A Thought That Tastes Like Rich Tea Biscuits

March 11, 2024

Bed socks are so cozy, and I feel like a cricket, rubbing my feet together as content as an insect on a bed of grass. It is not even cold today. It is the perfect temperature for socks and blankets and summer pajamas. I don’t remember putting these cotton pajamas on or buying them or who gave them to me, but they are perfect.

I will sleep well tonight.

It is not late yet. The color is still draining from the sky. Through the gap between the curtain hem and the windowsill, I can see it fading from blue into black. If I wriggle sideways and stick my head off the edge of my bed, I can look up at the moon. Bright and yellow, like a streetlamp I can trust not to flicker. 

As I lay here, dozing, I am periodically shaken back to consciousness by the pad of footsteps in the hallway and hushed conversations of my neighbors. Something is beeping in the distance. Is it a car alarm? Fire alarm? Burglar alarm? I open one eye and wonder whether I should do something about it because if every neighbor hears and thinks someone else will act, then no one will do anything at all.

My heart flutters and softens into a loud, pounding thud. I gasp to catch my breath and sip the air. It bubbles in my stomach. I have this feeling…this horrible feeling that I have forgotten something important. I sense a thought that tastes like rich tea biscuits right in the center of my tongue. Not quite the tip—it is not so clear. But any moment it will come to me.

Why am I not asleep? 

It is because my fists are clenched and my forehead is straining with the effort of recovering the memory of the thing I have forgotten.

“Soft, soft,” I murmur, gently pressing my palms together and relaxing my face.

“Julie?” someone says in my ear.  I jump, but when I open my eyes and look around, there is no one in my room. It is empty—bare but for my bed, wardrobe, bedside table with a glass of water and reading glasses, and a crumpled orange Sainsbury’s bag in the middle of the floor.

I feel suddenly as though I am trembling, not from cold or illness but as if the ground is shaking. As if I am on a turbulent plane. I’m reminded of the smell of sour cream and chive crackers, the “dong” of the seatbelt sign and the blinding brightness of space as the plane flies towards the sun.

“My flight!” I exclaim and feel a wave of nausea. I toss my blankets on the floor and leap to my feet, my mind reeling as I realize what I had forgotten.

Tomorrow morning, I have an early flight! I am not packed. I am not prepared at all! It is so unlike me… I never do this… How could I let this happen?

I stand in the middle of the room in my pajamas and fluffy socks in a state of panic-fueled adrenaline. There is so much to be done. Where do I even begin?

Visual cues do not help. My eyes fall on nothing in the bare room that prompts me to pack. I squeeze my eyes shut.

Think, Julie, think.

Airplane, holiday…

Bag!

I look around for a suitcase. The wardrobe has a few clothes I recognize but nothing to put them in. I think about kneeling to look under the bed but change my mind as I try to attempt it. My knees hurt at the thought of bending down. And besides, the Sainsbury’s bag will do.

I pull a lilac dress off its hanger, rough in my haste. The hanger flies across the room, clattering against the wall. After messily folding the dress into a rectangle, I shove it in the bottom of the plastic bag and do the same with a top, a cardigan, and a pair of trousers. 

Have I paid for a second carry-on?

The question feels too difficult to answer. I ignore it and continue packing items I find around my room: a glasses box (the glasses are not in it, nor are they on my head) and a water bottle from the top drawer of my bedside table. 

“Julie?”

The voice is real now. It is a young woman, a stranger, cracking open my bedroom door. She is bathed in a dim beam of yellow light that illuminates her tight ponytail and royal blue uniform, like that of a nurse.

Who are you? I want to ask, but her worried expression makes me pause. I open and close my mouth like a gaping fish. “Are you supposed to be here?”

“No, my love,” she says softly. “But you are supposed to be in bed.”

“I have a flight tomorrow,” I croak, holding out the half-filled Sainsbury’s bag.

She flashes me a smile. She is young, I think, but I cannot tell how young. I cannot remember how old I am.

“Then, we will pack in the morning,” she promises and pries the bag from my hand. “Come on, Julie.” Taking my arm, she leads me back to bed. 

My heart has not stopped pounding.

“Where am I?” I ask timidly as I sink into the mattress, my back aching.

“This is Cherry Avenue Care Home,” she says slowly.

My eyes widen. “For people with….”

She waits, focusing her attention on tucking me in, and I think she will not reply. But then she whispers, “Dementia.”

My bed socks feel cozy again, and my eyes are tired—so tired that it hurts to keep them open. “I knew I had forgotten something,” I murmur, but remembering no longer feels so crucial. “Goodnight…” I try to think of the woman’s name. “Julie?”

“Goodnight, Julie,” she says and waits with me a while until I fall asleep.

Deborah Rose

Deborah Rose is the Managing Editor for Hey! Young Writer and assisted in starting this amazing blog but now spends most of her time helping our founder, Alee Anderson, with her ghostwriting business. She is the author of two middle-grade, fantasy novels and a fan of all things history related! You can follow her on Instagram at @deborahroseintheforest or visit her website, deborahrosegreen.co.uk to read more of her writing.

 

 

Featured image by Rodolfo Marques.

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