Cerise nails moved across her lap. A finger tarantella. Digits knitted, released, flexed. I took one hand, pressed it flat between my palms. The other, now partner-less, danced solo, gathering dress fabric into tufts. Five digits of chipped Fuchsia Fantasy creating a landscape of navy cotton mounds.
Her ancient eyes clouded years ago. ‘Ocean blue’ she used to self-compliment to the mirror. Never mum, she insisted we were on a first name basis. In the Day Lounge, I called to her and she scanned my face. A smile flicker and she looked beyond me, beyond the chair, beyond the window. I stroked her hand to limpness. When shoulders sagged into the vinyl wingback, I returned the right to the left, both settled for whatever mental reruns she viewed.
‘You’re so good with her,’ the nurse said. She placed a cup of tea and two mikados at my elbow. I demurred with a coy head tilt. The prefect trio for this tableau: Caring Nurse, Adoring Daughter, Senile Mother. A script I found easy to write. Earlier roles, the ones my mother cast, were harder to flesh out. I was the niece, later the sister, occasionally the roommate. At eighteen I wrote myself out of this series, but family dramas run forever. Those frequent call-backs. I became a featured guest, now a regular player.
I pulled the tiny ziplock from my pocket. It dissolved like sugar, this dust from angel wings. An extra generous measure to send her on her way. I watched the whirlpool swirl, gave the delph rim two taps with the spoon. She frowned at the first taste, but coaxing was central to this role. Cup empty, I took a final bow, air kissed her cheeks, and imagined tomorrow’s credits.
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