The game show blared from the tv set in the front room – a new flat screen high definition model that Uncle Aleksander had bought Anna on her 80th birthday a few years ago. It jutted from the wall beside the fireplace, silver and alien, the latest addition to the menagerie of out of place items paying tribute to each era past in that large house on Belvoir Road.
Klara paused as she softly closed the front door behind her, catching canned applause trickle from the next room. Holding out her hand she steadied herself on the peeling peach dado rails that used to be train tracks for her toys as a child, kicked off her school shoes and shouted hello to her Nana. Klara dropped her bag to the floor where a small, carpeted suitcase had been propped up against the wall. Today she felt more grown up than 16 and the strange mixture of sadness and guilt collected in a lump in her throat and forced her teeth to clench as she placed her keys quietly on the sideboard at the bottom of the stairs.
The game show soldiered on, all white teeth and toupee’s urging on the middle aged women in bright sweaters and clashing lipstick. Anna stared blankly at the screen, watching the blurry pictures appear and fade in front of her cataracts. Today she couldn’t bring herself to shout back to Klara with her usual gusto and instead she muttered to herself, cursing the game show’s winners, the losers, the tv set and her son Aleksander for ever thinking of giving her such a ridiculously pointless thing. She could barely make out a face from the smudges of colour on the screen. Her body was giving up on her. Thank God her memories worked, even if they were only in Polish these days.
Klara swung around the door to the front room where Anna sat, still mumbling.
“Fancy a cup of tea Nan?”
“Yes darling, that would be wonderful” she replied, not moving her gaze from the tv.
Klara paused and watched her Nan for a moment. The old lady sat hunched in the corner of the beige sofa, smartly dressed, short hair combed, cardigan and slacks perfectly pressed, shoes laced. She looked as though she was about to attend an elderly parent’s evening. Or church on a Sunday. Her hands sat limply in her lap, withered like gnarled branches, almost blue to look at.
“Happy birthday Nan”, Klara said.
Anna looked up and smiled as her granddaughter left the room.