She had to be ready by ten o’clock, teeth brushed, hair combed, completely dressed. She didn’t know why Brian had emphasized completely when he’d called. Did he think she’d come out one shoe on, one shoe off or with only her blouse, no skirt, no socks, no shoes at all?
She had to admit it was tempting. Everything or anything she did these days seemed to irritate him. He clearly thought she was sliding into senility. Even the patient way he said Moth-er with two distinct syllables. Whatever happened to the familiar, one syllable Mom? The way he said Moth-er showed the extreme patience required of him to pronounce the word.
She would be ready and with every item of clothing on her body. Still the thought lingered. She needed to do something, something assertive, to show who was the parent, who was the child.
She dressed slowly, carefully, thinking. She paused in the bathroom long enough to really look at herself in the mirror. Yes, she could see she was old.
She looked at all the jars and tubes, filled with substances she never used anymore—or samples that came when she spent at least $20 at a cosmetic counter. When had she last done that?
She opened a jar and rubbed the faint pink contents on her face. It was cool, refreshing, and had the faint aroma of lemon pudding. She pulled the cap off a stick—a brownish blue—must be eye shadow or liner. She laughed when she stroked her eyelids with the tip. It was like being brushed by a butterfly’s wing and sprinkled with angel dust.
She had trouble unscrewing the small gold cylinder, but when it finally gave, she was delighted. Rouge! Well, she knew they didn’t call it rouge anymore. Blush, as in blushing bride. Oh, she had been beautiful that day.
She looked around for a brush, a soft blush brush, couldn’t find anything. She thought of sacrificing her toothbrush to the task—it was a soft bristle, but still too damp. She used her fingers, lightly, and rubbed soft circles of blush on her high cheekbones—still her best feature.
She opened every jar, tube, wand, compact and put whatever was in it somewhere on her face. The bouquet of smells was delicious and, towards the end, she didn’t even look at herself in the mirror. It took too long to scrutinize every addition and she did have to be ready by ten.
She shot out of the bathroom, snapped on the silver coral bracelet, the big butterfly necklace, and the black silk scarf Rudy had brought her from China so long ago, and was just slipping into her shoes when she heard Brian letting himself in.
She had asked him to knock first, but he always used his key, assuming she couldn’t make it to the door in a timely manner. Well, she was ready for him, this time really ready. She stepped into the living room just as he was closing the door. “Good morning, Brian.”
The pronunciation was much improved, two quick syllables, but it was the look on his face that gave her the most pleasure—the protruding eyes, flared nostrils, gaping mouth, and the splotchy red spreading across his neck.
She looked terrific—there was no other word for it—surprisingly terrific. Ready at last.
© 2011 Kathleen Coskran