So. I live to see another day. Maddy eventually gave in to the sunlight streaming through her barred window and opened her eyes.
She rubbed her hands together, slowly bending the joints. After several minutes she was able to place the heels of her palms and fingertips together, forming an almond-shaped cup; a flower frozen before its bloom. The pain wasn’t searing today. She brushed her hands over the sheets, then her body. She hadn’t soiled herself in her sleep. Small mercies.
“Would you like some help dressing this morning, Madeleine?” the orderly asked, as though there were a world of options.
“Only if you’ll join me for a sponge bath first.”
He’d been shocked when he first started at the retirement home. Now he just went to get a co-worker.
She let them put her in a batwing muumuu. Only a short time ago she’d have died before being seen in such a fashion crime. Now, on the scale of indignities this one barely registered.
They stopped her wheelchair.
The orderlies exchanged a look and shrugged.
“No, the yellow one,” she said. “To match my slippers.” One must create style with the materials at hand. She checked for her lipstick and powder compact. They waited while she powdered her nose and painted her lips.
“This would go nicely with your outfit,” the second orderly pulled a Lucite necklace from her jewellery stand. “Yellows and greens.”
Maddy smiled and nodded. He bent over to fasten the clasp around her neck. She smacked his buttocks. Well, as much of a smack as her arthritic hands could deliver.
“Madeleine!” the first orderly cautioned.
“I know, I know,” she recited: “Please stop groping the staff.” She giggled until she lost her breath to a coughing fit.
They wheeled her into the dayroom where her friend Phyllis waved her over. She was watching CNN with the volume muted.
“You should wear tighter trousers, Rodolfo.”
“That’s Tom. Do you need new glasses, Maddy?” Phyllis asked.
“Shhh…they’re nicer when they think I’m missing a few marbles.”
“I hope they’re serving soft-boiled eggs with toast.”
“I should have run off with Tex when I had the chance,” Maddy sighed. Wild as the desert wind.
“You’ve had a good life, Maddy,” Phyllis reminded her. “Other women should be so lucky.”
“They finally replaced that awful margarine with real butter,” Phyllis said.
“About time.” Maddy gazed out the window.
“Here come the breakfast trolleys!”
They leaned back from the table so the volunteer server could place napkins in their laps.
“French toast, omelette or oatmeal?”
“Whichever enhances my sex appeal most.” The young server blushed deep red. Maddy was watching the leaves swirling with scarlet dust from the dunes, and didn’t notice.