Astrid- Nyo Sweden
Taika- Nyo Finland
Warning for dementia
Astrid walked as fast as her tired old legs could carry her, pushing the door to the kitchen open to find her wife of over 40 years staring miserably at the smashed cup of coffee on the floor. So that was what caused the crashing sound.
Taika Väinämöinen-Oxenstierna just cried silently, occasionally giving a loud sniff as tears streamed down her wrinkled face. Her once blonde bob of hair was now white and she was even shorter than she used to be, back and shoulders hunched due to the combined pressure of an ageing body and constant tiredness. Her skin was papery and covered in lines, hands now bony and shaking. Astrid still thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
She was getting worse, Astrid realised. She'd been ill for years now, and was slowly becoming more and more forgetful, and unable to function on a day to day basis. There were times where she could barely string a sentence together. She'd even forgotten to turn the kitchen light on, not noticing the grey evening light around her. The woman wasn't even sure of what to do with the cup, just staring at it with a mixture of confusion and disappointment.
"Taika…" she sighed, shuffling further into the room and resting heavily on her walking stick. "Are you hurt?"
Taika jumped, glancing up at Astrid and shying away, quivering in her pyjamas and slippers, which were covered in cold coffee.
"You know you're too ill to use the kettle," Astrid sighed, "you shoulda tol' me you wanted a coffee and I'd have made it fer you."
"Who…" Taika looked at her in confusion, "you?"
"What're you talking about?" Astrid let out a nervous chuckle, "it's me, Astrid, yer wife!"
Astrid shook her head, refusing to believe it. The doctor had told them it would be years before Taika got like this. She knew her love's memory was getting bad- she always got her daughters mixed up when they came to visit- but surely she wouldn't forget Astrid too?
"We married 45 years ago," she told the woman, "in a big hotel. Adopted our first kid a year later. We named her Pauline, remember?"
Taika shook her head, "you…" her eyebrows knitted together as she tried to get her sentence out, "scare me."
Astrid felt like a pair of hands had just ripped her heart to pieces, the same hands that were tearing Taika's mind apart. Taika hadn't found her wife scary-looking in decades, not since their first date.
"I jus' have a scary face," she said reassuringly, "I'm nice, promise."
Taika did not look convinced.
"We'll talk later," Astrid sighed, "gotta clean up first." She gently placed her hands on Taika's upper arms, moving her to one of the dining table chairs and ordering her to sit, despite the other woman's protests and insults. Taika never used to be this irritable…
"You might fall over," she explained. Taika had done that several times before, like she'd just forgotten to walk. Once, it happened whilst she was stirring a pan of spaghetti and almost scalded herself, which was when Astrid decided she'd be doing all the household chores from then on.
Taika just glared at her, continuing to do so as Astrid slowly knelt on the floor to sweep up the broken cup. She didn't complain about the ache it gave her back and knees, or the mess, or the fact that that had been her favourite mug; those things weren't important.
She hissed at her stiff joints as she hobbled over to the bin, dumping the pieces of china in it and turning to her wife.
"Married?" asked Taika, "us?"
"Yes, married," Astrid smiled warmly, sitting down next to her. Taika just stared into space, hands resting on the table. "We met in the park, when you were looking after yer little sister. You thought I was a scary tall Viking woman, and just squeaked when I said hello. You saw I was by myself later, and decided to try talking to me." She rested her hand on her wife's, and Taika looked at her curiously, "You ap'logised for being rude, and we spoke a bit."
Taika nodded, looking away.
"I first tol' you I loved you at Julia Beilschmidt's party," Astrid continued, picking at her walking stick, which was leaning against the table, "I was drunk, an' fallin' all over the place. You laughed and steadied me and said you loved me too. I cried, or threw up. Can't remember."
Taika giggled, a young woman for the tiniest moment.
"You're the one who proposed," Astrid blinked back tears, wiping her wrinkled eyes with her other hand, "came home late from work and you were there, with candles an' flowers just standin' in the middle of the room beaming. And you pulled this little box out from behind yer back… got down on one knee..."
"Astrid?" Taika looked up in horror.
"I'm… sorry," her face crumpled as she began to wail, "I forgot…"
"I'm… horrible… mad…"
"No," Astrid held her close, letting the other woman sob into her dressing gown, "you're not horrible, just ill. You're lovely and I'll always love you, no matter how many times you forget."
"Shush," Astrid stroked her hair, "it's okay. Everything will be alright."
Astrid knew she was wrong; nothing would be alright again.