Rosemary sat back heavily, trying to work out exactly when she'd lost her grip on reality. She stared blankly at the computer screen, which not so long ago had been her world. Now all it represented was a huge waste of her life.
She stared into the empty box, seemingly mocking her, daring her to switch it off. She could sense its wrath even as she thought about the power switch.
She stood up wearily and shuffled into the bathroom, the computer forgotten for now. She could afford to prolong its life for another few minutes. Looking in the mirror, contemplating her reflection, it was no longer a face that she recognised. Her hair was a complete mess, hanging limply either side of her pasty face. Her eyes were sunken and black around the edges, a stark contrast to the rest of her complexion. Months of hiding away in her bedroom with the curtains drawn had drained all the colour away. She'd been expecting to have such a pale complexion, but was totally unprepared for seeing just how gaunt she was. She still hadn't got over the shock of seeing herself amongst all the confusion.
She'd been eating, of course. Just not quite as often as mother would've liked, who still insisted on cooking all the old family favourites even though it was only the two of them now. Her dad had died years ago and her brothers had their own places. At first she didn't mind but the smells drifting up from the kitchen had held less appeal to her. Food became a necessity rather than a pleasure.
When she'd stopped going down for meals, mother would bring food up now and again, but it turned into something of a battle between them. In an attempt to encourage Rosemary downstairs, mother would refuse to bring her anything, but that didn't bother Rosemary. She knew it would always be mother that caved in first, leaving a plate of something outside the door. A few knocks would signal its arrival before shuffling feet went off down the stairs again in defeat.
Rosemary never did see the pain that she caused her mother. The worry that built up, not knowing what to do to coax her daughter from her self-imposed prison. Not understanding just how someone could spend their entire lives chained to a virtual world, when the real world outside held so much more.
She had no idea when the pain that mother felt was more than just emotional. No idea that the pain was far worse, something she would never recover from.
Rosemary didn't even notice when she no longer heard mother coming up and down the stairs. Night came and went three times before she even realised that she hadn't eaten for awhile, her stomach protesting its neglect. Just once, prompted by this plea from within, did she open the door of her bedroom to peer down the stairs. She was so overcome with fear of stepping out onto her own landing she had to withdraw, closing the door firmly and hiding under her covers. It took an age to calm herself down again.
This wasn't anything like the shock that awaited her though. She didn't know what was happening when she heard the noise of someone shouting and bounding up the stairs. She'd been so scared she'd hidden under the bed. She was trembling all over when her door was thrown open and in her terror she didn't recognise the voice of her own brother calling for her. The look on his face when she crawled out from her hiding place was of confusion and disbelief. He was talking at her but she was barely registering anything he said. The odd word broke through, something about '...mother....how long.....dead....' The last word hung in her ears while she tried to comprehend.
She followed reluctantly down the stairs on shaky legs. Her brother was on the telephone, frantically talking to someone or other, Rosemary had no idea who. She only had to go halfway down though to see her mother lying on the kitchen floor. How long she had been there like that she'll never know. Grief consumed her as she collapsed on the stairs and she gasped as she saw herself in the mirror at the bottom. Unable to articulate her emotional confusion she barely registered people coming in and out.
That was three days ago and now, staring in the mirror, she still couldn't make sense of it all. She had so many feelings buzzing around inside and knew that guilt played a major part. There was no room for feeling the loss of her mother just yet.
She went back into her bedroom, the fortress she had built around herself. She sat down with her hand poised over the off switch. She knew she should turn it off and be done with it forever ...