tilly with the others: part 33

She was on a narrow cot pressed hard against a spongey wall, and she couldn't see anything because a white light was being shone directly into her face. She was hot and cold in patches, all over her body, and the hostiles had wrapped her in some sort of restraint around her elbows and waist, and she was trying to free herself, but she couldn't hear if there were any near her, because they weren't talking, and the light was blinding her and getting hotter and hotter but her feet were freezing and it was uncomfortable to breathe, she was worried that in her struggles she would get stuck with her face pressed into the spongey wall and suffocate, and the white light was getting hotter and hotter in her face...

Tilly woke with a start. The morning sun was streaming through the sheers hung over the living room window, behind the couch she was lying on. It took her a moment to recognise that it was her couch, her living room. It took another moment to realise she was still in day clothes. Her feet were freezing, and she supposed at some point during the night the rest of her had been too, because she'd pulled down the afghan she'd knitted in the mid-80s from the back of the couch onto her torso. Somehow she'd got wrapped up in it.

Tilly found a free end and pulled the knitted throw off. She had to sit up and wriggle around a bit before she could unwrap herself entirely. With a sigh she stood up, shook the afghan out, and put it back where it belonged.

The hip that sometimes gave her trouble was fine, but her left shoulder was giving off a dull but intense pain, and it felt like her neck would never straighten on its own again.

Tilly shuffled to her purse, and double-checked that her memory was correct — no, she didn't have to work that day. Just as well, because she had a suspicion she was going to wind up spending most of it in bed. She tucked her pocket calendar back in her purse and made her way to the kitchen.

At first she was going to take her pain medication with a glass of water, but then she remembered that she had never had supper the night before and that there was apple juice in the fridge. Glass in hand, she wandered to the refrigerator and opened the door.

White light streamed from the fridge. Tilly shrieked and dropped the glass, which bounced once on its base before shattering into hundreds of tiny shards around her stockinged feet. The door tilted to a ninety-degree angle with the fridge, hovered for a few moments, then swung lazily open to its fullest extent, making contact with the kitchen wall with a decisive thunk sound.

Tilly stood whimpering in the broken glass, staring into the fridge. But there was no babble of voices, no mass of hostiles pouring out of the appliance.

The light was just the regular refrigerator light.

"You stupid old fool!" Tilly barked in Dutch. I have to keep my wits about me, she added silently.

She forced her inflamed spine to let her look behind herself. There didn't seem to be any broken glass in the dining room area. She carefully took a giant step backwards to extricate herself from the broken glass, then reached under her skirt to pull off her pantyhose, making sure she turned them completely inside out to trap any tiny shards which may have stuck to her feet. She wadded up the pantyhose and threw them in the wastepaper basket she kept by the computer desk, cursing her jitteriness and grateful that at least she'd decided to keep the brush and dustpan in the linen closet down the hall. The vacuum cleaner was there too. She hated leaving the fridge door open and wasting electricity, but there was nothing to be done about it until she knew the floor was clean.

She pulled on an old pair of jogging pants and her pink fuzzy slippers before tackling the floor. Brushing up the shards of glass made it feel like the arm with the sore shoulder was going to fall off, but she made herself keep going until she couldn't see any more pieces, then vacuumed over the entire kitchen and dining room.

When she was done she unscrewed the light bulb in the refrigerator and added it to the kitchen garbage with the broken glass. If she really couldn't see into the fridge, she could just turn the kitchen light on.

Tilly retrieved a fresh glass from the cupboard. The glasses were on the right-hand side, over the sink, and out of habit she opened the cupboard door with her right hand and reached for the glass with her left. She had just closed the cupboard door again when her left arm spasmed and she dropped the glass into the sink. It broke into three large pieces, with smaller shards glinting against the stainless steel.

"SHIT!" Tilly swore in a rich blend of Dutch and English spiced with French and German. She felt tears prick her eyelids, and added a few Italian and Danish curses she hadn't used since university. She propped her hands on the edge of the sink and made herself breathe slowly, counting to thirty before she tried moving again.

She tucked her bad arm behind her back and carefully picked up each large piece of broken glass one at a time from the sink, dropping each in turn into the kitchen garbage. She wanted to cringe as she heard each piece chime against the other pieces and the now-broken light bulb. When all the large pieces were disposed of, she rinsed the sink out, being careful only to use her right hand, and got a third glass down from the cupboard. Keeping her left arm tucked away, she got the bottle of apple juice from the fridge. She let her left hand hold the bottle in place on the counter while she used her right hand to unscrew the lid, poured her juice, and used it to wash down two pills.

When the glass was drained, she put the juice away and marched herself straight to the washroom to use the toilet and brush her teeth, then got ready for bed.

You made a mess. You cleaned it up. Now calm down, she thought, and eventually drifted back to sleep.