The next day was Saturday so Rob wasn’t working at The Lawns, and Mrs Evans from the local charity shop had called – she always rang him when any old records were donated. This week there’d been two boxes, buried in a huge pile of stuff dumped outside the shop by some hot shot city type whose elderly aunt had passed away. Rob jumped in his car enjoying the delightful anticipation that the boxes might contain a rare Deanna gem or something else to add to his collection. He’d sell the rest online as usual, for more money than they’d ever get in the shop, and pass on the proceeds to Mrs Evans.
But instead of Deanna he’d found himself holding a young and beautiful Elsie in his hands. It didn’t take much research to find out that Nurse Campbell had been right. Elspeth St John had suddenly abandoned a promising career leaving a handful of recordings and just one film – Springtime Review. Unlike Deanna though, there were no fan clubs or societies keeping her memory alive, just a passing mention on a couple of websites.
On Monday Rob wrapped the record in a bag and took it with him to The Lawns. He spent most of the morning checking in the final consignment of plants and talking on the phone to the nursery trying to sort out the inevitable mistakes. As soon as he could he slipped away from the planting and made his way to Elsie’s room. He knocked at the door but there was no response and hesitantly he turned the handle. The room was empty and the bed had not been slept in. Feeling slightly sick he went straight to the canteen. Nurse Campbell wasn’t there, she was working nights this week, so he had to ask one of the others.
“Excuse me, has something happened to Elsie Crawford?”
“Why do you want to know?” This nurse was not so chatty.
“I have something for her” Rob held up the bag.
“She had a fall. For some reason she decided to take her first ever walk in the garden yesterday morning and she slipped on the wet grass.”
“Is she alright?”
“Oh yes,” the nurse sounded kinder now, sensing Rob’s concern, “they took her up to the hospital as a precaution but she’ll be back on Wednesday.”
Rob retreated and took the record back to his van. He felt terrible, what if it was his telling her all about the new gardens that had prompted her to go outside and fall.
He returned to work, but he was distracted – there had to be some way to make amends. Then his phone rang, it was the nursery about redelivering the missing plants, and suddenly Rob knew exactly what he was going to do.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, for the second night in a row, Nurse Campbell made two mugs of tea, and then looked carefully around before taking one of them outside. She smiled to herself, she was going to need a lot more tea to keep her going tonight if she wanted to stay awake until Elsie returned.
At half past ten the nurse wheeled the elderly lady from the ambulance back to her room where the bedside light glowed and the curtains were closed. Rob had told her what to do and when she’d settled Elsie in the chair by the window she turned to the strange looking box standing on the chest of drawers. Gingerly she lifted the lid and peered inside at the delicate mechanism. Her hands were shaking but she remembered what he’d shown her just before dawn.
As the crackling sound filled the small room Nurse Campbell opened the curtains and said, “look outside Elsie, this is all for you.”
“The daffodils are blooming
And spring is on its way…”
And Elsie looked out onto a magical carpet of yellow, covering the lawn beneath her window, and for the first time in sixty years heard her own voice singing of springtime. The heart she thought had died a long time ago filled with joy, and she turned shining blue eyes first to the nurse and then to the diffident young man who stood shyly in the doorway.
“Robert,” she whispered, “thank you.”