‘I know, I never get tired of it.’
Her cigarette smoke wafted into the light trail of the projector, making the grainy tone of the film slide further almost out of focus. Other eyes in the room watched her face for a trace of reaction. She kept her face neutral, not allowing any emotions to travel there. Michael thought it amusing to show these moments sliced from his family archive. Martha shifted slightly, ash slipping onto the ground. She took another luxurious drag and blew the smoke out in a rush in front of her. She almost couldn’t see the images playing out another drawing room scene – one where the predictability bored her beyond the next cigarette. Nana standing up; Nana reaching towards the camera; Nana shaking her head. But there, there was a telling detail that Martha hadn’t noticed before: a small bottle on the table nest beside Nana’s armchair. There was something. Martha sat up now paying attention to the film. Nana’s eyes seemed heavy, her gestures muted, almost clumsy – not how Nana was. As the film snapped and flapped around the reel uselessly, Martha crushed the cigarette in the tray. She had questions that would not stay inside her smooth marble throat. Not tonight.
Michael rummaged with the film trying to get it back on the projector. Martha yawned. ‘You know, it’d probably be best if you left that now.’
Michael frowned at the infernal machine and turned to Martha. ‘Slip me one of your fags,’ he smiled, pleased at her attention. She passed him cigarettes and lighter. He lit one and exhaled a smoky draught in a smooth motion. ‘Poor Nana, that was probably the last time I got her with the cinecamera.’
‘Yes, I should think it was.’ Martha’s voice dripped acid and Michael looked at her, a query forming in his eyes.
‘How do you mean?’
‘There was a bottle on the table beside her – didn’t you see?’
‘Her tablets – I’d never forget that blue label: the amount of times I had to pop it open for her.’
‘Yes, her tranquilisers. What about them?’
‘They were knocked over.’
Martha turned away from Michael and stared at the blank pull-down screen, wondering how to frame the next few words.
‘Do you mean that...’
‘Can’t be sure now: it was ten years ago.’ She smiled back at him, head turned away from their guests, an eyebrow raised in a perfect black arc. He stared at her, as comprehension sank in suddenly, a boulder of uncertainty muddying the past. He thought quickly.
‘But the coroner report...’
‘I know,’ she countered.
‘And the carer ... she did fifteen years with Nana.’
‘Yes, dear. I know.’ Martha smoothed the vowels over in a finite measure. She looked away from him again and turned towards the Robinsons.
‘Now, then – who’s for a game of cards?’
Cailleach blogs HERE at Barbara's Bleughh