Zeno stretched out his long legs underneath the coffee table and lifted his arms high in the air above his head as long and hard as he could reach until he felt his spine crack and his soul tingled with relief. He smiled at a distant memory. The memory of a man he had recently known. Every thought of him delighting his senses.
It was raining with the view of the city hazy and gray below and he slowly got back to concentrating on a portfolio of photographs he'd taken in the studio of his artwork. The wind picked up and the rain fell harder by the time Zelta came through the French doors and into the living room gasping with every step.
In one hand she carried a bag of M&M candies, the other a glass filled with milkshake. Ceto, the short-hair black cat Zelta always called Blackey, followed in tow with a gay erect tail.
Zeno was about to say good morning but hesitated after seeing pale lipstick shaping her small mouth and soft earth shadow and rouge painting her chalky complexion giving her cheeks an unnatural glow. Her snow-white hair was untangled and brushed neatly into place. She wore a clean blue velvet gown with a flower embroidery knitted above the breast, a striking improvement over the drab flesh-colored robe she had worn previously. He couldn't believe it was the same woman who had managed to look so miserable only a few days ago.
This change, he thought to himself and held his breath to keep from laughing outloud, would probably horrify Abel upon his return from Charleston.
"How are you today, Mrs. Erikson?" he finally said after she settled into her favorite arm chair with a high back and a small fluffy pillow. The chair was closest to a floor lamp and off to the side of the white fireplace mantel with a ticking antique clock and Abel's portrait focused above the fireplace.
"Just fine, young fellow,” she said haughtily and Zeno looked away from her. “Thank you," she added and placed the glass down on the side table with bag of M&Ms centered in her lap; then looked anxiously around the room. "Where is Rosa?" she said.
"Rosa won't be in until the afternoon,” he glimpsed at her and continued his work. “She has a doctor’s appointment. That’s why she's late."
"Rosa won't be in until the afternoon,” he glimpsed at her. “She has a doctor’s appointment. That’s why she's late."
"I hope she'll be all right.”
"She’ll be fine⎯I’m sure."
She reached for the glass on the table and lifted it with the plastic straw anchored at the top to her mouth and, staring straight ahead into a downpour of rain dripping down the terrace glass, she parted her lips and sucked. Hearing the sound of her sucking and then wheezing Ceto, the black cat, scouted out from underneath the chair. She caught a sudden dash of the cat for only second as it disappeared through the open French doors and into the hall and ignored it for now. She put the glass back down on the table mechanically and fidgeted with the seal of the bag of M&Ms until she tore it open violently in her lap. Like a child she picked out the red and yellow candies and popped first the reds, then the yellows into her mouth and chewed ravenously.
The French doors wide open worried her more than the cat always chasing after something. She thought of Ahab, her second son, expecting he would come rushing through the door at moment and into the room raging about the heat being let out into the hall and the bill sky high. Ahab was always complaining especially about money he never had and always needed to buy filthy magazines he used to hurt himself down in the basement. She leaned forward with her elbows pressed into the top of her thighs and peered at Zeno wishing he would stop with that picture book right now, get up off of that floor and shut the door before Ahab burst in or that other one (Abel, her first son) returned like hurricane Hazel. Without either of them the house was calmer. She liked it that way.
She popped more candies and thought about the milkshake and how good it had been⎯and how much better it was than the first ones Ahab had made after he first told her Dr. Abagtha prescribed shakes especially for her diet. "The milkshake was another good one,” she blurted out loud. “Was it you, Rosa or that nurse who made it for me?”
"It was I. Your nurse, Wilma Hope, is out of town. I hope you like strawberry?"
"I love strawberry. It's a good flavor. The best I've ever had. I thank you very much."