“Twenty seconds, Sandra.” Mother’s voice drifted from the living room.
“Coming, Mother.” The water was hot. I carried the basin in first, careful not to slosh on Mother’s good rug.
The clock on the mantle chimed.
“All right,” Mother said in a quiet voice. “Turn it on, then.”
I set down the basin on the towel near Mother’s feet and stepped over to the television set. The button clicked when I pressed it. Mother had it on the same channel, always ready for her one o’clock program.
The opening music had already begun.
“The chocolate?” she murmured.
“It’s ready,” I said. “Back in the kitchen.”
As I hurried back out with the tray and laid it on the table at her elbow, Mother said, as if she had to remind me, “And the drink.”
She liked to have a full cup of ice water on a coaster next to the chocolates. Chocolates sucked the moisture right out of her, she said.
“I’m a little behind today, Mother,” I said. “Due to the leaky toilet.”
“Yes, Sandra,” Mother said. “I know.” But I could hear displeasure lacing her voice. She didn’t like me puttering around during her program.
I found a puddle in the bathroom this morning that could’ve drowned a small child. Called the plumber. Being a good man, he came right away, fixed the toilet, but tracked his dirt all through the house.
I worried Mother’s lunch wouldn’t be ready on time, that I wouldn’t get the water heated before her program began.
“Do you need help with your shoes?” I asked. Mother has a time bending over these days.
“Drink first, please,” Mother said, her eyes on the television screen.
“Max, you know you’re the only man I’ve ever loved. How could you even think I’d sleep with Logan? He’s a friend! Just a friend!”
I set down the coaster first, then the ice water on top of it. A single tear from the side of the cold glass slid down the surface.
I unlaced her shoes.
“Cassandra, stop! Wait! – You know the truth. Just tell me! I can take it.”
“No, Max. Not this time. You say you can handle the truth, but you can’t handle this.”
Mother dipped in the toe of her left foot. “Water’s too hot.”
“All right,” I said. “I’ll bring some cold from the kitchen.”
“It’s Scott, isn’t it? Something about Scott. Cassandra, don’t keep it from me!”
“Go to hell!”
The water out of the tap was warm against my fingers. On hot days, the pipes stayed hot.
“And the fan, Sandra!” Mother called.
I brought in the smaller basin of cooler water. “Here you are, Mother.”
“Not too much, it’ll get cold.”
“Max! You’ve got it all wrong. Don’t do anything you’ll regret!”
“You don’t leave me any choice, Cassandra. How can I go on in the world now?”
“Is that better, Mother?”
“Much better, Sandra.” She looked up at me as I tilted the fan. The breeze lifted wisps of white hair around her face. Her smile deepened the laugh lines in her cheeks.
A rush of euphoric pleasure seized me. The same old grabbing at my heart. Because I had her with me one more day. Her smile repaid me for everything.
“I can’t believe Max doesn’t believe her,” Mother said, her pale blue eyes darting back to the screen. “After all they’ve been through together. Isn’t that interesting, Sandra?”
Thanks to my Aunt Sandi for this week's inspirational words: euphoric, chocolate, and chime. If you'd like to leave me three inspirational words for a future story, click here and leave your words in the comments section. Thanks!