She rubbed her right shoulder blade, her left index finger swirling circles around the scar. She felt the heat and the pain all over again as if the tip of cigarette had been pushed into her flesh moments before. With each step, her body moved closer to the doors. They slid open before her. Her brain sent a signal to her feet to stop and wait until the doors completed their movement, but it also sent a warning shiver down her spine in anticipation of what was to come.
The lady at the front desk was already shining a welcome smile that brightened her face. She forced her feet to carry her over to her and responded with a smile of her own, though it felt more like the grimace she had shared with the orderly moments ago.
“Hi, there,” the woman said in a chipper voice that matched her smile. Unlike the orderly, this woman appeared to be happy that she was working at the Golden Living facility. “How can I help you today?”
“My name is Cheryl Bernstein,” she said. “I’m here to visit my mother, Grace Armitage.”
“Oh.” The woman’s smile faltered for just a moment. “How wonderful to meet you. Gracie doesn’t get many visitors.”
Cheryl kept silent allowing the grimace on her face to answer for her.
“Well,” she stumbled again before putting on her chipper voice again, though it sounded a bit more stilted this time and her smile looked out of place with the inquisitive look in her eyes. “Lunch ended not too long ago. She’s probably in the rec room watching her show. It’s right down the hall and to the left. You can’t miss it.”
“Thank you,” Cheryl replied. She turned and began to walk down the hall, the heat of the woman’s eyes on her burning into the back of her head. Then again, it could have been from the heat of the sun since her head was starting to pound and there was no relief when she turned the corner into the large room. She stopped in the doorway, taking everything in.
There were multiple round tables scattered about strategically. Five in all. Three were empty with chairs pushed in and little doilies in the center upon which small vases with a single flower sat. It was possible they were carnations because they were little pink puffs. Cheryl was not much of a gardener. Live plants would have been out of place in the dark pit she grew up in, and Cheryl had never developed a green thumb in adulthood. The other two tables were occupied by three individuals. Two white haired men sat across from each other in a game of checkers. The larger one slumped onto the table with his weight bearing on his arms and his back slouched in the curve of a watermelon. The slender man sat ramrod straight, elbows off the table and hands resting in his lap except to move a checker forward. A hand slowly raised and slowly fell back into his lap while the portly one stared at the board. He heaved a deep breath, and the watermelon swelled. He had yet to make a move as Cheryl’s gaze moved to the last table. A lone woman sat there, her wheelchair pushed close to the table. She also kept her eyes down as she searched for the correct pieces to add to her growing puzzle. No one had seemed to notice Cheryl. None of them had so much as glanced her way.
Her gaze finally moved to the television area. There was a small loveseat and two chairs circled around the wall where a fairly large screen hung. Cheryl could see grey hair in a short bob that neatly rounded at the ends. She wasn’t sure what style her mother sported nowadays, but with a glance out the large windows, she knew her mother would not have been one of the women outside. There were many. Some were on benches feeding birds, a group were using walkers with an orderly strolling next to them, and a handful were basking in the sun with notebooks they were either drawing or writing in. No, those lively woman could not be her mother. Her mother must be the lone woman inside on this beautiful day, staring at the television in solitude.
To be continued…