The sun was shining brightly when Eleanor woke up. Was she late? She'd better get a move on. Adrian would need his breakfast and then she'd have to get Mikey and Sandra off to school. Why was it so light already? It wasn't summer was it? And what was it with those thin curtains. When had she changed those? What had happened to the thick velvet ones?
She turned over. Oh, yes of course. What was she thinking? Adrian had passed away two years ago. And Mikey and Sandra were now grown up and had children of their own. They were coming to see her next Saturday. It would be her birthday.
She didn't like this single bed, though. She never knew which side to get out of and whichever one she chose it was the wrong one. She was always frightened as well at night that she was going to fall out of it. It was a pity they wouldn't let her have a double bed.
"What would you want that for?" the young woman from the office had asked. "You're not thinking of taking a lover, are you? At your age?"
Why not at her age? "No, but I like to spread myself out a bit."
The young woman had shaken her head. "Well, I'm sorry. There isn't really enough space here."
No there wasn't. Oh, it was a pleasant enough little apartment and they looked after her well. But it was a bit cramped.
"Good morning, Eleanor," chirped Tomas.
Ah good. He was wearing his red bobble hat today. He reminded her of Mikey when he did that.
"You going to boss me about again today?"
Tomas bowed slightly. "I'm here to look after you Eleanor. You know that."
"I wouldn't dream of watching you undress or shower, Eleanor. But you don't have to do that. Remember, the ladies will come later this morning and help you. You can have your breakfast though. It is all laid out in the kitchen. Wait for me and I'll help you with the cup-kettle." Tomas disappeared from the wall.
Eleanor pulled on her dressing gown and made her way into the kitchen. She remembered now; they wouldn't let her have a shower and get dressed on her own since she'd had that nasty fall a month ago. Her leg still hurt when she walked.
Tomas was already on the wall when she got into the kitchen. The table was laid for breakfast.
"You need to put some water or orange juice in your glass," said Tomas. "The orange juice is in the fridge. You can get the milk out while you're in there."
She found the orange juice and the milk.
"Press the button on the cup-kettle."
She did as he'd asked. The little machine started spluttering and hissing.
"I'll tell you when it's safe to take the cup and start drinking,” said Tomas.
Goodness, they really made a baby out of her.
"Don't forget to take your blood pressure pill, Eleanor."
Eleanor shook her head. "You don't half nag, Tomas. Well then. Are you going to tell me what's going on in the world?"
Tomas disappeared from the wall and the morning TV show started playing. Goodness, was there no end to this: petrol shortages, supermarket shelves empty, that virus kicking off again and now a war. A war? Or was it a new virus? "Blooming heck, Tomas. It's all gone a bit mad hasn't it?"
Tomas appeared at the corner of the picture.
"But you'll be safe, Eleanor. We'll make sure of that."
Suddenly Tomas was there again, full size, on the wall.
"You don't have to do that. You can put the dishes in the sink if you like. And you can put the milk and the orange juice back in the fridge."
"I suppose after the girls have been I'd better get out to the shops to get something for lunch."
"You don't have to shop for lunch, Eleanor. Remember; they'll bring you a hot meal."
Oh yes that was right, they did. And they were very nice meals too. Though she did miss cooking. And it was especially nice on a Sunday when those who weren't taken out would eat in the big dining room downstairs. She'd done that once or twice when the children had been away on holiday. It had been very companionable
"Well, what am I going to do with myself all day?"
"You can sit in your armchair and watch TV or you can read your book."
Eleanor nodded. She made her way into her lounge area and sat down in her armchair. She bit her lip and frowned.
"What's the matter?" asked Tomas. "You look worried."
How did he manage to do that? Skip from one wall to another in less time than it took her to walk from room to room. "I'm wondering whether they're still going to come on Saturday."
"Would you like me to check?"
"Yes please. That would set my mind at rest."
Tomas disappeared from the wall, which whirred and creaked a little. She always felt a bit anxious when that happened.
Then Mikey's face appeared. Little Anna-Louise was at his side.
"Hi, Mum," said Mikey. "Tomas contacted us and said you were a bit worried about Saturday. We'll all be there, Mum. You just make sure you get your best dress on."
Anna-Louise was jumping up and down excitedly. "We've made a lovely surprise for you, Grandma. We can't wait to show you."
"Oh. Thank you, dear. That will be nice."
