By: Ruth Z Deming
She’d kept his photo at the bottom of her jewelry box, under her stunning wedding ring that bastard Stewart had given back, after the four children were grown. She took back her maiden name, Goodland, had a brief nervous breakdown that landed her in the psych ward for two days, wiped away her tears and passed her real estate license.
What a coincidence they met again online. She was ready for him. Of course they were both a little older. She pulled out Rich’s high school photo.
“Something to remember me by, Lore,” he’d winked at her on the last day of high school. Reddish hair, blue eyes, wide shoulders, and wearing the yellow and purple “Bears” T-shirt. He’d been captain of the football team.
At her kitchen table, she studied the directions on Revlon Auburn Color No. 23. To save money she would do it herself. The writing was so small she got her flash light to help her read it.
Humming, she peeled off the two plastic gloves from the directions, which were written in English, French and Spanish, and then began the hard work.
With her scissors, she snipped off the plastic tab from the “applicator” bottle. It skittered across the kitchen floor. Then she carefully poured the dye into the applicator bottle, spilling a bit of it onto the directions.
The phone rang. Of course it would, she thought, and paid it no mind.
She ran downstairs into the rec room, shedding her clothes as she went, and hugging the Revlon kit to herself.
How she and former husband Stewart had loved their rec room. The huge television was still there, repaired only once. They’d enjoyed watching porn and making love as the movie droned on. Should she mention this to Rich?
“Play it by ear,” she thought. “My dad was right about that,” as she remembered his long descent into Parkinson’s disease.
She turned on the water in the stall shower. The kids had painted their names onto the walls. Hillary, Danielle, Robbie, and Merry.
She stood beneath the hot water, then stepped away, and poured the contents of the bottle along her graying hair.
With the plastic fingers, she massaged her scalp. “Do not rub,” the instructions warned.
Her kitchen timer was set on the vanity outside the shower. She couldn’t hear the ticks as it wended its way to 25 minutes.
What was that big bulge she saw out of the corner of her eye?
It was her tummy. Too many crab fries, down in Ocean City, New Jersey; chocolate milkshakes at Bonnet Lane Diner; spaghetti and meat balls at Tim and Terry’s Diner.
She opened the shower door just a crack and peeked at the timer.
Two minutes to go.
She got out, toweled off, and sat on the red hide-a-bed.
That Tim from the diner was an interesting fellow. “Might have to get two jobs,” he told her and the rest of the staff.
He used to be a roofer.
Ever inquisitive, Lori asked, “What was it like … on the roof?”
“Like any other job,” he said. “Sometimes you can’t stand the guys you’re working with, other days, they’re your best friends.”
She paid with her debit card.
“Ya know what, Tim? I just learned you get points from your debit card and can buy stuff.”
“Gonna get yourself a new Caddy?” he asked.
The timer rang. She stepped back inside the shower and watched the red dye run down the drain.
She laughed and talked to herself, as many folks do who live alone.
“Sorry, Janet, sorry you had to die at the hands of that cuckoo bird.”
Next she spread on the crème rinse.
She removed her plastic gloves and massaged it onto what she hoped was her gorgeous new hair.
She put on the same clothes she’d flung off while going into the rec room.
Purple bikini undies, khaki colored shorts, and a yellow satin blouse that showed her voluptuous breasts, which she was very proud of, suckled by Hillary, Danielle, Robbie and Merry.
In her kitchen, she fixed her diet breakfast. Two cartons of chocolate-flavored Chobani yogurt. She ate standing up over the kitchen sink.
The lilac tree was out back, having bloomed for only a week. A red cardinal was perched on top. He lived somewhere near the garden shed, but beneath the shed lived the ground hog family.
“Pavarotti” was the name Merry had given the family long ago.
A good night’s sleep was imperative.
At sixty-three years old, she mustn’t appear with bags under her eyes.
As she lay upstairs on her sagging mattress, littered with popcorn crumbs and a big hunk from a peanut-butter TastyCake, which she swept off with her hand, she closed her eyes and prayed.
“Please, dear God, if you’re listening… “
She fell asleep.
In the morning, Lori was a whirlwind of activity. She washed her sheets, vacuumed the house, and admired her new hairdo in the bathroom mirror, the mirror in the living room, and in the rec room.
Only six more hours and Rich would be here.
She spent the next three hours in her bedroom trying on clothes.
The pink sundress she’d bought in Ocean City, New Jersey, made her think of Bette Davis in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” She was no longer a child.
The silky blue-flowered dress she always put on backwards was a candidate.
She flung it onto her pink carpet.
The khaki shorts showed her finely muscled legs. She flipped them onto the flowered dress.
Her piece de resistance was a sleeveless top that came down to her naval. She pranced around in that for a while. Above all, she must feel comfortable when he arrived. And, who knows, maybe Rich would pull it down to reveal her still firm breasts that nursed her four children.
So much to talk about!
Lori made tuna fish sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Chopped black olives gave the tuna extra pizzazz. She had two glasses of wine ready to serve when Richard arrived.
She sat on her soft red living room couch, with the glasses on a shiny coffee table, similar to the ones crafted by George Nakashima. She rubbed her fingers across the shiny wood, then lifted up the wine glass a couple of times, then put it down again.
Her screen door was open. The usual cars drove by. Without thinking, she grabbed her glass of white wine and downed the whole thing.
“Now you’ve done it, Lori Ann Goodland. Shithead.”
Slowly, an unknown car pulled up and parked in front of her house.
Barefoot, her red nail polish gleaming, Lori walked outside.
She smoothed down her sleeveless top and put her hands in her khaki shorts. What was this? A match cover from The Lobster House in Cape May, New Jersey. Oh, yes, that’s where she ate that scrumptious lemon meringue pie. Mile-high meringue.
The limes, she and her friend Bobbi, were told, were the special Meyer Lemons.
Richard arrived in a long car, black, like a hearse.
She walked over and peered inside.
The door slowly opened.
“Gotta catch my breath, Lore,” he said.
Her Richard had miraculously turned into an old man.
“Mind getting my cane? It’s in the back seat.”
She heard a click, which meant he’d unlocked all the doors.
A red and black cane lay on the seat, along with a New York Yankees cap.
Holding his hand, she led him into the house.
She hoped the Leonards or Babbs or O’Rileys hadn’t seen him.
He pointed with his cane to the red couch and sat down.
He breathed heavily.
They were both silent.
He closed his eyes and fell asleep, slumping over.
“Dear God,” Lori said aloud. “What the hell have I gotten myself into?”
His eyes blinked and he awoke.
He drew Lori close and kissed her on the lips.
“You’re so beautiful! I’ve been dreaming of making love to you the whole ride down from Long Island.”
Before she knew it, he pulled down her top, and caressed her breasts.
He never left.