pexels-kullanmıyorum-4533107.jpg‘Emergency. Which service do you require?’

‘There’s a giraffe in my lounge.’

A moment of silence followed. ‘Maisie, is that you again? I understand you’re lonely and want someone to talk to, but this number is for genuine emergencies.’

‘This is an emergency. There's a giraffe in my lounge.’ Her voice wavered, a little less certain than before.

The call handler sighed. ‘Yesterday, you thought your house wasn’t where it should be. Twice this week you went shopping and forgot to close your front door, then blamed a burglar. You get confused. Do you think it’s possible you imagined it?’

Maisie acknowledged her recent episodes of confusion. She agreed to make a cup of tea and check if the animal disappeared while she was in the kitchen.

Passing the front door, she noticed a yellow square stuck to the glass. ‘Close me’. The kettle had a sticky note too, ‘Unplug me.’ A note on the fridge read, ‘Milk lives here.’ The one she’d stuck on the calendar that morning reminded her, ‘Today is Wednesday.’

How curious! A red circle around the adjacent box suggested something important happening tomorrow, but there was no note. Why didn’t I write myself a memo?

Still pondering the mystery circle, she brewed herself a tea and took it into the lounge. The giraffe was now stripping leaves off her parlour palm and chewing them as if they tasted peculiar. His expression reminded her of something. She sipped her tea and studied him, frowning.

‘That’s it! You look like Gerald when he asked if I’d accidentally put mustard powder in the ginger cake.’ She smiled.

It wasn’t the first time he had visited her in spirit. When the neighbour’s cat rubbed against her legs, it was Gerald offering a foot massage. Wind rustling the trees whispered his comforting words. He was watching over her; she was certain of it.

She put her feet up on the footstool and turned on the TV. They spent a companionable evening together, reminiscent of the old days.

On her way to bed she said, ‘I’ve left the back door open, Gerald, so you can go into the garden. The leaves are tastier there.’

Next morning, she stuck to her routine. While her porridge cooked in the microwave, she peeled yesterday’s note off the calendar and replaced it with, ‘Today is Thursday’. The back door clanged in the wind. That’s strange. I must have forgotten to lock it last night.

A giraffe walked towards the open doorway. Without thinking, she said, ‘Good morning, Gerald,' and then she almost spilled her tea in surprise. I remember!

She stepped aside to allow him to enter. They’d not long settled in the lounge, Maisie watching TV, Gerald munching the TV guide, when the doorbell rang.

Her heart beat faster as she recognised the woman on the doorstep.

‘Hello, Maisie. Remember me?’

‘The social worker.’

‘That’s right! Well done!'

So condescending. I hate it when people talk to me as if I'm a child. 'Why are you here?’

‘I’m taking you to your new home.’

Of course - red circle day.

Beside her feet sat a brown suitcase with a yellow square stuck to the handle ‘Ready for Thursday.’

Sometimes forgetting is a blessing and remembering a curse. ‘I’m not going. I can’t leave Gerald.’

'Now, now. We discussed this when I took you to visit Gerald’s grave last week. You said your goodbyes then, remember?’

When Maisie didn't reply the woman squeezed past, plucked a faded grey overcoat coat off its hook and held it open, waiting.

‘I’m not going.’ She folded her arms.

The social worker checked her watch and shook the shoulders of the coat. ‘Put your coat on and get in the car.’

Maisie looked towards the lounge door. Strangely, she’d remembered to close it. Don’t get flustered. Which is more likely to be real - the giraffe or moving day?

Moments later, they were in the car, suitcase in the back, seatbelts fastened. She looked over her shoulder as they pulled away, hoping... but the house looked alone and forlorn.

The car radio announced the lunchtime news. ‘The giraffe that escaped yesterday while in transit to the zoo is still missing. Anyone with information on its whereabouts should ring the police.’

It was real! Grinning, she fished her mobile out of her pocket.

‘Emergency. Which service do you require?’

The social worker shouted to the call handler, ‘I’m so sorry. Please hang up. I’ve got this.’ She pulled over and snatched the phone out of Maisie’s hand. ‘No more wasting police time.’

‘But I know where missing the giraffe is!’

‘Don’t be ridiculous. I’ll hold on to this for now.’ She put the phone in the glove compartment and snapped the flap shut. ‘Once we get to the nursing home, you can have a nice cup of tea and put all these daft ideas out of your head for good.’

They’ll say I got confused again. That I’m making a nuisance of myself. Perhaps it's best to say nothing.

Breathing in felt like stretching the bars of a cage, the fists clenched on her lap like padlocks.

Miles passed. The social worker drove tight-lipped, Maisie sat beside her, silenced.

As they approached the nursing home she noticed a scrunched scrap of yellow paper in one hand. Curious, she flattened it out and read it. ‘Ready for Thursday’. It was obvious the note was important, but the significance of the reminder was disappearing into an ever-thickening fog. What am I getting ready for? A hollow ache lodged in her stomach and tears stung her eyes.

A giraffe, long neck outstretched, velvet horns brushing the ceiling, filled her mind.

What does it mean? A day trip to the zoo? Am I meeting Gerald there?

She scrabbled to hold on to the image, but it was already gone.