We drank the bottle of wine and we went to sit on the couch.
“I will clean up let it stay.” I whispered.
She put her fingers through my hair and began to twirl it, I looked at her and our eyes were locked.
“I love, I am falling in love with you.”
“Me too…I was scared I would blurt it out and feel…” She kissed me and I felt her soft lips part and her tongue, soft with the flavor of the red wine. My heart was pounding and I felt hers – chest to chest – heart to heart.
We lay in my bed, white sheets, one leg covered the other revealed. Her head on my chest and asleep. I felt her breath on me as she slept and thought about the night and smiled.
My phone rang, it was the lobby calling.
“You have a visitor Mr. Freddy, a lady named Elizabeth?”
“An older lady?”
“Please send her up.” I jumped out of bed, put on my clothes from last night, kissed her on the forehead and closed the door behind me. Went into the bathroom and stepped out into the living room to open the door.
Soft knock on the door.
“Is everything OK?”
“I couldn’t sleep all night and I needed to see you.”
“Whats going on? Well, come here, I will make you a coffee? Give me two minutes.” I came back with two cups of coffee and a corn muffin cut into four.
“After my father died my mother brought home a ‘friend’ of hers. Apparently they had been together for a couple of years and she had left her family to be with her.” She sipped the coffee and smiled. “That is good coffee.”
“Thank you, enjoy it.”
“Her name was Karen and she was a tough woman. She acted as if she were my father and would tell me to find a job, get married or to mop the floors across the house. The younger kids she would treat like they were her own – to her I was Cinderella. To my mother I was just the housekeeper and the nanny. For several years it went on like this until one night my mother came back from the Doctor with Karen.
‘I just came from the Doctor, my days are numbered, Daughter.’ I didn’t know what she was talking about. When I asked her what she meant she slapped me and told me she was dying.”
“The next morning I heard a car pull away from the side of our house – I looked outside to see the dirt rising up like flames from the ground – like our own personal dust bowl. I went downstairs and found a note by the door. “
Dearest Daughter, Alas my time is running out and rather than fade away as a sunset I prefer to leave like a tornado. I entrust the care of the children to you and Karen. Mother.
“As I sat on the floor crying I heard the stairs behind me creaking. The sound of two sets of footsteps – and then time began to fly by in triple speed.”
“Did you ever hear from your mother again?” I asked.
She began to laugh and cry at the same time. Her eyes blue as a robin’s egg.
“Would you believe twenty years later I went to answer my front door and there she was.”
“I thought she was dying.”
“Well I wish she had. She came back into my life – by that time the two kids had moved away, Ricky to Santa Fe and Jenny to Cranford New Jersey or something like that. They would send me Christmas cards and once in a while a photograph. So, the old lady, looking better than myself I might add – decided to have me evicted and took over the house since it was in her name still. I didn’t care, if anything i felt like a prisoner being released from a life sentence. The only problem was a lack of funds. When I told her that all I had in my savings was eleven hundred dollars, she promptly wrote a check for ten thousand and told me that she had some visitor coming and it would be best if I left by the morning.”
“Did she have any blood running through her veins?”
She laughed, “You know she didn’t even ask about Karen?”
“What happened to Karen?”
“When my mother left that morning, Karen and I sat on the couch after the kids had left and consoled each other. She wasn’t much older than I was and we found comfort in each other. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer I took care of her and nursed her over a three-year period. During those years the kids left only to come back to bury her. Karen was still the tough bitch but there was a change in her once my mother left. There was a soft side that was endearing to me and I believe I helped bring it out.”
“How many years are we talking now?”
“Well when Karen died I was, hmm, around 30 years old or so? I stopped counting at 15 years old. So I was left alone in the house until my mother came knocking – some 15 years after Karen had passed.”
“Did you work? Socialize? Did you have any friends at all? You are a very beautiful woman, I am not just saying that.”
“I did work, of course I worked. I was a clerk at the pharmacy in town. I started by being a cash register gal and within a couple of years I was filling out prescriptions and running the place.”
“What about friends?”
“I had friends, the customers who would come in – we would sit for hours talking and there were several occasions I would close the store for an hour or two.” She laughed.
“But then the owner of the place, Dr. Richardson, became ill and I was working crazy hours to keep the business afloat. Business was picking up and when he passed away I was hoping for the chance to buy the business from the family. But once again the floor was pulled out from under me.”
“This man I was seeing decided to leave his wife for me. I didn’t want no part in breaking up a family and after I allowed him to share my apartment with me a week later his wife came screaming outside of my window, two floors down, that her husband, Irwin, should ‘come home and come home now.’ He kissed me on my forehead, took all of his stuff and said, ‘I am going home, but thank you.'”
“When word came out about my ‘abhorrent behavior’ I was told that I was fired and any chance I had of buying the store was out of the question. So I packed up my stuff and moved to Cranford New Jersey to visit Jenny for a spell.” She took a long sip from her coffee, cut the muffin into small pieces, offered me a plate and then continued.
“Cranford was not for me. Plus Jenny was not pleased to have me. He kids were adorable and we became close, but her husband wanted his den back and so I left after a couple of days. Headed to nowhere really because I had nowhere to go.”
“I found myself on a greyhound bus heading for Chicago seated next to an older lady who was heading back to her home outside of the city. It’s a long ride that bus – some 20 hours to get there; so we talked and talked. I listened more than I spoke and I ended up living with her as an assistant. She lived alone and was frightened. He husband had passed and her children had moved to New York and left her to fend for herself. She had money and her home was a mansion way too big for her to live alone, so she hired me. I lived with her for fifteen years and when she didn’t get out of bed one morning I could smell that she had gone. I called her daughter who I had met on Christmas and Easter each year; she told me thank you and asked for the keys. It was my last evening sleeping at the house when her lawyer came to me and handed me a check for a half a million dollars. Apparently the old lady cared for me more than my mother ever had.”
“At this time the year was 1972 or so and I was 50 years old with a half a million dollars in my bank account but nothing and no one to spend it on. So I took a bus to Las Vegas.”
The door to my room opened, “Hey Freddy, good morning.”
“Hey Liz, this is Elizabeth a friend of mine. Elizabeth this is Liz my, my girlfriend?” We looked at each other and smiled.
“I need to leave now anyhow – remember what I asked for the other day and I will see you soon.”
“I don’t know what you want from me I am just…”
“Time, Freddy, Time.”
The door closed behind her and I looked into Liz’s eyes, a blue as a robins egg.