Extract from Punishing the Guilty

After care worker, JOHN, forgetfully leaves two elderly patients in the back of a minibus after a day out, they suffocate and die. However, after finding out who the patients are, the police begin to think perhaps JOHN’s mistake wasn’t so innocent after all…

 

They sit in front of me. A green cushion catches my eye, I had to put it behind Edward’s bony back earlier; he had thanked me with his famous smile, the smile that had charmed many. His face now warped, tortured; down to me, that smile was gone forever. Weightless. Their limp, lifeless bodies seem to be drifting around in my mind, the reality too much for me to process. The enormity of it all refused to hit me, lingering until the final knockout.

To my left, she looked slightly more peaceful. I studied her deadened face, looking for something, redemption, forgiveness. Her closed eyes suggested acceptance but her lack of eyelashes haunted me as I recalled the story she had told me a few weeks back.

She had been showing me grainy childhood photos. Patricia had been a beautiful child, with sparkling green eyes and long, wonderful eyelashes. She had told me in a grave tone “One day, we were at the market, a beautiful summer’s day. A lady selling me Mam ripe fruits glanced at me and said to her ‘Oh look at your daughter’s eyes, those eyelashes. Don’t it get to you that you have to put all that make up on yours and they still aren’t half as good as hers!?’ Me Mam looked at me in such a way; her glare pierced right through me. That night, half awake, I felt the pressure of cold metal on my closed lids. In the morning, I had these horrendous short stubs for eyelashes; she had left the scissors by the side of my bed.” Now I was glad her eyes were shut, afraid they might possess the same haunted look they had after I had stupidly questioned her odd appearance.

 

Toast Anthology available to buy here