Always Listening – 1/22

Edna shuffled through the front door of her apartment. The scent of roses and arthritic ointment hung in the air. As the latch clicked into place, she draped her bulging purse on one hook jutting from the wall and then sloughed off her coat. She hung the linen jacket with care and then wobbled down the hallway, passing rows of framed photographs.

“I’m home,” she said. “Going to make some tea, would you like some?”

Silence answered as Edna turned left to enter the kitchen. Sparse linoleum gleamed from a recent cleaning. A shining tea pot sat on top of the pristine stove. Clutching the handle, Edna held the spout beneath the faucet and began a slow trickle of water into the bell shaped container.

“Meredith says hello,” she continued. “Jimmy apparently has a new job and Helen’s engaged. Can you believe it? I remember when she was in diapers.”

With the pot half full, she returned to the stove and started the front burner. The dribbles of water around the bulbous sides spat and sizzled as they dripped into the gas.

“Greta is supposed to be coming by,” Edna said, opening a cabinet. A cluttered set of dishes greeted her and she selected a mug, setting the porcelain onto the counter. She rose on the toes of her Mary Jane’s in order to pull down a crumpled box of orange-spice tea. Draping the string over the mug’s rim, she rested one tea bag into her cup.

“She’s going to help me get rid of some more junk.” Edna sighed and watched the steam begin to build out of the curving spout. “She doesn’t seem to like it, you know, but better than leaving it all until the end.”

The pot began to whistle and Edna clicked off the burner. Gathering a potholder from the drawer, she hefted the boiling container. With one hand holding the tea bag, she poured.

“There,” she said, setting the pot onto a heart shaped trivet. Collecting her steaming cup, she wobbled into the living room.

Afternoon light streamed through the lace curtains, falling with specks of dust against the thick carpet and tweed couch. The bookcases lining the walls greeted her with remembered tales, as the sea of photographs covering every flat surface smiled back with cheery faces and memories. A wide backed leather arm chair gleamed with rounded edges and rings of crinkles.

Setting her mug down on one woven coaster occupying the table, Edna plopped down onto the couch cushion closest to the leather seat.

“Greta should be here soon, I think.” Edna checked the thin watch on her dainty wrist. “You know she usually comes by after dropping Freddie off.”

A rap on the front door echoed down the hallway.

“What did I say?” Edna smiled at the neighboring chair and then turned toward the entrance. “You have a key!”

The bolt thudded and hinges let out a squeak. “You brought me up to be polite,” said Greta, stepping through the door.

“You learned that from your father,” Edna said. With a double sway, she hefted from the cushions and stood. By then, Greta occupied in the living room’s doorway in her checkered sweater and slacks.

“Don’t get up, mom.”

Edna waved off the advice and they met in the middle of the room for a quick hug.

“Tea?” asked Edna.

“No, thanks. I don’t have long. Freddie’s got practice this afternoon.”

“Of course, of course.”

Greta’s gaze passed over the living room. “Was there anything you wanted me to take?”

“I put together a box of books for donation.” Edna motioned at the crate in the corner.

“Alright,” said Greta, locking eyes with the cardboard. She adjusted her purse strap onto her shoulder. “I’ll take it with me.”

“Why don’t you wait? It’s heavy. Bring Freddie by and he can carry it for you.”

Greta shook her head and chuckled. “He’s got the social schedule that would rival the President.”

“You can still come for lunch on Sunday though, right?”

“Of course.”

“Take it then. It’s not in the way.”

Edna gave Greta a wide smile as her daughter frowned.

“You know you can always come stay with us, right mom?”

“Bah,” Edna said, waving her hand as if batting flies and shuffling back to the couch. “You don’t want me underfoot. And why would I leave?”

Greta loomed over the table. “You’re by yourself so much. If something were to happen…”

“Good God, Greta. I’m not alone with Josephine right next door and I’m not an invalid.”

Edna reached for her tea and set the mug on her knee. Greta blew out a long exhale.

“If you change your mind…”

Edna bobbed her head. “I’ll let you know, dear. For now, this is home. It always has been.”

“I know, mom.” Greta stepped around the low table and Edna tilted her cheek for a kiss. “See you on Sunday.”

“Sunday.”

Leaving the box behind, Greta headed out and bolted the door behind her.

Edna gazed back at the empty leather chair. The light seemed to filter around a remembered form, leaning back, with one hand holding a glass and resting on a bent knee. Her smile stretched.

“Now,” said Edna. “Where was I?”

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