Refilwe worked at Happy Valley Nursing Home. Often it made her sad. All those old people, with no family to take care of them, left alone and lonely in the autumn years of their lives.

Still, today it was Mrs Jacobs’ birthday. Her eighty-seventh! So Refilwe put a happy smile on her face and knocked on Mrs Jacobs’s door.

“Wakey-wakey, Mrs Jacobs! Let me help you dress. Today is your special day, right?”

But Mrs Jacobs glared at Refilwe over the blankets. “Special? Ha! I’m staying in bed. What’s the point of getting up? My children are far away. I bet they don’t even remember it’s my birthday.”

But Refilwe placed a big packet on the bed. “You’re wrong, Mrs Jacobs. Look, I’ve saved up all the presents they sent you. Of course they didn’t forget!”

Like an excited little girl, Mrs Jacobs took out her presents. They were all carefully wrapped in bright paper. She started opening them.

“Look Refilwe! This is from Magda. Have I told you about Magda?”

Refilwe nodded. She had listened to stories about all three of Mrs Jacobs’ children: Magda and Simon who sailed yachts in the Mediterranean, and Millie who was living in New Zealand.

That was part of Refilwe’s job, listening to the old people. A very important part of her job.

Magda’s present was a scarf. “Oh it’s purple! She remembered that purple is my favourite colour!” said Mrs Jacobs. She put the scarf around her neck.

The present from Simon was a thick paperback book: Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. “He remembered!” said Mrs Jacobs, as she ripped off the wrapping paper. “Oh! Wonderful! I will start reading from tonight!”

Refilwe smiled. She knew all about Dr Zhivago. Mrs Jacobs was determined to read the whole book through from beginning to end. She had said so often.

“Well, that will keep you busy for a long time,” said Refilwe.

Last was Millie’s present: a framed photo of Table Mountain.

There were tears in Mrs Jacobs’ eyes. “Table Mountain! Oh how sweet of Millie! What a perfect present. That’s where I first met my beloved husband, God rest his soul. Did I ever tell how we met, Refilwe? It was such an amazing thing.”

Refilwe nodded again. It was good to see how the old lady had cheered up. At least Happy Valley felt like a happy place for the moment. “Are you ready to get dressed now?”

“Yes, yes, dear. My purple rose dress, I think! A special dress, for a special day!”

And then Refilwe saw the piece of typed white paper. It was lying right there on the bed in plain sight. She grabbed it quickly, but not quickly enough. Mrs Jacobs noticed.

“What is that, dear? Did that come with one of the presents?”

“No, No. It’s nothing to worry about. Nothing at all!” Refilwe stuffed the paper into the pocket of her uniform and hoped Mrs Jacobs would forget all about it. Luckily, Mrs Jacobs’ memory was not so good.


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