Chapter 28 continues

So far: A last kiss recalled.


When I pulled the front door open, a small woman was standing on the steps with a wool scarf wrapped around her head and a long tweed coat that hung almost down to the ground. She looked like a character out of Dickens. I wondered if she had come begging.

Then she unwrapped the scarf, pulled her glasses out of her coat pocket and I recognized Elsie from the grocery store. She was carrying a casserole, which she handed off to me.

“Elsie,” I exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

“I brought you some wild rice. I just couldn’t stand the thought of you not having any.”

“I can’t thank you enough. Please come in.”

“Oh, no. I see you have company after all.”

“Some friends dropped by unexpectedly. Come in and meet them,” I insisted, then helped her take her coat off. The coat was really heavy; I figured the garment weighed at least fifteen pounds.

“I keep my glasses in my coat pocket so they don’t fog up when I come into a warm room.”

“How do you see to drive?”

“Don’t need to worry about that. I know the roads around here like the back of my hand.”

Elsie followed me into the kitchen. I don’t think I had ever seen her before when she wasn’t behind the grocery store counter. I could tell she had dressed up for the occasion: a blue plaid skirt with a bright blue sweater. Her thin mouse-brown hair was combed to one side and she had it pulled back in a barrette. Except for the wrinkles, she looked like a fifties schoolgirl. I had always guessed she was in her early seventies, which meant she would have been in her teens in the fifties.

“Gary and Lucinda, this is Elsie. She brought some wild rice.”

“I love wild rice,” Gary said.

I resisted saying that his opinion didn’t count for much as he loved just about every food on earth.

“Are you staying for dinner?” Lucinda asked Elsie. “I’ll put on another setting.”

“Oh, no. I couldn’t. I didn’t mean to barge in.”

“Do you have plans, Elsie?” I asked her.

She shook her head. “No. None of my family are close by anymore. I used to go to my sister’s but then she moved to California to be near her kids.”

“Please stay and eat with us. We have more than enough food.”

Gary fluttered his eyes at her. “I’ve brought my famous green beans.”

Elsie laughed. “Well, then …”

Gary poured her a glass of wine and Lucinda set another place at the table.

Elsie took the glass of wine tremulously and held it with both hands. “My, these are fancy glasses.”

“Nearly unbreakable, they say,” Gary reassured her.

“Oh, I wasn’t planning on breaking it.”

Lucinda looked at the emptying bottle and announced, “I’ll run down and get some more wine.”

I could see that Elsie was looking around as if searching for something. I answered her question before she asked it. “My little kitty has gone missing. I keep checking outside for her.”

Elsie shook her head. “You don’t need anything else to go missing from your life, do you?”

“Oh, it’ll be all right. She’s done this before. She knows her way home,” I said bravely, with only the slightest quaver in my voice.


Tomorrow: Chapter 28 continues.