I went into the kitchen, checked the heat under the pot, stirred the sauce, and sampled a meatball. My boys would love this. I finished the few dishes in the sink, tidied the kitchen, then slipped into the bathroom and gave it a quick cleaning. I made Ino’s bed and put away her clean clothes. She dozed in her recliner while I worked. I left a note in her lap before slipping out to do her shopping.
When I returned, she was awake, the TV switched on to her soaps. The diabetes had left her with poor vision and she listened to her favorite programs, eyes closed. She opened them when I entered the room.
“Did you get everything?” she asked.
“Did you get the Chianti?”
“The one in the fancy bottle.”
Her eyes lit up. “Oh, good,” she said. “Ray’s favorite.” She shifted in her chair and put her back up, her feet down. Her swollen ankles seemed better.
"What are you doing now?" I asked.
"I have to get ready. Ray will be here in an hour."
In her bedroom, she pulled a colorful housedress from the closet and took out fresh underwear and clean socks. She shuffled to the bathroom and turned on the water in the sink.
I stood in the doorway, watching, ready to assist, but she wanted to do this herself. She swabbed at her face with a wet washcloth. I marveled at her creamy skin, her shining eyes. Even in old age, Ino was a pretty woman. She washed under her arms, dried herself, and applied powder. She dabbed on a little perfume, an expensive fragrance. She caught my eye in the mirror, turned around, and aimed the sprayer at me. I leaned into the spritz, letting it settle on my hair, my clothes. I held out my arms and she sprayed each wrist.
"Douglas won't know what hit him when you get home with this stuff all over you," she teased, a twinkle in her eye.
I blushed. "Hush, Ino. It ain't like that."
"Don't hush me. I'm old, but I'm not dead." She reached behind her head and started unwinding the pin curls. I helped and soon her head was a mass of tiny gray curls. I worked her brush through her hair, and stood back while she fussed with a few stray pieces. When she was satisfied, I covered her head with a mist of hair spray. She applied rich red lipstick to her thin lips and smacked them together. We watched in the mirror as she was transformed from a sickly, old woman to a lovely lady looking forward to a special evening.
"Not bad for an old lady," she said.
"Ray will be pleased to see you looking so well," I said.
She searched my face earnestly. "Do I, Ruby? Do I look well?"
I hadn't seen her looking so well in months. "You look fabulous, Ino."
She stood taller, her eyes brighter. "Help me get dressed."
Wearing her new housedress, she padded back to the living room and sank into her recliner. I slid into the buttery leather chair beside her. The clock read quarter to four.
"Just a few minutes and Ray will be here," Ino said. She grasped my hand, wrapping her gnarly fingers around mine, and squeezed. Her grip was strong. I felt her excitement.
"Let's read," I suggested, anxious to while away the time. I picked up the Reader's Digest. Ino closed her eyes and listened.
I paused between pages and glanced at the clock: Ten after four. Ray was late. I kept reading.
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