.  He had definitely heard them speaking.  But what had they said? Why couldn’t he remember? His mind was an empty hole.

He clutched his chest, as his whole body shook.  He howled, as the tears burst out.  If this wasn’t real, then he had called Mona a … a… a… What had he called her? Why couldn’t he remember? But he made her cry.  He made her hit him.  He would never do that.  He loved her.  And he had driven her straight into Adrian’s arms.  It was the only thing that made sense.  Wasn’t it?

David and the nurse, a big, bald Indian man, walked in.

“I need to look at your hand.” The nurse said.

Graham held it up and looked at David.  “I made Mona cry.  Why would I do that? I don’t understand.”

David knelt by him and took his other hand.  “Mona’s in the garden.  She wanted to talk to you once you had calmed down.  After the nurse has finished, you should talk to her.”

The nurse stood up. “Only a few cuts.  Nothing serious.  Go talk to Mona.  David can tidy up here.”

“Thanks son.” Graham smiled.  He breathed in and stood up.  Clutching onto his zimmer frame, he hobbled into the corridor.  He looked to his left and saw the garden through the lounge.  He started walking, feeling like he was wearing concrete boots.  He stepped into the lounge.  In one chair was a skin-headed man with a big beard.  In another corner was a man in a wheelchair playing chess with what Graham thought was his son.  The son laughed and shook his father’s hand.  They were normal.  He was the crazy one.

He stepped into the garden.  To his left, a willow tree hung over the pond.  To his right, tomatoes hung over plant feeders.  He spotted Mona sitting by the shed, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.  He hobbled over to her and paused.

“Mona…I.”

“Be quiet, Graham.  I love you.  I have always loved you.  I would never do anything to hurt you and in return, you attack me and call me a …” Mona whimpered, “I know you didn’t mean it.  You didn’t know what you were saying.”

“David said it was all in my mind, that it wasn’t real.”

“He told me the same thing.  It makes sense with your condition, but I guess you don’t remember.”

“Remember what? What condition?”

“Come here, sweetheart,” she held open her arms and Graham fell into them, “I know things haven’t been easy since you moved here to the Willow Tree, but it’s what I signed up for when I married you.  For sickness and for health.  For better and for worse.”

Graham sobbed into his chest.  The tears shaking his entire body.  He looked up at her, as she blurred into sight.  “You’re not leaving me for Adrian, are you?”

Mona rolled her eyes.  She laughed, stifling a sob.  “Why are you men always so dramatic? Let’s go watch a Western film, okay?”

“I love you.” He clutched onto her, loving how warm she was.  He laid his head on her chest, loving the sound of her heartbeat.  He could have fallen asleep then and there.

But they returned to his room and sat down together.  He stared at Mona.  What was wrong with him? She would never leave him.  She loved him and he loved her.  Everything was going to be okay.

He woke up and yawned.  When had he fallen asleep? His breath shot out, as he heard voices come from the bathroom.  He clenched his fists, bit his lip, as tears welled on his eyelids.  It couldn’t be.  Could it?

“Did Graham believe you? Did he buy it?”

“He fell for everything.  Hook, line and sinker.  You’re right, Adrian.  He’s a stupid, crazy old man.”

“You’re an amazing woman, Mona.  When do we leave?”

 

*Author’s Notes*

The fifth of my stories set in the Willow Tree care home.  This is based on my real-life work in a care home…in one or another, most of what happens here happened in real life.  Read One Final Dance, King’s Street, Claire and the Men Downstairs.

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