“Excuse me, you there, where am I?” the greyed lady asked, pulling a crocheted blanket over her lap.
The equally greyed man smiled at her and turned to face her.
“Oh hello” his warm voice responded
“There must be a mistake” the lady continued in a confused state. The man sat for a minute, allowing her to absorb her surrounds. “These people here are terribly old, and why am I wearing these old clothes! I expect my husband will be here soon to fetch me” she quipped
“Would you like me to check with someone when your husband will be here?” the man kindly offered
“Yes, that would be very kind. Miller is his name” she smiled, finding herself unusually sapped of strength and unable to get out of her chair. As promised, the man shuffled off and had a chat to someone else, then shuffled back.
“Some good news, Mrs Miller. Your husband is on his way”
“Thank goodness for that. He’s on the Council, you know, and he’s very busy. I expect he got caught up in a meeting discussing something very important” the old lady felt relieved “Tell me” she continued, “Where am I?”
“Oh, we are at the Department of Lost Stars” he responded with a glimmer in his eye
“That’s right. Everyone here is a star in some way – all very special”
“But why are they lost?”
“Oh, they are not lost. Once you’re here, you’re found!”
“What a witty thing to say” the old lady broke her first smile.
The pair sat in silence for a few minutes, watching people come and go, their shoes tap tapping on the worn linoleum floor. In the background, a crackly radio whispered some songs of old. The sitting room was a light, open affair with windows that viewed over the ocean. A light breeze rippled across the otherwise still ocean and the late Autumn sun danced across the expanse of blue.
After a few minutes, the man turned to his new companion. “Mrs Miller, would you care for a cup of tea?”
“Oh yes, that would be lovely” she smiled, once again
“I expect you will take it without sugar?”
“How did you ever guess?”
“Because you’re sweet enough as it is” he chuckled
The lady smiled, a cheeky sparkle shone out of her eyes
“Shame on you” she seemed to giggle “I’m a married woman!”
Before too long, the man had returned with two cups of tea, served in thick, white china.
“Mrs Miller, I’ve got a jam drop here if you’d like”
“Oh, my favourite” her eyes lit up “I haven’t had a jam drop in ever such a long time. Do you know, I used to court a man, I simply can’t remember his name now, but he would always bring jam drops whenever we’d meet. He was such a sweet man, I wish I could remember his name”
“I’m very pleased it brings back happy memories” he smiled
The old pair continued to chat as the sun crept down behind the mountain. Some of the old stars in the sitting room sat quietly – reading, doing crossword puzzles or simply watching liners slip into the horizon over the ocean.
“I’m terribly sorry, and how rude of me” the old lady realised “I never asked your name”
“Miller” he smiled
“Oh, just like me!” her spirits lifted “I suppose you might be related to my husband’s family. They are terribly nice – my husband works on the Council, I expect you’ve heard about him” she boasted
“Yes Mrs Miller, I have met him on a number of occasions, and he always spoke glowingly of you”
“My Vernon would say something like that. He’s so sweet” she gushed “I hope not to pry Mr Miller, but is there a Mrs Miller?”
An uneasy smile came across the old mans face. He took his new companion by the hand and looked into her misty blue eyes
“There was a Mrs Miller once, she was the apple of my eye” a tear welled in his eye
Enraptured, she leant forward
“She was taken by that wicked dementia” he wiped a tear from his eye
“Oh Mr Miller, I’m terribly sorry to hear that” she offered her heartfelt apologies
He held her hand, and she found herself making no attempt to remove herself from his warm touch
“Mrs Miller, I do have a confession to make”
“Oh?” she quipped
“There is another I do have my eye on” he smiled cheekily “but I’m sure she wouldn’t remember me, even if I was sitting in front of her” his smile wore thin
“Now now, there’s nothing flattering about a lack of self confidence. Whoever this lady is, I’m sure she would be very flattered by your attention”
By now, the sun had set and the sitting room was filled with the yellowing glow of florescent lights. Some of the old stars had drifted to sleep, some were eating a dinner of roast beef and soft vegetables. Tables were produced and the old pair were offered dinner. They found themselves talking about this and that, enjoying quiet conversation over the clink of cutlery on heavy porcelain plates.
After dinner, a kindly young lady came to the pair
“Mrs Miller, it’s time I took you to your room”
“My room? I expect my husband will be here shortly to fetch me from this place”
“Of course, Mrs Miller. He called through earlier and said he has an urgent Council issue, but he has organised for you to stay here overnight”
“Oh” the old lady seemed deflated “He is very busy, you know. He’s on the Council, you know. How very thoughtful of him to organise a hotel for me. He’s always been very thoughtful, I expect that’s why he keeps getting voted in” she responded, speaking highly of her husband.
“Well Mrs Miller, it’s been a pleasure meeting you” Mr Miller held his new companions hand
“Thank you Mr Miller. You look just like the father of a man I used to court, many years ago. I do wish I could remember his name. He used to bring me jam drops. Isn’t it interesting, the things you remember and the things you forget”
“Happiness is good health and a bad memory” Mr Miller smiled
“Mr Miller, I do hope to find you here tomorrow” she implored
“I expect I will see you tomorrow Mrs Miller, here, in the Department of Lost Stars”
“Lost stars?” she smiled “We’re not lost – we’ve found each other”.