“I’ve been in this hotel for… for… how long has it been dear? Forever, it seems like. So I know a thing. Or two. About this place. Wouldn’t you like to know?”
Bertha said, as she sat up, straining her neck as she did so.
“No, no. Don’t bother asking ol’ Bert over here. Shh. Shh. Hush now. I know you’ve been here as long as me. BUT YOU MUSTN’T! Speak. SO LOUD! Okay, right. Back to you then.”
She tried to away the strands of matted silver hair that had fallen on her eyelids, as she bellowed. Failing to do so in her first attempt, she began rolling her head in the shape of a half-moon allowing the strands of hair to successfully flick to the back of her head. Crimson veins pulsed vibrantly on her neck from the continual strain placed on it. She redirected her focus on me.
“Blasted Bert, always wanting a say. Yet always disappearing away. Here Bert. There Bert. Everywhere there’s Bert. Bert. And then, he is nowhere. And THAT is why I get so mad at you, sweetie pie.”
She paused, glancing at the plate on the ground beside her.
“I WAS PROMISED 5 STAR DINING! One, two, three, four, five, four, three, two, one. I give this zero. Not on quality. No, but on quantity. Incompetence. HOW MANY TIMES MUST I TELL YOU! One plate won’t be enough. For me and Bert, hun. And I am “forbidden from ever starving myself again.”
She recited this last part in a voice that was not her own, and closed her eyes as she spoke, in such a way as if she was recalling the voice from a memory. Her eyes reopened to reveal a gleaming grey window, glazed with tears that she would not permit to fall.
“BERT?! BERT! WHERE ARE YOU?”
Frantically she looked from the left to the right, then up and down alternately; then glared at me.
“See! Look what you’ve gone and done. Bert has disappeared. Again. He’s gone because he felt forgotten. Again. Neglected. AGAIN. But I guess. Beggars can’t be choosers. I’M not paying for this place. I’M being treated. By mummy dearest. Reparations. That is what I see all this as. Reparations for the years of… BERT!”
She jumped up onto her feet and stared at the ceiling, stretching her neck out and tilting her head forward in an accusatory fashion.
“HOW ON EARTH did you get up there. Come down from there, this instant. Bert. You’ll HURT yourself. Again. See, he never listens.”
She sighed. She sighed in such a way that her whole body seemed to deflate during the slow exhalation. Her very aura revealed the torment her soul endured, the battles she continued to fight within herself were draining. Consuming. She floated back down to the ground beside me.
“NO FURNISHINGS! There. Another fault with this place. And that harsh light. WHY is there, nowhere for me to call room service? You come and you go. As you please. LIKE BERT OVER HERE! But that’s okay, because my mummy should be coming for me now. Or did she say soon? How soon is now? When is soon? I’ve been waiting. And waiting. AND THIS PLACE! Is not worth whatever she’s paying. But oh well…”
There was a pause – I used this as an opportunity to attempt my task and I began to draw near to her. Clocking on and realising my intentions she began to struggle, thrusting her body back and forth in a frustrated panic and collapsed on the ground; yelling and sobbing as she did so.
“I WON’T, I WON’T, I WON’T! LEAVE ME ALONE BERT! But please don’t go, I don’t want to BE alone. Just left alone. But only when you’re like this. I CAN’T HURT HIM, I WON’T! THAT’S NOT ME ANYMORE! Mummy I’m sorry, Bert told me too. He MADE me. I’m trying mummy, I’m sorry. I promise to get the blood out of the carpet.”
She whimpered, suffocating in her tears; screaming helplessly in-between large intakes of breath and then suddenly all was silent. Sedated and manageable I was finally able to tighten the strips on her white jacket, that wrap her arms crossed around her, completely preventing their movement.
Can’t have her escaping again.