Doris sighed heavily and looked to heaven for strength when she heard her grown granddaughter’s voice.
“Grammy, are you home?” Ashley yelled as she let herself in, the screen door slamming behind her.
“I’m back here, in the bathroom,” Doris called as she shook her toothbrush dry and put it in the holder. She dried her hands on a towel, then met her granddaughter in the narrow hallway outside her bedroom.
Ashley pouted and batted sad eyes at her grandmother, silently pleading for sympathy. It was the routine, and Doris knew exactly what was expected of her.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” Doris asked as she stroked her granddaughter’s thick blond hair. On the rare days that Ashley’s life was not in crisis, she created one. “Follow me into the bedroom and tell me all about it.”
The two walked into the room and Ashley sunk down into the recliner in the corner. She pushed back on the chair, causing the foot rest to pop up. Ashley kicked off her rhinestone-lined flip flops and for a second was distracted by her toe nails.
“My pedicure is already smudged,” she commented to herself, while she waited for her grandmother’s attention.
“I can listen while I work, dear. Go ahead and tell me what’s bothering you today.” Doris moved efficiently around the room, tackling her daily duties.
“It’s Travis,” Ashley began. “We’re having problems.”
Doris stopped for a moment and looked with concern at her granddaughter. “But you said you had a wonderful time on the honeymoon. What happened?”
“Now that we’re back home, he’s so demanding.”
“Travis? Demanding? That’s hard to imagine.”
“Well, he thinks I’m spending too much money. I thought when we got married we were supposed to put our money together and share everything. He thinks because he makes more money, he can tell me what I can and can’t buy.”
Doris was surprised. “More money? Did you get a job?”
Ashley studied her nails. “Not yet. But I’m his wife. He’s supposed to provide for me. I have needs, you know.”
“Yes, I know, dear,” Doris someone managed to say calmly. “Do you have a budget?”
“Well...yes.” Ashley didn’t seem to like the question.
“Is your spending within the budget?”
“I went a little over,” Ashley said defensively. “I was just trying to make myself look pretty for him.”
“Oh, Ashley, I’ve seen the way Travis looks at you. I don’t think you need to spend money on yourself for him to find you attractive.” Doris tossed a damp rag to the sink in the adjacent bathroom, then returned to the bed.
“That’s what Travis said.” she admitted sheepishly. “I know we decided to save for a house and all, but it’s taking forever and we can’t have any fun. He hardly ever wants to go out to eat. He said three times a week is all we can afford.”
“Only three times a week?” Doris asked, trying hard not to sound too sarcastic. She continued moving around the bed, fluffing pillows and smoothing out the sheets.
Ashley was quiet for a moment as she watched her grandmother work. The silence was interrupted by music. “Is it real or just another crush? Do you catch a breath when I look at you?”
Doris jumped at the sound. “What in heaven’s name....?”
“Sorry,” Ashley shrugged. “It’s my new ring tone. David Archuleta,” she explained as she dug a slim phone out of her tight jeans. She looked at the screen. “Oh, Grammy, this is Tiff. We’re meeting at the mall. I’d better run.” She hopped up, leaving her chair in the reclined position. "Bye, Grammy. Bye, Pops,” she called over her shoulder as put the phone up to her ear. “Hello, Tiff? Yea, I’m on my way...” her perky voice slowly faded from Doris’s hearing as Ashley made her rapid exit.
Doris sat on the edge of the bed and sighed. She stroked the white hair of the man she’d pledged her love to 52 years ago. She lathered his emotionless face to prepare him for his daily shave, the same as she’d done for the past 3 years, 2 months and 3 weeks.
“I tell you what, Bill,” she spoke tenderly to her husband, though she knew he couldn’t answer. “The kids today don’t know how to wait for anything. It’s so frustrating listening to Ashley whine.” She gingerly ran the razor down the left side of his face. “I’m afraid I don’t have much patience.”
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