They were good kids. All of them. Mikey, Sandra, Tomas, Anna-Louise, - what was the other one called? And Sandra's two? Oh dear.
"Yes, thank you, dear."
She really had no recollection of what had happened since breakfast. She only had a hazy memory as well of actually getting into the shower. That might not have even been today.
Now. It was the girl with long black hair today. She could never remember her name. The plain one with the greying hair, that was Jean. She could remember her because she was there every day.
"We have plans for this afternoon, Eleanor, if you're up for it," said Jean.
"Well, it's such a nice day," said the other one, "we thought we'd take you all out for a little walk in the park. What do you think about that?"
"Oh, I don't know. Will Tomas be able to come?" She always felt better if Tomas was around.
Jean laughed. "Did you hear that Tomas? She wants you to come to the park with us."
Tomas, who had not been there a few seconds ago, laughed. "If only. But you know, Eleanor, I can't leave the apartment."
"But what will you do while I'm not here?"
"It's only like when you're asleep. My background programmes will carry on running and looking for updates. They also use the down time to add more data."
Eleanor shook her head. "I haven't a clue what you're on about Tomas."
"It doesn't matter. You go out with these nice young women. The fresh air will do you good. Wrap up warm, mind."
There he was again. Nagging.
Perhaps it would be all right. They were nice enough, the other people who lived here. She'd found that out at some of the Sunday lunches. But just how mobile were they?
Well, Jean and Tomas and the other one had been right. It was rather nice in the park. The air and the sun were warm. The leaves were going all sorts of glorious colours. Could she taste the sea as well? Salt air? How far were they from the sea? Where were they exactly? She wasn't sure. She used to live by the sea, didn't she, with Adrian, Mikey and Sandra?
"Come on then, Eleanor; fancy a stroll round the duck pond? I've got a bit of bread for them." Raymond, wasn't it? He was quite dapper. He held out his arm to her. She took it. He had a bit of a stiff walk but that went with her limp, didn't it? They suited one another, didn't they? Could he become her lover? That would show that snooty young woman from the office. Still, there really wasn't room for a double bed in her apartment.
"Cheeky beggars, ain't they?" A couple of Canada geese had come right up to Raymond and one of them was trying to take the bread out of his hand. "No, you don't. You'll have to go and run after it the same as the others." He lobbed his last piece of bread into the pond.
Then there was a great flurry of wings as the sweetest little Westie Eleanor had ever seen ran towards them. He was even sweeter than their Archie they'd had when the children were still at junior school.
"Hello," she said bending down to pet the little dog.
A young boy and, she supposed, his mum came rushing after the dog.
"Come here, Suzie," cried the boy. "Don't disturb the lady and gentleman."
Oh, so it was a little girl dog. "It's quite all right. We're used to dogs, aren't we, Adrian?" No, not Adrian. Raymond. He gave her a funny look.
"Come on Jack. Put her back on her lead. You shouldn't have left her off."
"Come here you." Jack clipped the lead on to Suzie's collar.
Eleanor sighed. "I wish we could have dogs."
Jean had wandered over by then. "Well, we were thinking of getting a cat to share amongst the residents." She smiled at Jack's mum. "But why don't you bring your dog along for a visit now and then?"
Jack jumped up and down and clapped his hands. "Yes!"
"That would be lovely," said Eleanor.
The other one was beginning to herd them back towards the gate. Jean carried on talking to the woman and her boy while little Suzie kept making attempts to chase the ducks and geese. Eleanor supposed Jean was telling them how to get to the apartments.
He asked her that every night at about this time. He wasn't wearing his red bobble hat this time. Perhaps it was near his bed-time as well.
"Oh yes it has. I've got a new boyfriend. And a new little boy - John, Jeff? I can't remember his name. He's got a little dog called Suzie. He's going to come and visit."
"So who's the boyfriend, Eleanor?" Tomas was frowning and had his arms folded across his chest. He looked a bit annoyed. Was he jealous?
"Oh, I'm only joking. I only mean Raymond from downstairs. We went for a walk around the lake together."
"Well, the duck pond."
"That sounds nice. Now, Eleanor, finish your cocoa and get into bed."
"You won't watch me getting undressed will you?"
"You're ready for bed, Eleanor. The ladies got you ready. Don't you remember?"
Eleanor chuckled. "So they did. You'll look after me, won't you?"
"Of course I will, Eleanor. All night long."