The air disturbs as her husband enters the room. Doffs his grey hat, holds it to his heart like a shield. The family beside her titters in admiration. He beams. Pulls on his little mustache. Alights on the one who’s cuddling the infant, the oldest woman in the lot.
“And is this Yours?” He turns a twinkling eye to the old gal, inviting her appreciation.
“No no!” she blushes. “This is my son’s! His second daughter. I am just the gram mamma.”
“The gram mamma!!!!” Earl splutters. “And you don’t look a day over 30!”
The family bobbles like a flotilla of clowns, chortling. Seals in a fish storm. Loretta stiffens in her sallow gown. Tries to hide her swollen belly, willing him to come to her. With a flourish of his hat toward the mom in the bed, he turns to his wife. All sparkle drying into sand.
“Where’ve you been?” Loretta’s attempt to sound chipper clinks like ice hitting glass.
Earl leans into his wife, deposits a pinched kiss. “Everything’s gone well, I hear.”
He pulls a chair up to the side of her bed, his back to the bobbing family.
Loretta looks toward the chimney stack outside her window, the clouds scudding like sullen smoke signals. “Who’s watching the children?”
“When will you be released? We miss your cooking!”
“You know I have to stay for five days.”
“Great. Then I’ll pick you up in three.” He stands. The backs of his knees shove the chair toward the backside of a shapely aunt behind him.
“Oh! Excuse me!” he blushes like a schoolboy. “I didn’t see you! Although I don’t know how – that’s such an impressive view!” Exclamations! Protests of etiquette breached!
He turns back to Loretta, his beaming smile, imprinted. She stares up at him, begging the smile to shine on her. But he’s distracted. Buttoning his coat.
“Have you seen the baby?”
“Oh, how’s she doing? “ He stops his fidgeting as his wife’s silence holds.
“We have to name her.”
He dons his hat. “I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”
“Are you going to see her?”
“I’ll see her when I pick you up.”
“I’d really love a milkshake, Earl. Could you bring me a milkshake?”
He’s backing toward the door. “Not now, Loretta, I’ve got to get back to work!”
“What are you working on?”
Exasperation splutters across his features. A mud puddle against white socks.
“I’ll send a magazine up with the nurse.”
He exchanges goodbyes with the women beside her. Doesn’t look back.
Night bulges against her window like a scar. Loretta lifts her haunch, rubs it with her chapped hand, her rosary spilling to the side.
A nurse flicks the light on over her bed. Puts a Life magazine on her lap. “Do you need a sleeping pill?”
She smartly tucks in Loretta’s sheets.
Fluffs the pillows behind her.
“I’m calling her Rose.”
“That’s a lovely name.” Checks Loretta’s pulse, staring into her watch.
“I’d like to see her, please.”
“Sorry Mrs. Galt. No can do.”
“But I’ve not seen her yet!”
“First thing in the morning, just ask at the nursing station. Enjoy your magazine.”
Loretta looks down at the glamorous, mink shouldered model staring back. “Birth control by Pill?” it asks. She flips the pages. Pauses at the article Power appliances to make life for the housekeeper easier. A gleaming, tight-waisted beauty draped over an avocado green washing machine.
excerpt from my novel-in-progress