BY DENISE BOYD
Copyright is held by the author.
“I’M GOING to disappoint you, but you knew that already.” Miranda looks up at John in the mirror. Smoke from her cigarette circling around her head.
“No, you could never to that.” John stands behind her. His hands on her bare shoulders holding Miranda’s gaze in the mirror.
Her blue eyes are bright as she sits with the cigarette frozen partway to her lips. The ash grows long, threatening to fall on her lap and ruin her delicate silk slip. John reaches over her, taking the cigarette from her fingers. He takes a long slow drag before crushing the butt into the saucer used in place of an ash tray. He fans his hands toward an open window in an attempt to remove the evidence of their indiscretion. The latch clicks in place as he locks the window before returning his attention to his wife.
Miranda looks at her reflection and begins applying her makeup. Bright magenta stains her lips. She rubs them together and blows herself a kiss. “Are you sure I won’t embarrass you?” she asks as she twists sideways in her seat to face John.
“My darling, no,” he says crouching to be level with her eyes. His knees crack in protest.
“Oh, John, really, where would I be without you?” Her hand rests on his cheek.
John closes his eyes placing his hand over hers. A glimmer of hope passes through him. Miranda returns his smile and pulls her hand back. Her pink-painted nails are bright against her pale skin.
“This dinner is just so important to you and your family. I want to do well,” she says looking into his eyes. “For you,” she adds before turning back to her reflection. She reaches for her earrings.
“I know darling,” John says fastening the clasp on her necklace. The words tight in his throat.
“Will your brother and his wife be there?” Miranda asks as she removes the curlers from her hair. Tight white ringlets remain in place until she frees them with a hairbrush.
“No, not tonight.” John’s shoulders drop. He had been praying that today would be a good day.
“Why not?” Miranda stops brushing her hair, penciled eyebrows drawing toward each other.
“Busy, doing what?”
John rubs his face rocking back on his heels. “Just busy,” he says, thinking of his brother’s funeral seven years ago.
“What could be more important that the announcement of your merger?” Miranda is on her feet. The chair scraps the floor as it shoots back. The quick movement causes her to sway. John reaches to steady her.
She clings to his shoulder, the soft flesh on the underside of her arm flaps slightly. They walk slowly toward the bed. John’s stooped frame supporting Miranda as she shuffles beside him. The left sole of her slipper squeaks with each step across the polished floor. Sitting, Miranda rests her head on his arm.
“I feel strange John,” she says, her voice weak.
John wraps his good arm around her; he can feel her ribs through his jacket. Her flesh is cool under his palm in spite of the hot air pumping through the building’s ventilation system.
“Its all right, my love. I’m here.”
A light tap echoes through the room as an orderly enters pushing a wheel chair. “Hello Mrs. Johnson. Let’s finish getting you ready for dinner.”
His movements are fluid as he slides Miranda’s arms into her robe fastening the Velcro closures. “Tsk, tsk.” He shakes his head looking at the vanity. “What have we said about smoking?”
“Oh, come on now,” Miranda says, as she is wheeled to the door. “One won’t hurt.”
“Smoking isn’t permitting in here,” the orderly says looking at John.
“Weren’t you ever young?” Miranda asks as they enter the hallway.
The orderly applies the brake before shutting the door. Lowering his voice, he asks John. “How is she today?”
John’s eyes remain on Miranda’s smiling face as he shakes his head.
“Darling,” Miranda says looking at him over her shoulder. “I will do you proud.”
The corner of John’s mouth twitches slightly. “You always do my love.”