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Charlotte Buchanan, 24 Aug '14

The end was drawing near. Albert Sumpter’s life, much like other lives, had been filled with joys and sorrows, busy times and dull. He lived alone: his beloved Elsie had been killed when the ambulance she was driving took a direct hit and he’d never wanted to marry anyone else.

That wasn’t strictly true. He’d have married Vivien Leigh like a shot, if he’d ever managed to meet her and talk her into it. Sometimes he’d find a cinema ticket tucked in a book and remember the excitement of sitting in the dark, watching the shorts and waiting for her face to appear on the glittering silver screen.

Albert’s other passion was his garden. How he found the strength to keep it as perfect as he did was anyone’s guess – all the love he had saved up he planted there and once planted, it flourished.

One day, he was down the end of the garden, dead-heading the Marguerites when he was suddenly struck by an unusual scent. Mitsouko, he thought, nostalgically. More than he and Elsie could ever stretch to, but surely the scent of a successful, beautiful actress like Vivien Leigh. But...in his garden?

Now it had happened he was a bit scared. Ghosts haunt houses, not gardens. Calling out would be foolish, he thought. Bewildered, he staggered inside to put the kettle on.
His niece came round an hour later with a shepherd’s pie for him. “Eat it all up now,” she said. “Hope you don’t mind my saying, Uncle, but you’re not looking well. Get some food into you – you’ll feel better.”

“I just spent too long in the garden, that’s all.”

“Eat it up.” His niece was firm.

In bed later, he allowed himself just a tiny thought: "That was Vivien Leigh in the garden. I don’t know why or how but – ! – I’m a lucky man!"

The next night it was beef wellington. Albert’s niece let herself in like she always did but her uncle was nowhere to be seen. She went upstairs, calling anxiously. When she got to his bedroom door she had already guessed the worst.

She stood stock still for a minute then gathered her wits and went to knock on the neighbour’s door. An older, overdressed woman opened the door to her, releasing a cloud of old fashioned, cloying scent into the street. The niece tried to explain but burst into tears, only, “it’s all right, darling. I’ll take care of everything,” said the older woman.

She went into Albert’s house and up to his room. Finding no pulse, she called for an ambulance from the bedroom telephone. When the paramedics got there, they had only to follow the scent of Mitsouko up the stairs.

Comments · 1

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  • Charlotte Buchanan said...

    Scents are so evocative, aren't they? Thanks for reading. Cx

    • Posted 5 years ago