Why did she need me? Out of all the people in the neighbourhood she picked me. But, I could see it in her eyes she needed me, she would have wanted me there. She sat there like a rock. The only way I knew she was alive was by looking at her rounded chest move slowly up and down with every painful intake of breath. Every now and again I could hear the huskiness of her throat scrape through the air like a chisel to ice. Sarah had been there earlier, but she had no patience, she couldn't just sit around and wait for the "wrinkled bag," -as she once had put it- to die. Apparently, she had an appointment.
Sad way to go, with nobody but the neighbour to look after you. I am not sure if I was watching her sleep or die. I had been there before, sitting in her musty, smelly, green wallpapered bedroom. In a chair that felt more dodgy than a creeky rollacoaster. Watching and listening to a monitor letting me know she was alive. She made me read a hundred pages of the New Testement in the Bible the day before, I don't even believe in God, but she seemed happy. Content with the miracle of how Jesus turned water to wine and all the rest of it.
The poor thing, the night-dress she was wearing clung to her small shoulders like wet paper and made her look like she had surrendered to the light days before. I should have remembered to buy her new ones. It was the same grey as the skirt she wore the first time I had met her.
I moved into the house in 'Main Court Avenu', just five doors away, with my adoptive sister in October about six months before. (I was adopted into her family when I was five and we had been best friends ever since.) Somehow, The woman's small fragile legs were able to carry her and a caserole to our house. Her crippled fist tapped on the door none-stop until one of us answered it and with Sarah suffering from an unforgivable hangover the same day she was happy to oblige on answering the door just to make the tapping go away. The door swung open only to uncover the small thin woman, who would become to me, in the next few months, someone I trusted more than anyone else. Compared to the rest of her body, her pleasant face looked relatively young. Her porcelain skin was engraved with tiny wrinkles around her eyes and small brownish circles had formed around her eyelids.
"Hi girls, I am Mrs. Robinson. I live up the street, I thought you might want something to eat." She said as she handed the hot caserole dish to Sarah. "You will be busy enough unpacking everything." Her high pitched voice had a musical quality to it.
"Oh thanks, Mrs. Robinson, that is very kind of you. I am Lucy, and this is Sarah." I shook her hand gently and waved in the direction of were I thought Sarah was standing, but all I saw was an empty flower pot. "Well that was Sarah," I smiled, embarrassed by my sister's rudeness. Hearing the sound of her getting sick over the toilet bowl only made my embarrassment rise to a new level and I felt my cheeck's getting hot. "Twenty-four hour bug." I commented, trying my best to excuse my sister's behavior. She just nodded in agreement. "Would you like to come in Mrs. Robinson?" I asked, but she rejected the offer noticing the large amounts of boxes piled in the hall.
"I have some medication up at the house for, Sarah. Hangovers are an awful thing." She laughed. There was no fooling this woman. "Won't you come up with me and get some for your sister, I am sure you don't want to be listening to that for the night?" The offer was too good to refuse.
I grabbed by coat from the hanger, "I am going to get you something for your head Sarah." I shouted.
The only response I got was, "Ssshhh, no need to shout." I was sure that the echo I heard was the echo of the toilet bowl.
We walked slowly to her house, silently listening to the wind blow through the branches of the trees and her tiny feet march on the blanket of red and brown leaves that covered the path. I stared at her a moment, I had a feeling the wrinkles engraved under her eyes were not wrinkles of age but more of a life of hard work and stress.
We finally reached her house, she opened the small black gate to her beautiful garden, that even in the autumn time bloomed. Different types of plants and flowers were lined neatly along both sides of her garden that formed a pathway in between. The colours continued into her house, where the bright cream hall was filled with pictures upon pictures of different people. "Go into the sitting-room and make yourself at home, love." She winked, as she disappeared into the kitchen. Her sitting room was a cosy room, again filled with pictures. An oak cabinet took its place in the corner of the room with different ornaments in it. I positioned my body into the wine coloured leather chair and observed her photos which were placed neatly on the walls and on the cupboards.
She returned with a blue box, "Now, love, they will do her good." She promised.
"Thanks." I said gratefully.
I stared at the picture in a black frame of two young men, "They are my sons, and the girl in the other photo is my daughter." She commented, as if reading my mind. The people in the photos had taken me by surprise, not because of what they looked like but because they were her children, they looked so young to be hers.
Again, like she knew what I was thinking, "I am only fifty-five." She added. "But no amount of cream I use will work." She chuckled, but it caught in her throat and she began to cough.
"You ok Mrs. Robinson?" I rubbed her back. "Ah, I'm fine, love. And, please," She breathed, each breath was difficult for her to take, "Just a bit chesty. And please, call me Suzie."
I had stayed in the house for about an hour. Chatting to her about her children and where I grew up. I never mentioned my adoption, I never feel it is necessary for other people to know. I found it a bit odd that she never mentioned a husband, although I had seen photos of a man in her room. I decided not to question her on the issue. Afterall, I had only met her.
I found myself going to her house most days after that. Mostly we would sit and talk or watch t.v but other days I would help her with the house. Her bones ached, arteritis had her crippled. Getting from one step to another was a challenge. Which is why I made her move her bed to the spare room downstairs, she never used it for anything. After about a week of moving things about she was finally happy with her new room. Obviously, finishing it off with some pictures on the wall and placing ornaments on the cabinet. In time, I told her everything about my adoption and everything there was to know about my life growing up. Sometimes, I was scared that I might be boring her but she seemed intrigued to hear more.
In all the time I was in the house, I never met any of her chrildren, I saw them come and go in their cars but they never stayed long. Now, I understand where her wrinkles came from, she was lonely. I had learned that her husband died five years before, but he wasn't the love of her life. She told me stories of the love she had before her husband, a young man, she never mentioned his name. He was a soldier fighting in the Vietnam War. She was a nurse, he had never been injured but his friend had. She always joked, "The loss of a leg, sparked the growth of our love." At the beginning he would come to the hospital once a week but when he caught glimpse of her, he came four days a week if he could. She never mentioned what had happened to him. I recognised a deep sadness, even regret in her voice everytime she came to the end of the conversation on the topic, but I never pressured her to say more, I was sure she would tell me when she was ready.. I held in her my deepest trust, she became the best friend it was impossible to keep secrets from.
And now, there I was, sitting in her musty, smelly, green wall papered bedroom staring at her breathing. "For the love of all that is holy will you wake up, woman!" I shouted. I wanted to sake her, she needed me, no I needed her. I didn't even know if she knew I was there, sitting there like an idiot waiting for her to open her eyes from a sleep that I knew in my heart she would never wake from. The tears brimmed to my eyes and spilled over, I let them, maybe my sobs would wake her. And the constant beep from those machine connected to her were so annoying, I felt like destroying them with a hammer. I closed my eyes and took three deep breaths. I felt my pulse gradually slow down.
"Excuse me, Lucy." It was the nurse, "these just came in the post." I was used to opening her post, no-one else would do it. The first two were bills, then, I got to a big brown envelope. I slide my finger under the opening to remove the sheets inside. It read:
"Dear Susan Robinson,
The letter went on and on, I thought the letter had come to the wrong address but then I rechecked the name and it was correct. I skimmed through it, most of it was like a laungage I didn't understand. Then at the end it said:
As you know, in the October of this year we found your biological daughter. You have yet to reply to our previous letters, offering you the option of us getting in contact with her for you."
"Your daughter, Lucy Murphy, is currently residing in '16 Main Court Avenu........"
The sheet slid out of my hands, I stared at her with wide eyes. That was all I ever read because in that moment a straight line floated across the moniter.