By Baird Nuckolls
Her hair was palest silver, curling in wisps on her head, yet she had it “done” every Friday, without fail. When I came in last week, she asked me to clip her toe nails, too. She said she couldn't reach them any more and they were growing crooked.
With her tiny foot in my lap, I asked her about the dress she was wearing. It was a clear shade of blue, the color of the summer sky.
“I love this color,” she told me. “I wear it all the time.” She twisted the wedding band on her left hand. “Stewart always said he liked it, but I don't think he did.” She leaned forward. “He preferred red.”
I continued to work, rubbing lotion into her heels. Sylvia was silent for a while, then resumed the conversation, as if she had to rest between sentences. It was hard to be nearly a hundred. She told me once that after she turned ninety-five, she wished she was eighty again. Not young, not twenty-five? I asked her. No, she didn't mind being old, but everything hurt less when she was eighty. She liked talking about Stewart. He was her husband for sixty-eight years, until the cancer got him.
“I never liked red. It was too gauche.” She chuckled. “He bought me a red dress once.”
“Just once?” It was the way she said it that made me ask.
“Oh, he knew I didn't like it, but he bought it for my birthday.”
“What did you do?” I put down her right foot and picked up the left. “Did you return it?”
“Oh, no. I wouldn't do that. I wore it once.” She was silent for a long time while I clipped her nails. “Then, I buried my mother in it.”
It was so unexpected, my laugh burst out. She certainly showed him her true feelings.
“Yes, I never had to wear it again.”
Copyright ©2011 Baird Nuckolls. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form, including electronic, without the author’s express permission.
If you like this story, check out Baird’s other stories, published on this site:
Chickens roosting in the trees, Jet lagged and Scarred.
Baird lives to write; the rest of the time, she drives around, feeling lost. Eating chocolate helps, but time spent in the middle of a story helps even more.