Olivia squeezed the handle of her wheelchair so hard the veins stood out on her bony wrists.
She used to have smooth soft hands never marred by housework. She didn’t belong here. Why hadn’t they let her stay in the hospital or returned her to her elegant house full of large rooms with windows you could see her lovely lawn from?
She knew. Her sister’s granddaughter Tessie wanted her money. They thought she was senile. She wasn’t.
Olivia remembered what the liars told her when they brought her here. “You’ll stay on the second floor. You’ll have your own bathroom, and we’ll bring dinner. You’ll have a TV. When we finish the downstairs, we’ll move you to the first floor. And we’re having a stair glide installed so you can go up and down.”
Then Tessie pointed to a huge grate in the center of the floor. “If we’re not done with the renovations before the cold comes, we’ll use that old coal burner in the basement, and heat will rise from there. You remember.”
Remember? Why would Olivia remember something so primitive? The only good the grate did was let Olivia hear the man who came to torture her before he came. Come up to help her, they said. Help her, indeed. Bruises covered her arms from her elbows to her wrists. Who could call what that man did help?
Voices from downstairs. Was he returning so soon? She wheeled toward the grate.
Was that a strange woman’s voice?
Could she get help?
An old woman in a wheelchair. She couldn’t speak, just make incoherent noise.
Yes. There was a woman downstairs
“Help. Help,” Olivia screamed. All that came out was “Ummph. Ummph.”
How awful to have your mind, but not your voice. The man would be up soon. Her mind raced.
What? Yes, the globe on that chipped night table near her bed— a snowy scene in Paris, the Eiffel tower. When had she last been to Paris? Elegant restaurants where people spoke in soft whispers. So many memories, fading now and swirling like the snow.
She reached the globe, threw it to the floor. Bump. Bump. Bump. They had to hear that; the woman would come in and see what they had done to her. But they kept talking below.
What could she do?
Think. Old woman. Desperate old woman.
Disgusting. But she had to do it. She got over the grate. A struggle. She tugged her underwear down. Slid over the grate. Oh, God what have I been reduced to?
Notice me. Notice me now she thought as she released her urine and it splattered on the grate and to the floor below. Notice me. Save me.
Screaming from below. Now she’d be saved.
She tugged her underwear up and her skirt down before they came. Dear God, let me keep my modesty.
Tessie came in first, followed by the torturer, then a woman dressed in a neat suit, like she’d come from a business meeting.
“Oh, Aunt Ida, you’ve done it again. I don’t know what we can do with you.”
Tessie turned to the torturer. “Would you mind getting her clean and maybe try more therapy?”
Did he always wear white, like a fake nurse? That was a lie. And who was Ida?
The woman said,” Do you still want her to stay here?”
“You knocked down your Paris globe.” Tessie picked it up. “The stories you’d make up about your life when Grandmother and I would visit.”
“Paris,” The woman said.
“Paris. Well, Aunt Ida — great Aunt Ida — she’s never been far from this house. She came to live with my mom a long time ago. Mom let her stay after grandma and grandpa died, and we let her stay after mom and dad died, though the house was ours. Then she had this stroke, but we’d love for her to stay here yet. We’re modernizing it. Better heating for sure. But as you can see. Aunt Ida. You have to behave. You have to,”
Ida? Ida.? Olivia banged the chair, pushed the nurse away. No. No, this wasn’t her house. That wasn’t her name. She was Olivia. She was.