Grace reddened. Grace, Tess thought, was ridiculous when she was pleased with herself for blushing at eighty. Tess continued, "Are you giving guidebook stars now? Two stars for being alive with Alzheimers. Four stars for being dead?"
One of her great remaining pleasures was arguing with Grace. Yes, she missed Harold, The weekly duty calls of the children were annoying in their perfectly timed regularity. She would have preferred had they called at odd times, rather than on a schedule as reliable and warm as the noon whistle at the factory.
She slowed until the car came to a stop, crushing golden leaves on the shoulder of the road. Looking in her rearview mirror and ahead, she saw no cars. Getting out of her car took patience since her arthritis was always worst when seasons were changing. She eased toward a tree and put her hand on it.
The bark was rough against the palm of her hand. Tess looked at her hand, the knuckles thickened, her skin slack. Blue veins were cords under her pale skin. The tree felt neither cold nor warm to her. And that was odd, she thought. She'd expected more sensation, maybe something akin to the rush when she saw flashing lights of a police car in her rear view mirror when she'd been speeding, and then watched the car tear past her. Not her turn to be caught. She should have learned not to expect.
Perhaps she would sit beneath the tree and wait for Old Reliable to shuffle her to her rendevous with whatever came next. She could find out if it truly was better. Perhaps nothing came next after all. She laughed at her foolishness. She didn't expect she'd stay here that long. What a picture she'd make to anyone driving by. An old woman, wearing a cornflower blue dress and a red sweater, her gray hair in a long braid over her shoulder, sitting on yellow leaves and leaning against a tree. Still, she could rest here anyway, sit next to the tree and be at peace. Perhaps.
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